While the Ashtapadi festival enthralled large audiences with its Radha-Krisha theme, SNA's Desh Parv too had its moments.
Notwithstanding countless Odissi versions, Geeta Govinda Pratisthana's two-day Ashtapadi festival at the Kamani as a component of “Delhi Celebrates” organised by Delhi Government during the Commonwealth Games, managed to enthral large audiences with fresh interpretations. Founded on the musical base composed by Subash Pani, whose research inputs and choreographic guidelines tailored the dance composition by late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, Aruna Mohanty, Sharmila Biswas and Meera Das, it was a pooling of creative talents producing a riveting, seamless performance.
Melodic singers Nazia Alam and Harapriya Swain, (despite Odissi's unavoidably high-pitched, shrill touches) supported by male vocalists Sukanta Kundu and Rupak Parida, with well balanced instruments had crowning aesthetic percussion pakhawaj/khol interventions by Dhaneswar, Bijaya Brik, Ajoy.
Starting with the shloka “Yadi Harismarane sarasam mano…” and concluding with the verses “Yad Gandharva kalashu kaushalam”, the dance-drama style designing was set off by proficient dancers. Biswajit in “Mamiyam chalita vilokya” and “Vadasi yadi kinchitapi” proved a sensitive Krishna. Aruna's solo excelled as sakhi conveying to Keshava the state of Radha's tortured body and mind, yearning for Krishna in the ashtapadis “Stana Vinihitamapi” and “Pashyati Dishi Dishi”.
Stating Krishna's case, counselling Radha to shed her wounded pride, the interpretation of “Hariabhisarati” the next evening was superb. Another persuasive sakhi was Meera Das in “Nindati chandana” communicating to Krishna how agonised Radha in unrequited love slandered even moonbeams, the sandal mountain winds seeming to scorch her while in “Bahati malayasameere”, and “Virachita chatu” she pleads Krishna's case with Radha.
Piyali and Priyanki accosted themselves creditably in “Kapi Madhuripuna” with Radha hallucinating about Krishna with another woman. As Radha, Jahnabi needed to be more internalised rendering “Rajanijanita” and “Kuruyadunandana”. The excellent starting group effort in “Chandanacharchita” was choreographed by Gangadhar Pradhan. But the crowning concluding effort was Sharmila Biswas' simple uncluttered choreography of the “Jaya Jagadheesha Hare” Dashavatara.
Menwhile SNA's Desh Parv extravaganza had its highlights. Bhasa's Balacharitham by Koodiyattam expert Margi Madhu needed the likes of late Appukuttan Nair curbing youthful exuberance. Exceeding his allotted time, with Nangyar Kootu slated for the same morning, Madhu needlessly stretched Ravana's death scene transferring onto it the slow dying of Bali from Bali vadham (memories of late Ammanur Madhava Chakyar). And surely Narasimha cannot become Bhima killing Dushasana, licking his blood stained fingers in glee. Madhu, you are too talented to play to the gallery.
Audiences must know that the Atta Praharanam or performance text is different from the literary work inspiring it. Both in the Koodiyattam Shakuntalam by G.Venu's troupe at the NSD, and the Kathakali Othello designed by Sadanam Balakrishnan, presented for Desh Parv by the Kalakshetra troupe, onlookers kept carping on changes from Kalidasa and Shakespeare. Othello's excellently sung music in a host of ragas Mohanam, Bhairavi, Kanada, Dhanyasi, Hindolam, Begade, Surati etc., was a feature and the love scenes with a gentle Desdemona came off well, though because of the edited version, Othello's (played with restraint by Sadanam Balakrishnan) character development became stunted. Iago was very forceful, his jealousy at the Desdemona/Othello love scene ending in a kalasam very strong.
A Bangladesh poet Polli-kobi Jasimuddin's tragic love poem “Nakshi Kanthar Math”, throbbing narration/singing by Sasha A. Ghoshal, female voice of Karuna Devi, Manipuri folk instruments like the Pena tugging at one's heart strings, and the high aesthetic sensitivity of Manipuri dancer Priti Patel in “The field of the Embroidered Quilt” moved every viewer with the majesty, and stillness of minimal art, highlighting rural life , Rupa's hopes, dreams and anguish embroidered on the quilt for covering her grave .
Very intense was Contemporary dance theatre of Navtej Singh Johar based on Dorris Lessing's famous novel “The Grass is singing”, showing life in Apartheid South Africa sparing dignity and respect of neither Mary whose overt dislike for the black cannot prevent her utter dependence on Moses, nor the servant who ultimately murders her.
Tripura Kashyap's Contemporary Dance expression based on Dennis Brutus' poems, began tamely with ‘Waves', the next “Peace” not going beyond very obvious images. The best work was “Anguish”.
Preeti Atreya's choice of the Poem of D'Lo saying “The Moon will cool your feet only if you dare play in the Sun” was an obvious choice considering the dancer's years of being in the comfort zone of Bharatanatyam, before suddenly setting off to explore unknown terrain of Modern Dance. The autobiographical touches were obvious in the “Tai Dhi ti Tai” tapping on floor with shoe-clad hands and the dance with Helmet later (signifying the protective symbol against onslaught of criticism?) While lauding Preeti's phenomenal control over her “unapologetic body”, one wished the meditative, physicality could have been, uniformly communicative.