Sruti Bandhopadhyay and her troupe re-created the poignant mood of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, at the Natyanjali fest held in the city recently.
Manipur's relationship with Vaishnavism dates back to the 17th century and Jayadeva's Gita Govinda is an integral part of its culture. This year's Lalithakala Academy awardee Dr. Sruti Bandhopadhyay and her troupe of Manipuri dancers from Kolkata, performed Gita Govinda in the nritya nataka format. The performance was jointly presented by Lalithakala Academy, Mysore, and Sri Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha, Chennai, as part of the Natyanjali festival.
Opening with a song by Premjit Singh (who also played the Pung or percussion that evening) to the accompaniment of the Pena (a basic violin), the performance showcased the story of Krishna and Radha through the songs of Jayadeva. The item describing Dasavatara -- ‘Pralaya payodi Jale' -- which has become a traditional invocatory item in the Manipuri repertoire, incorporated nuances of the KhubakIshei format (‘Khubak' means clap and ‘Ishei' means song) as well as its choreographic stage adaptation by Guru Amubi Singh.
Striking stage presence
The light-footed male dancers who performed this item were Manju Elangbam, Basu Singh, Rakesh Singh and Vidyadhar Singh. With two dancers dressed in white on either side, and the two main dancers in yellow costume, striking visually appealing poses to depict the 10 avatars of Vishnu, this quartet clapped in time to the beat and performed the classic turns in the air.
There was only a single piece of decoration in the backdrop, but the female dancers used it well to frame their positions in ‘Vandana'. As Priyarani Devi went through the mime in the foreground, the other dancers glided from one end of the stage to the other with graceful coordination. Indeed, right through the performance, with the characteristic emphasis on soft, soundless footsteps and the undulating body movements, the dancers were grace personified.
Priyarani Devi, who specialises in the rendition of Gita Govinda, then took the mike to provide musical accompaniment to the rest of the performance.
The well known ashtapadis such as ‘Viharati Haririha', ‘Lalitha Lavanga' and ‘Sa Virahe Tatva Deena', unfolded the story of Radha's yearning to be with Krishna, her sorrow and anger at his indulging in Rasleela with other gopis and the final reconciliation between the two.
Sruti Bandhopadhyay, who played Radha, stood out with her abhinaya for the poignant ‘Yahi Madhava', using the whole-body language that is a hallmark of this dance form. Debangana Chakraborty, a seasoned dancer who has been training with Sruti for many years, played Krishna. They were accompanied by Saswati Dasgupta, Pamela Bhandari, Subarna Roy and Tandrima Chobe, who were the gopis.
With Prof. Somnath Sinha providing technical direction, director and guru K. Jatindra Singh and music director Tarit Bhattacharjee lending their voices, the performance also had Gour Pal on the flute and Toto Devi playing the manjira.
This recital set one thinking about the diversity of India's art forms.
While there are many common aspects like the religious background and some mudra vocabulary, they are also completely different from one another in terms of technique and structure.