Natyarangam is back on August 19 with yet another new theme that has universal appeal.

Natyarangam will turn 16 when the curtains go up on August 19 on yet another thematic dance festival of Narada Gana Sabha.

Veterans will share the spotlight with young dancers once again and explore a theme that has universal appeal – ‘Baandhava Bharatham’ (Relationships). Each presentation by a duo will highlight a particular relationship through mythology, legend and history.

The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana as well as works of modern poets such as Bharatiar have been sourced to find appropriate slokas, verses, hymns and poems.

Choosing the dancing pairs was vital to the theme. So, if Prof C.V. Chandrasekhar and Sibi Sudarshan are the epitome of guru-sishya, dancer couple Gayatri and Balagurunathan explore the man-woman relationship. It was an extension of their home for sisters-in-law Sreelatha Vinod and Athena Madhu, while acquaintances Lakshmi and Uma are thick friends now.

New experience

For soloist Praveen Kumar, performing a duet with Aishwarya Nityananda was a new experience as it was for Pavithra Srinivasan and S. Gopukiran. Renjith and Vijna will express their love for Nature though this show.

The main resource person is Dr. Sudha Seshayyan, while valuable inputs were provided by people such as Prof. Raghuraman, Chitra Madhavan, Prof. Vaidyanathan, Praveen and Shatavadani Ganesh.

R. Krishnaswami, the sabha’s frontman, says, “This festival has brought many talented dancers, especially male performers, to the limelight. Only if more and more dancers attend these shows and appreciate other dancers will more awareness be created about the beauty and uniqueness of the art.”

The theme for this year throws up immense possibilities. How did the dancers approach the theme?

Prof. CVC and Sibi: “I have chosen the story of Ekalavya to express two aspects – the single-minded devotion of a disciple for his guru and the behaviour of a guru towards his students,” says Prof CVC. “I have also chosen the Mahabharata tale of a sanyasi, a housewife and a dharma-vyadha (righteous butcher). I have used that story to highlight that the concept of duty extends to a guru as well as the sishya.”

Sibi, who is excited, says, “The thirst for knowledge is what takes you higher… that’s what I have leant in the past month and a half, working with CVC sir. The onus of carrying forward a tradition falls on a disciple and to do that, he must prepare himself in every way possible. And that’s where the guru’s role is vital.”

Renjith and Vijna: “We have tried to begin at the beginning – the journey from supravastha to jagrathavastha.” say the happy couple. “How did life come about? We have tried to trace the evolution of Nature - from the single-celled amoeba to plant life to avian life till Man. We have tried to explore the evolution of Man – from hunter to food gatherer. Then the narration moves to how man who was once in tune with Nature, has given in to his greed and is slowly destroying the very Nature which gave him life. We hope the audience is able to enjoy the process as much as we did.”

Gayatri and Balagurunathan: “The saptapadi (the seven steps the couple takes around the fire during a marriage ceremony) is what we have chosen to portray the powerful bond between husband and wife. Using the stories of Rama-Sita, Krishna-Rukmini, Jayadeva-Padmavathi and Tiruvalluvar-Vasuki, we have tried to highlight the fine balance needed for a marriage to succeed.”

Incidentally, Gayatri’s mother Krishnaveni Lakshmanan and Janardhanan performed the dance-drama of Jayadeva and Padmavathi for nearly three decades.

Sreelatha Vinod and Athena Madhu: “We would quickly complete our daily chores so that we found enough time to practise. It was fun,” laugh the sisters-in-law (Athena is married to Sreelatha’s brother).

“We have touched upon every relationship within a family except husband-wife – siblings, parents-children and grandparents-grandchildren. Our presentation revolves round a folk tale about a grandfather and his grandson, but we have touched upon such relationships as Shantanu-Bhishma, Babur-Humayun, Rama-Lakshmana and Vibhishana-Ravana.”

Uma Nambudripad Sathyanarayanan-Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya: “Our presentation is about two little girls who grow up together. We have tried to capture their joys and sorrows, their highs and lows. We are good friends, but this project has brought us a lot closer,” aver the disciples of Chitra Visveswaran.

Praveen Kumar-Aishwarya Nityananda: “Colourful and varied… that’s how we would like to describe our effort. We have tried to blend languages and emotions. So we have Tagore’s ‘Chandalika’ in Bengali, Prakrit verses which highlight the teachings of King Asoka and Bharatiar’s ‘Bharata Desam Endru’ in Tamil. We have tried to push the boundaries in choreography and have incorporated elements such as sword fighting to add some drama. A surprise awaits the audience in our last piece. The process of creating something new has been exciting and challenging.”

Pavithra Srinivasan-S. Gopukiran: “Man is always seeking harmony with his inner self… it is this high philosophy, the quest for knowledge that we are trying to convey. It is abstract and yet, it is the Ultimate Truth. The Upanishads, the Gita, the Puranas, the anecdote of Prahlada and the teachings of saints such as Adi Sankara are our inspiration.”

(The performances will begin at 6.45 p.m., and will be held at Sathguru Gnanananda hall, TTK Road, Chennai.)