It was a confluence of cultures as eight artists came together to worship Krishna.
Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Yagnaraman July Fest 2010, carries a theme of Confluence - 'Jai Bharati', with a wide panorama of six classical dance styles, eight artists and eight saint-poets, with a unified theme of Krishna Bhakthi, was an ideal inaugural.
The dance production, conceptualised by Bharatanatyam dancer Geetha Chandran, turned out to be full of surprises - the biggest being that it was a quiet production. Given the variety of inputs this was unexpected. And though one felt let down by the straight-jacketed choreography, one felt it helped the tone of the production remain muted. If the presentation allowed for quietude, he harmonious musical score (Pt. Madhup Mudgal) and the spectacular backdrop ushered in divinity, so rich in artistry were they.
The other surprise was the use of non-native music and lyrics - like Kathak to a Purandaradasa kriti or Bharatanatyam to a Raskhan love poem. The music was a true confluence of sounds and echoes - as the Pung or the Manipuri mridangam in a Meera bhajan and the Edakkai and Maddalam within Andal’s poetry.
‘Jai Bharati’ opened on a meditative note with the blowing of the conch on a darkened stage with only the dark-hued Krishna statue (replica of Radharaman temple deity) lit on the doorway of the Krishna pavilion. The melodious 'Namo Nalina Nethraya' invocation on the same deity allowed each dancer to pay their obeisance while a sharp spotlight caught their individual prayers. The effect was so artistic, it was a pity there was no more of it.
The dancers presented Krishna compositions as solos or twosomes. Manipuri (Guru Singhajeet Singh and Charu Sija Mathur) with 'Koyi Kahiyo Re' (Yaman, Meerabai) was one of the best. The Sankirtan style of devotional music and dance with the dancers as gopis and gopas, and a delectable Ras-Lila between Radha and Krishna were highlighted. Subdued artistry with wonderful music and accompaniment (Sayeed Zafar Khan - sitar) created visual poetry.
The similarity between the Andal kondai (hair bun) and a Mohiniyattom dancer’s Kalamandalam hairstyle aside, the short excerpts from Nachiar Tirumozhi and Tiruppavai (‘Vaaranam Ayiram,’ ‘Oruthi Maganai’ and the line ‘Vallanai Mayanai’ from ‘Elle Ilankiliye’) were delineated with touching simplicity by Bharati Shivaji. Her closing frieze as Andal, with the knee-length garland and the appropriate Bharatanatyam mudras, won her a special round of applause.
The Kuchipudi duo (Guru Jaya Rama Rao and Vanashree) adopted the Andhra Natya tradition while presenting Jayadeva’s Ashtapadis (‘Yahi Madhava’ and ‘Priye Charusheele’) as a conversation between an angry and hurt Radha (slow tempo) and a repenting and cajoling Krishna (romantc misram). It was a studied and dignified effort.
Raskhan’s poem ‘Prema Yani Sri Radhika’ (Sudh Sarang) and Surdas bhajan, ‘Bin Gopal’ (Basant) were both untouched musically. As the glorious music filled the air, Geetha Chandran (Bharatanatyam) and Madhavi Mudgal (Odissi) brought out the moods of Sringara - in union and in separation. Geetha introduced a sense of a bold Abhisarika nayika who is not afraid to proclaim her love to the world as an aside during the tender scene on the banks of the Yamuna. The mood music for Madhavi enhanced the effect of the piece that was filled with symbolisms of hopelessness and pain of separation like a wilting flower and delusion. Madhavi was one with the yearning soul.
‘Jagadodharana’ (Kapi, Purandaradasa) was the only piece in which the music seemed less than divine. The conversion of a wordy Carnatic piece into an akara and ragam filled avatar did not happen smoothly.
Despite this, Shovana Narayan’s Kathak conveyed its suggestive quality while enacting the Kaliya and Draupadi incidents.
While 'Jai Bharati' was artistically disappointing, it scored as a devotional offering.
One of the highlights of ‘Jai Bharati’ was the backdrop of a Krishna Pavilion created by Sri Jugal Kishore and team from the Radharaman Temple, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. Using locally procured banana stem,
the seven craftsmen created the many-pillared facade on site taking over two days. Intricate flower motifs decorated the structure with each petal held in place by simple paper pins. And placed on the doorway of this beautiful edifice was the replica of Gopal Bhatt Goswami’s Radharaman idol.