SIFAS's ‘Krishna Bhaaratam,' staged in Singapore, was a debut performance choreographed by Sheejith Krishna.

‘Krishna Bhaaratam' was staged by the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS) entourage at the Esplanade, Singapore, on April 8, concluding their annual cultural fest. Choreographed and produced by Sheejith Krishna, this debut performance stood out because of outstanding singing by P. Sushant, a Kalakshetra product.

The SIFAS-Kalakshetra ties have stayed strong over the long years. This bond was apparent in this dance-drama too, with Sheejith falling back on the Kalakshetra techniques that he was trained in.

The role of Krishna in the Mahabharata is incomparable - the tragic tale has the romance of Draupadi swayamvaram, the pomp and grandeur of the royal Kuru and Pandava courts, the macabre elements of treachery and war, and the supreme consciousness granted by the Gitopadesam.

Sheejith, his students and staff portrayed some of these elements as episodes.

In Draupadi Swayamvaram with Krishna as a mute witness, a sprightly Behag set the tone, and this became the refrain for the whole presentation.

Arjuna wins her hand, after proving his archery skills.

Yudhishtira's court was depicted at length, taxing audience interest. But Simhendramadhyamam, Bhairavi, Amritavarshini, Kanada and Brindavanasaranga elevated this tedious section.

Renews interest

Draupadi Vastraharanam renews the interest, with Sheejith playing Dushasana as Behag, Revati, Begada and Sindhubhairavi play out the scene. Krishna providing endless yards of dignity-saving cloth, danced to a scintillating Kalyani. Draupadi excelled here, in her singular concentration, keeping up a constant but slow spin at the other end, tiring out Dushasana.

Krishna comes seeking peace and justice, for the banished Pandavas. The arrogant Duryodhana will have none of it, spurning all such mediation, and is foolish enough to try to arrest Krishna. The lord shows His Viswaroopam, to be bound only by pure devotion. Senchuruti and Bowli sparkle here, the dance and music in Kathakali style, added vigour to the situation.

The war begins, Arjuna has Krishna as his charioteer, while Duryodhana is gleeful at having got Krishna's weaponry. Behag, Anandabairavi and Shanmukhapriya took one to this scene.

Soon Arjuna is horror-struck, and remorseful by the war. His breakdown was conjured up by a poignant Ahir-Bhairav. A north Indian touch was given to the lovely Suddha Saveri that followed, Krishna played out His Karmanyevadikaraste sloka.

Mohanam, Brindavanasaranga and a brilliant Madhuvanti usher in the group of female dancers . They danced to an inexplicably lengthy interlude, which made one wonder whether time was being given to Krishna to change his costume. But no, Krishna returned along with Arjuna (Shyamjit Kiran), and Revati showed Krishna's Viswaroopam again.

Thodi was used for an aesthetic depiction of Arjuna's mental vision of all God's creations, shown by Sheejith, as Krishna. The conclusion was artistically conceived, with short spotlights showing glimpses of each episode, swiftly re-enacted by the dancers.

This two-hour and 20-minute production could have been whittled down to one and a half hours, although enthusiastic parents were pleased with the stage time given to their wards.

Costume and lighting were very good, but attention was needed in keeping in place the jewellery of the dancers. As the Esplanade does not allow backdrop decoration, the starkness of the stage could only be relieved by lighting and fogging effects. SIFAS' commitment to Carnatic music and Indian dance is praiseworthy. Sheejith Krishna deserves praise for his conceptualisation and tutoring of the students. Undoubtedly, it was a case of music ruling the day, with the vocal and flute reigning supreme.