Tagore's dance drama enacted through a confluence of two dance forms Manipuri and Kathak.
A quaint story was daintily told through the medium of dance - both Manipuri and Kathak. Etched out of Tagore's work Shapamochan, the dance drama Prabhu Amar, Priyo Amar by Bimbavati Devi of Manipuri Nartanalaya and Ashimbandhu Bhattacharjee of Upasana Centre for Dance, Kolkata, was like a series of picture paintings brought to life to tell us the story.
The costumes, stage setting, two distinctive dance styles blending into each other without losing identity, excellent choreography- Prabhu Amar, Priyo Amar had it all.
Quintessentially Tagore, the narrative is all about a mythological character Sourasen (court musician of Lord Indra) who is cursed by the wrath of Indra to be born as a disfigured king on earth, because he drops his veena down while accompanying the celestial Urvashi. Sourasen's beloved Madhusree is also reborn as princess Kamalika, while he is born as the ugly king Aruneshwar.
Ashimbandhu as Aruneshwar unfolds his own story in the Kathak format with less footwork but through deep emotive expressions backed by appropriate costumes. His dreams (apuroop swapn) of an unknown lady are conveyed mutely through mime and music.
The stage is set to a long, narrow platform spanning across the end and three trishuls thrust on the right corner while the left has a mounted mud pot with incense smoking out of it.
Parallel to this, we have Bimbavati (Kamalika) looking ethereal in her artistic costume, dance with joy. Her measured footwork, delicate gestures and graceful movements drew a picture of a princess of ethereal beauty. The invocation to the Sun Adi devam namasthubhyam was an excellent piece of dance.
The red dress of Aruneshwar conveyed his happiness of having met his partner in life and he proposes to her without allowing her to actually see his ‘dis' figure. The marriage scenario was depicted with a group of dancers from either side (Manipuri and Kathak) gliding across the stage in quick succession with bhol and jatis respectively and they freeze into a cameo. The ‘hide and seek' played through a set of syllabic utterances (bhol) were exceptionally impressive. Two dancers carrying the veena and placing it in front of Kamalika represented the king's marriage proposal as also the symbol from past life.
The red veil is all that the dancer uses to take forward the story, like Kamalika turning into a bride.
The couple dance first in bliss but later, Bimbavati's expressions of curiosity and frustration on being denied to meet her husband, were enacted by the artiste with a sensitivity that defies definition. Her threat to leave the palace extricates a promise from Anureshwar that he will be visible among the dancers during a fest.
The fest had the dancers on both fronts at their best with fleeting footwork by lithe artistes who seemed to be carved out for dance alone. Kamalika's shock at the disfigured partner and her fleeing to the forest are supposed to be typical of our own fluctuations of nature which abhors the bad and admires all that is beautiful in life.
Realisation dawns on her and she is able to think beyond the physical. The couple dressed in peacock costumes convey the glee of ultimate union. And the end of the curse means ‘complete' merger in the divine which is always beatific.
The physical transcending into the spiritual is the key to all Tagore's literary works and this dance drama was able to capture the movement from material to esoteric levels with artistic perfection. Among the group of dancers of both schools, Subrata Pandit stood out for his agility and physique.
Among the girls, Asmita Roy looked pretty with graceful movements. The pre-recorded music by Suman Sarkar and Subir Chatterjee was superb. The dance-drama marked the second day of ‘Natyanjali –Rabindra Pranati' held at Ravindra Bharathi under the aegis of national Sangeet Natak Akademi.