Ballet: ‘Vande Sabari Gireesam', a Kuchipudi Nritya Roopakam by Kaushik, had a mesmerising effect on the audience.GUDIPOODI SRIHARI

A play on Lord Ayyappa, Vande Sabari Gireesam, was staged at Ravindra Bharati recently, a little after the end of Ayyappa season. The play was earlier staged in Kerala, timing it with the pilgrimage to Sabarimalai temple with songs in Malayalam. Young Kaushik in the lead role of Manikantha won hearts of the people there. A film being shot in Kerala with Kaushik playing the same role is nearly complete.

Verbal description

But the ballet had less of dance and more of a pre-recorded verbal description of events sprinkled with songs. This may be the reason why the feature is called ‘roopakam'. Young choreographer Kranthi Kiran provided space for occasional dances, while the rest of the drama moved more as a narration of events, against pre-recorded sound track. A solo dance number Maheswari Mahakali describing Goddess Durga, opened the drama. Shrutakeerti, Kaushik's sister presented it interestingly. Durga takes on Mahishasura and kills him. And this part is given finishing touch with the song Ayigiri Nandini.

Mahishi, the sister of annihilated Mahishasura wants to avenge her brother's killing. She prays to Lord Siva and gets the boon of invincibility, except by a child born to Siva and Vishnu. The two being male Gods she thinks she has created an impossible situation for them as they cannot give birth to a child. But Vishnu takes the form of Mohini and her union with Siva, results in the birth of a male child, later named as Manikantha. The infant is picked up by a childless king Bandala Raju. The queen is initially happy, but once she gives birth to her own child, inheritance to the throne becomes an issue, as she wants her son to be made king, not Manikantha, the king's preference.

To eliminate Manikantha, the queen pretends to be suffering from headache and asks him to fetch the milk of a tigress, saying it is the only cure for her problem. The boy obliges. On his way to the forest he kills demon Mahishi, gets the milk and rides on a tiger back to the palace to the shock of all. Manikantha then asks the king to build a temple on Sabiri hills for him to stay there ever after.

The last scene of God Ayyappa's (Kausik) abode was a thrill to watch. Of the dances, the one presented by Shrutakeerti and later presented by Kaushik as Manikantha, celebrating the killing of demon Mahishi, were interesting. The songs were in Malayalam. Kaushik's charming presence in the role of Manikantha had a mesmerising effect on the audience. Shrutakeerti also played the role of the queen of Bandala Raju. If this drama is to attain the status of real Kuchipudi ballet, a lot of homework has to go into its script and choreography. The play displayed its potential as a long surviving ballet. The recording quality of the songs needs to be improved, using latest technology.