‘Swadeshiyam' was an innovative and impressive dance ballet highlighting the Indian handloom sector and the plight of the weavers.
The sagging morale of the handloom sector was considered a substantial subject for a dance ballet, which is fair enough, going by the topicality of the theme. Swadeshiyam per se was in the purely classical dance format as is expected from choreographer Rajeswari Sainath with a vestige of folk towards the culmination.
The group comprised disciples of ‘Srutilayakendra Natarajalaya' (Guru Rajeswari Sainath) led by Vyshnavie Sainath. In all, the girls had symmetry, sync, faultless footwork and uniform expression-which is in itself a task to achieve considering the number of dancers on the stage at times. The use of jatis (syllabic utterances to percussion) served to enhance the effect of a battle or combat scene, the use of props to give a dramatic effect, like the Jhansi Lakshmi Bai episode and the sword fight, the Cross, the Muslim trader (national integration) and the British queen were in the right proportion within the framework of Bharatanatyam. The song traces the history of handloom weaving from days immemorial, its glorious position in the world at one point of time, its gradual decline during the colonial rule, its resurgence with the symbolic charka held by Mahatma Gandhi as a mark of protest, the Khadi becoming synonymous with Indian freedom struggle and the consequent independence to our country which has re-established its unique identity in textile through the handlooms.
Another bleak period hit the sector once again in the recent past with handloom weavers being driven to commit suicide for want of livelihood. The finale of this ballet is a plea to restore the rightful place to handlooms-khadi, cotton, silk, et al by contributing to reduce the demand-supply gap. So far, so good! There is no lacunae to be pointed out in the dance part of the entire ballet, except perhaps, the costumes. Specially designed hand-woven khadi silk or colourful handloom silks/cottons could have substituted the regular dance dress and driven home the point in a more aesthetic fashion.
What let the ballet down, despite good dance, was the lack of flow in the song. The lyrics, by Vaddepalli Krishna were a far cry from compositions penned especially for dance dramas of this nature. The music, therefore could not enhance the verses any further. To top it, the vocalists (Kaushik Kalyan and Sangeetha Kala) went their individual way, never trying to blend and the male voice was hardly heard for the first half-an-hour of the ballet. None could decipher a word of the song.
The sudden shift in scenes looked patchy to say the least. The two male dancers dressed as British soldiers in no way convinced the audience of their dancing abilities either by way of footwork, posture or gestures. The handloom promotion council by now, should have been aware of the fact, that ‘Khadi' is a fashion statement, if the scenario at the national capital is anything to go by. Therefore the plea to use khadi is an obsolete one. Will someone among the policy-makers wake up to the fact that Khadi has come a long way from the coarse cloth spun ages ago? And then put up ballets for its cause.
As for the decline of the handloom silk and cotton sectors, well, synthetic yarn industry is also an out-and-out Indian industry (not foreign as in Gandhiji's times). The presentation was hosted at Ravindra Bharati.