Hema Malini portrayed the various facets of Goddess Durga in her dance ballet.
Magnificent stage management, dazzling dresses and ‘Brand Hema Malini' are sure shots to success. ‘Durga' dance ballet (Natyavihar Kalakendra) had all this with the best lyrics by Ravindra Jain which included chaste dialogues in Hindi and Sanskrit and a large mythological canvas that appeals to all sections of the audience and of course the glamour added by the dream girl of Hindi cinema.
This ballet with pre-recorded music was like a live mythological film. It did not represent any particular genre of classical dance. It was an amalgamation of all styles that did not go beyond the surface level.
The principal character-Sati/Parvathi/Durga portrayed by Hema Malini and her divine consort Shiva (Madhavapeddi Murthy) took Kuchipudi format, the group of female dancers went the Bharatanatyam way in their footwork and gestures while another set of male dancers showed a slight leaning towards Kathakali and a dash of kathak too. This is just a technical flaw going by the norms of classical dance ballet. But when an art work garners wide appeal then it is said to have attained its objective.
The dance drama culled out of Devi Bhagavatam and other Puranic lore comprised three major episodes - that of Sati and Shiva; Sati reborn as Parvathi and later the manifestation of Durga to annihilate demon Mahishasura. Though very picturesque, with the backdrops lending a depth to the scenes as they changed from the Himalayas to the kingdom of the demon, to Durga seated on the lion, the lotus formation with props, etc. the entire presentation lacked a dimension.
Re-telling Puranic lore to an intelligent 21century audience ought to dwell on the inner aspects of these mythological tales. For ages, we've been fed on Shiva-Devi lore envisaging human behavioural patterns in divine beings which drags them down to our level of operations. But what we say to our next generation exposed to western rationality and questioning? Our Puranas withstood the test of times only because they embedded universal truths applicable to all times. Unless big names like Hema Malini whose appeal is widespread, bring out the essence of these mythologies by delving deeper into the layers that obviously portrays warring demons and goddesses/gods, it ceases to create an everlasting impact. Such attempts are benchmarks of an artist's maturity.
Certain episodes, viewed from an aesthetic angle are worth a mention like the scene where Sati enters the fire, incensed by her father's action. The backdrop creating an illusory picture of flames was brought into focus by plunging the stage into darkness steadily as we feel Sati being consumed by flames. The visual impact of this as also two others- one where Shiva sits down in tapas in an alcove in the Himalayas (again the backdrop screen) and the last picture of the mother Goddess astride the lion with a halo and different weapons of war in her hands, was very impressive.
Bhushan Lakhandri's choreography got diluted from the original ‘Durga' staged 15 years ago, where the God and Goddess of dance-Shiva's and Sati's- movements had vigour and vitality. The dance ballet was staged as part of T. Subbarami Reddy Lalitha Kala Parishat's second mega cultural festival at Shilpa Kala Vedika.