Natyarangam is presenting short stories at this year’s festival.
The 2011 edition of Natyarangam, dance wing of the Narada Gana Sabha Trust, is round the corner. As many as 15 dancers will take the stage, August 12-17, to present “Kadhai Kadhaiyam.” Yes, the modern short story becomes the subject of Chennai’s most eagerly awaited Bharatanatyam festival. Among the authors are Pudumai Pithan, Thi. Janakiraman, Asokamitran, Jayakanthan, Sivasankari, Indira Parthasarathy, Poomani and Ambai. That is not all. The short story will find its counterpart in the epic, mythology or old Indian literature of any language.
Natyarangam hitherto has handled themes well within the dancer’s grasp – Katha Bharatam (2001) depicting Harikatha and Bhagavatham, Rasa Bharatam (2002) on the nine emotions, Kavya Bharatam (2003) involving classic poetry and drama and so on. But can a short story be narrated through dance?
“Certainly,” says Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, Natyarangam Committee member and the brain behind the venture. “I have been contemplating this for the past few years. The idea was shot down by the committee a couple of times. But I didn’t give up. I drew up a sample, complete with mime and music and presented this to the committee. The members were convinced and that set the ball rolling.”
After reading about 800 short stories over a period of time, Sujatha shortlisted 32 as those that could be presented through dance. Among them six were chosen with apt parallels.
The dancers were only too excited to take it up. The challenge was that the modern story had to be depicted without lyric. That meant abhinaya and expression played vital roles. The format is that the story will be first read out to the audience. The dancer will act it out through mime and music. The parallel story will follow as a full-fledged presentation.
“The concept is not totally novel,” supplies Sujatha. “In fact, the first edition of Natyarangam festival in1997 revolved round ‘Vandemataram.’ Through modern poetry the dancers depicted poets’ role in India’s freedom struggle and the country after nearly six decades. It was a great success,” she expands.
Her faith in the miming and theatre skills of dancers got a boost when last year, Bharati’s poetic verse was presented by Srilatha Vinod, Narthaki Nataraj, Sangita Vasudevan and Shijit Krishna. “It was an experiment and we were thrilled with the result,” says Sujatha.
“Natyarangam does not field the same dancer in consecutive years. And we feature at least one newcomer,” says Sujatha about the selection of artists. Thus we find Karunasagari and Navia Natarajan in this edition. The others are Sridhar-Anuradha, Shijith Nambiyar-Parvathi, Bragha Bessel, Lakshman, Sheejith Krishna, Narasimhachari-Vasanthalakshmi, Chitra Dasarathi, Vidhya Subramanaim, Narthaki and Sangita Isvaran.
As is practice, the dancers were referred to resource persons – Sudha Seshayyan, Jeya Srinivasan and Praveen - to help them with ideas and presentation.
“They are ready and raring to go. And I am equally eager to see them give shape to an idea I had nurtured for years,” says Sujatha.
(Next week meet the dancers getting ready for the show)