‘Shakuntalam’ was a flow of sequences, which underlined MLV’s brilliant musical score
M.L. Vasanthakumari had composed the musical score for the production of the natya natakam, ‘Shakuntalam,’ in the year 1989, and also enriched it by singing the compositions with her disciple. History was repeated when that disciple of M.L.V., Sudha Ragunathan, came forward to sing for the revival of the same production with her disciple Deepika this year, when this dance production choreographed by Ambika Buch was presented as part of The Music Academy dance festival.
Expectations were high as this year’s Sangita Kalanidhi recipient was heading the musical ensemble. All eyes were on her and true enough her singing style livened up the show, but ten minutes down the line it really did not matter who the singer was, for what lingered in the rasika’s mind was the rich musical genius of the compositions.
The natya natakam has been choreographed in a straightforward, storytelling format. Starting with Vishwamitra’s penance disturbed by Menaka and the birth of a little girl Shakuntala, her growing years at sage Kanva’s ashram, her tryst with Dushyantha, his rejection of her till the final sequence of the king’s reunion with Shakuntala and son Bharatha, it was a continuous flow of dance sequences.
Revival of productions after many years need to be relooked with a fresh eye, keeping in mind the changes that have taken place over the years in the field. By adhering to the original format of a slow narrative, compounded by the lacklustre performance of the dancer in the role of Dushyanta, the scenes tend to sag. All the other dancers performed well, understanding their roles.
The costumes were designed appropriately to suit the theme but there were a few glitches such as using potted palms, so out of place in an ashram setting, thermocole clouds and an aesthetic but disproportionate hut in the backdrop.
The orchestral team consisted of Sudha Ragunathan and Deepika on vocal support, Ambika Buch and Radhika Vairavelan wielding the cymbals, Vedakrishnan on mridangam, Seshadri on violin, Sruti Sagar on flute and Koteeshwaran on tabla.