‘Chitrangadha' was rich in symbolic significance but lacked authentic Odissi style and substance.
The underlying thought is more or less same, whether it be Prabho amar, priyo amar or Chitrangadha. The third day dance-drama ‘Chitrangadha' done in the Odissi style was able to reflect the end but the means left much to be desired.
The story is the Puranic lore of princess Chitrangadha of Manipur who did not look feminine, is raised as a boy, taught archery as besets a royal prince and turns out to be an ace martial lady. She falls in love with Pandava prince Arjuna, but not without seeking the intervention of the handsome Madan (Cupid) who turns her into a beautiful girl. Arjuna falls in love with the surupa Chitranagadha unsuspicious of her real identity. In course of time, he comes to know of the valiant Chitrangadha princess and asks surupa about it and it is then that she reveals herself.
Rabindra sangeet and its lyrical cadencewould fit into an Odissi repertoire to a T. The digital backdrop and its technicalities like the lightning flashing across the stage were very realistic to show the transformation of Chitrangadha into a beauty. Similarly, the costumes were aesthetic and in keeping with the times as also certain situations in the story such as the conversation between Arjun and Surupa about Chitrangadha, where the entire thing is told through mime and dance.
But coming to the dance proper, Sharmila Mukherjee and troupe, despite good mukhabhinaya and hastha mudras, left a void in so far as the Odissi movements went. rigidity in body kinetics that refused to blend with the tribhanga, so intrinsic to Odissi was evident even to a casual observer right from the start, Ami Chitrangadha Rajendra nandini . The footwork too was fast paced and undertaken on the scales of Bharatanatyam or at times, Kathak.
The only character that displayed typical Odissi stances, despite a minute role was dancer Subrato (Madan). His very first appearance was striking as he stood in one corner bestowing a boon on Chitrangadha. To a certain extent, Arnab Banerjee as Arjun showed his dancing skill especially in the solo pieces. The portrayal of romance between the transformed Chitrangadha and Arjuna was a series of cinematic postures to music, was most uncalled for as it diluted the rich repertoire of Odissi.
The crux of the dance drama lies in the ultimate triumph of spirit over matter. The transitory nature of physical attributes as against other noble attributes and the realisation thereof paves the way for the truth to dawn on man. This unfortunately did not come across to the audience despite following the text.
Presented by Sanjali Centre for Odissi dance from Bengaluru, ‘Chitrangadha' was staged at Ravindra Bharati on the third day of the Sangeet Natak Akademi's ‘Natyanjali'.