Smitha Madhav's presentation showed that Indian scriptures have long enshrined modern management theories.
It's become a trend among corporates and associate schools to host a cultural event for relief during a training session/ conference or workshop. Since such shows cannot run on a long-drawn ritualistic mode, the performers willingly go ahead with something akin to a power point presentation — a crisp, applicable, traditional mode of dance with adequate preludes, to keep the audience enlightened. Smitha Madhav gave one such presentation at the ISB for the Singapore Management University E-MBA Pioneer class. The performance not just showcasedher art form but also drew a lesson or two from ancient Indian texts for present day corporate managers. She took up the task of explaining the theme of the piece she rendered along with the qualities it endowed in relation to present day management and leadership. This was a commendable effort in as much as it lay bare to a foreign audience that our scriptures had long enshrined within their pages, the so-called management theories which the westerners tout as their ‘discovery'.
To underline her points of view, Smitha presented two episodes from Ramayana: firstly, where the vanaras (monkeys) volunteer to help Lord Rama to build a bridge across the sea (sethubandhanam) to Lanka where Sita was held captive by king Ravana. The song in Tamil carries the intricacies of the labour for love which at times tires the monkeys who are ready to drop down, but for the motivating presence and persuasion of Rama, Hanuman and other leaders. To the refrain Rama, Rama jaya rajaram she unfolded in detail the onerous task of lifting stones and hurling them across the sea to make a bridge.
The gesticulation and facial expression explained it all beautifully, while she kept the tempo with neatly worked out footwork. The moves that she enacted, to depict boulders being pushed and jostled into the ocean, the happy little helper squirrel's contribution, the pangs of hunger, despair and other such grim emotions that take their toll on the workers, were impressive.
The song too takes a weary turn in keeping with the mood, which was a thoughtful piece of artistry.
The second episode which strictly does not come after the first one, is about the nobility of Lord Rama, who having vanquished Ravana, desires to learn the statecraft of this mighty king of Lanka. Smitha gave a wonderful depiction of the war scene: infantry, cavalry, elephant force, archers through apt footwork that picturised the enemies pitted against each other.
Then, the artiste went on to narrate the story of Kovalan (Silapadigaram) who loses his precious life for being implicated in a theft that he never committed.
This story was meant to convey that a leader should not make hasty, irrevocable decisions. The narration began on a brief jati to syllabic notation and the sancharis were well executed.
We moved on to yet another epic, the Mahabharatha and Smitha took up the famous disrobing of Draupadi and the reasons leading to this ugly incident in the life of a woman who mindlessly lets go a comment that leads to a series of ruinous incidents. The bottomline: think before you speak! The game of dice scene and the consequent disrobing of Draupadi is too hackneyed a theme to merit special mention.
Kudos to Smitha and her accompanists for conducting the show without a hitch since it involved coordination - the dancer had to pause at every step to educate the foreign audience and alternately put it across in the dance idiom with a live orchestra who also had to live up to this sort of a juggling.