Ramli Ibrahim’s ‘Krishna-Love Re-invented’ was a visual spectacle.
On the opening night, at The Music Academy, Ramli Ibrahim and his Sutra Foundation from Kuala Lumpur, presented ‘Krishna-Love Re-invented’ in Odissi. ‘Krishna-Love Re-invented’ centred round the gopis and Krishna. As the title suggests, the re-invention was in terms of re-choreographing using sahitya, poetry, sabdaswarapata and typical Oriya compositions being recited like kavits of Kathak and kavutvams of Bharatanatyam, and using pure dance numbers such as Bhumi Pranam, Pallavi and Moksha on group design, with quick entries and exits, creating dynamic images.
The interesting visuals were the opening tableau -- dancers reclining, coming together in a circle, intertwining arms like branches, creating an illusion of trees, and dissolving into other forms. The dancers seemed to move in and out with Krishna, adorned with a peacock crown, wearing a yellow robe and dancing joyously.
After the traditional Jagannathswami prayer, Krishna holding a flute, was seen sliding away with gopis forming a palanquin, Ramli and Geetikashree enacting roles of devotees, and performing Bhumi Pranam with perfect chauka, square position. The numbers that followed in quick succession extolled the magical ambiance of the bank of the Yamuna, the bowers and the moonlight, as Krishna danced to the shloka ‘Kasturi tilakam lalat patale.’ Krishna’s dance to the song ‘Nachat tribhanga’ depicted Him in various amorous dalliances. The images of Krishna dancing on the hood of Kaliya were arresting. The ukutas, mnemonic syllables recited with sound texture, coupled with sabdaswarapata, and the playing of pakhavaj, offered magical moments.
Banamali’s song ‘Mohan dekhi chahi go, Priya sahi’ was about thegopis mesmerised by Krishna’s beauty. Not only Radha but all the gopis forgot their chores, and talked with each other about His charms and beauty. The choreography seemed apt as it highlighted the love for Krishna.
The dancers then presented Kelucharan Mahapatra’s choreography of ‘Nachanti Sange Shri Hari.’ Kelubabu had composed it to explore how the gopis along with Krishna, played various musical instruments such as the pakhawaj, cymbals, flute and the veena. The sculptural wealth of Odisha was woven in this rather long number. The visuals here were quite unusual.
Using Vajrakanti pallavi to depict Rasleela, Ramli suggestively used images of Krishna stealing clothes of the gopis when they were bathing and the gopis begging him to return their clothes. There were several interesting formations to depict the Rasleela -- the gopis forming an arch, and a circle like the opening of a lotus.
The clever use of Moksha movements and after a black out, the tableau saw Krishna astride Garuda and lifting a gopi on a shoulder, as the other gopis stood at a lower level in a circle even as the lights slowly faded.
Among the performers, Ramli, Geetikashree, Shivagami Valli and Jagthisan stood out in their execution of movements. The other three dancers as gopis at times did not seem to have sound chauka position and seemed to require more practice.
But overall, the group production was visually pleasant and spoke volumes for Ramli’s sense of programming and choreography.
Siva Nataraja’s lighting proved to be an asset as he seemed to paint the scenes with his excellent palette of colours.