Breaking a stereotype is never easy. Changing minds needs unremitting effort and time, sweat and struggle. More so when people’s stances are longstanding.
For Delhi-based Bharatanatyam dancer Savitha Sastry, this is familiar ground. “People are apathetic towards traditional Bharatanatyam, thanks to self-indulgence and the repetitive stories. The difficulties are two-fold: one, getting the layperson to come to these shows and not pass it by thinking it is yet another dance show on some mythological character. Two, to open the minds of the few who expect to see only traditional Bharatanatyam,” says Savitha, who has been dancing since she was six.
As long as Bharatanatyam is considered a means to deliver entertainment, she doesn’t see why it should fit snugly to any particular box. As a result, Savitha has been incorporating elements from theatre into her productions. This is not new to Bharatanatyam though, says the student of Gurus V.P. and Shanta Dhananjayan. “Theatre has always been a part of it in terms of its mimetic. My aim is largely to explain the story to an audience, which is unfamiliar with the language of Bharatanatyam.”
So Savitha’s presentations “are aimed at delighting the audience” by offering something that “appeals to their intellect rather than preaching to them”. Last year, she staged Soul Cages, a story of a little girl who had the God of Death as her playmate. Her fluid body and hand-eye movements with ample use of laser and innovative lighting fired up the stage. The production had a multi-city tour.
Buoyed by its response, Savitha is back with yet another multi-city performance. Titled Yudh: Three Perspectives, it is based on a short story by her husband A.K. Srikanth. “This story portrays the fact that many innocent people suffer travesties that they don’t deserve. Yudh offers three perspectives on one such incident: through the eyes of God, Satan and humans. It is not a based on any known religious or philosophical story and is completely original,” she says. The music, composed by Rajkumar Bharathi, “is based on Carnatic ragas with a global appeal.” C.A. Joy of Chennai has designed the costumes. The presentation will feature lighting effects by Chennai-based Victor Paulraj.
Savitha says that different cities react differently. “Last year, after the show, an elderly lady in Kolkata, a cancer patient, told me she was transported to another world where she forgot her pain. Then everything is worth it.”
Yudh: Three Perspectives One Truth
Where: NCPA, Mumbai;, Ravindra Bharathi, Hyderabad; Tagore Theatre, Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bengaluru Chandigarh, Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi, The Music Academy, Chennai
When: February 2; February 19; February 23; March 9; March 29; April 6
More details: http://savithasastry.com/
Bottomline: The aim is to offer something that appeals to their intellect rather than preaching to them