Rippling movements by the gifted Mohiniyattom dancer Gopika Varma and her students of the Dasyam School, endowed ‘Ayonija Pancha Kanya’ with an idyllic air.
The production was a compilation of strategic episodes from the lives of the five women from Hindu mythology -- Sita, Ahalya, Tara, Mandodari and Draupadi. Stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were encapsulated to spotlight the female perspective. Without encroaching on the consciousness, the stories shifted to highlight the anguish faced by the women.
The lyric by C. P. Unnikrishnan with music inputs by M. S. Sukhi, Kavalam Narayana Panikker, Arun Gopinath and Kalamandalam Vinod provided a substantial context to the dancers’ efforts. Vocal music by Arun Gopinath and Vinod, nattuvangam by Balakrishnana, mridangam by M. S. Sukhi and edakka by Nanda Kumar were other highlights.
Coordinated efforts by the dancers in introducing the story for each section enlivened the production while Gopika’s dancing was rich in emotional content. The particular use of the eyes and the unified evolvement of the face, body and hands for recounting each heroine’s view made for charming viewing.
The quick change of colours and jewellery accessories (that remained perfect) gave a clue to the individual version of the five personalities -- Sita’s golden hues, Mandodari’s green, Ahalya’s pink and so on, could be enjoyed not merely for variety but also for the intricacies.
Gopika’s Sita was shown as a woman loyal to Rama, Mandodari as the someone who questions Ravana and comforts Sita, and Ahalya as the ‘atisundara’ who has to crush her feelings in a cursed existence. Tara though dealt with in relative brevity, also brought out the feeling of being given away to another.
The final episode of Draupadi, in first person narrative in Dwijavanthi, was a powerful performance where experience and intuition shared space. The first entry depicted Draupadi’s wail over the fallen in war, and the next action showed her fulfilling the vow with gusto. “Who am I? The queen who was wed to five princes; who made a terrible vow or the woman who suffered so much?” – these were poignant questions that painted five varied portraits.
Compared to the other episodes, the narration of Sita took up more time where the dancing glided from one scene to another. The first meeting with Rama and ensuing changes were portrayed like an abridged version of the Ramayana and one could see the crucial role played by Sita in shaping the various twists and turn in the story.