‘Krishna’ continues to fascinate people as adoring audiences pour in to watch this annual dance-drama of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra.
His accessible divinity and personality with starkly human resonances captivate public imagination, and the story of Krishna, through countless retelling attempts, would seem to retain its freshness. Krishna, one of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra’s oldest dance drama creations since its inception in 1952, annually staged during Janmashtami, still seems to have its adoring audiences — judging by the size of the Kamani gathering on the penultimate day of the six day showing — comprising mostly ticket buyers with only a few invitees.
Built round two distinct identities of the Dark Lord — one full of his childhood feats and youthful romancing and the other as philosopher supreme of the Gita and as powerful strategist of the Kurukshetra war whose methods of justice for the wronged Pandavas will always raise several queries on the means of attaining dharma — the production projects two contrasting moods. The first is all about the willing suspension of disbelief, with episodes like Govardhan Lila, subduing Kaliya and destroying Kamsa. The butter thief and the romancer of the gopis in Vrindavan as Radha Vallabha have images built on the textual base provided by countless reams of poetry and folk songs. Surdas’ “Boojhata Shyam Tu Kaun Gori” and “Tero Mukha”, where Radha’s moonlike face and Krishna’s dark beauty become the point of banter, came off well in the interaction between Shiburam Mahanta as the younger Krishna and Vidhya as Radha.
Air of informality
Very often the feeling of extreme informality and lightness in treatment, particularly in the ashtapadi sequences of “Lalitalavangalata” and the imagery suggesting the sambhoga sringar of “Kuru Yadunandana” strike the viewer as strange, particularly when seen against myriad visualisations in classical dance. But then in a frankly popular production which aims at aesthetic narration of a story for the general public with no pretensions to classical weight, this feeling needs to be dispensed with. In the leave taking of Krishna as he departs to Mathura, the “Jogi mat ja” and “Radha ke Prabhu” seem closer to Meera, and not in the usual Radha/Krishna relationship.
Like the poetry, the sound tape is very mixed in tones. For music scored by Pandit Shiva Prasad, Shelly Butta, Barun Kumar Gupta, Shubha Mudgal and Sonia Roy, the singing has a host of voices, from Shubha Mudgal’s heavily rich classical tones to Shanti Sharma’s melodious rendition and a rich baritone of earthy male voices. Not all scenes, particularly the child Krishna sequences, emerged with the same conviction in the first half.
By far the more impressive part of the production came in the second half with Rakesh Sai Babu as the statesman Krishna. Bhishma Vadh, Drona Vadh, Duryodhan Vadh were all impressive with the weapon wielding movements of Chhau, and most of the male dancers seem to be fairly well versed in this dance idiom, with some Kalaripayattu moves also thrown into the choreography by Sashidharan Nair.
The sets designed by the late Keshav Kothari are suggestive without being needlessly ornate. Costumes and ornaments by Shobha Deepak Singh provide all the colour and glamour. Organisationally, the production leaves little to be desired. If Krishna is to be judged by popular response, this work has all it takes.