Bowled over by ballet
Ananda Shankar's Buddham Saranam Gachchami was a finely executed performance.
SPLENDID EFFORT Ananda Shankar excels in her dance ballet.
Buddham Saranam Gachchami, Ananda Shankar's ballet, evoked warm response when it was performed for the 32nd time at Ravindra Bharathi. The ballet was staged in Taramati Baradari culture complex as a part of the Indian Railway Accounts Service Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
The performance was reminiscent of the famous Kalakshetra (Rukmini Arundale) style of ballet with costumes fashioned to convey both the artistic and historical significance of the theme, succinct story construed in Bharatanatyam format with the right dose of footwork (jatis) and music, neither dragging into heavy technicalities.
The ballet depicts the well-known story of Gautama Buddha, common incidents that struck his soft heart leading him to question the veracity of life itself and egging him on to take to the path of renunciation.
His teachings as the Buddha were the fundamental principles of chaste living called the Eight-fold path. Certain scenes in Buddham Saranam Gachchami stand out as all-time favourites - some in terms of dramatic effect, others in terms of lyrics.
The romance between the newly-weds Siddharta and Yashodhara was dealt with grace and artistry. The dialogue between the charioteer and Siddharta, where wisdom dawns upon the latter, was more reminiscent of the Bhagavad Gita.
The delivery scene depicted with a screen held by a group of dancers, the rituals following a royal child's birth, the sword fight taught by Suddhodana to his son in precise, rhythmic pattern, the simple wedding scene, Yashodara on the swing with her maids-in-honour and the penultimate scene where the Buddha goes around preaching the Ashtanga marga (Eight-fold path) to the tune of Margani ashtani, shreshtani... are the hallmarks of this dance drama.
Ananda Shankar as Siddharta and later as Gautama Buddha put in a fine range in abhinaya: from the protected yet valiant prince to the enlightened sanyasi.
Her emotive best came to the fore in scenes like nursing the wounded swan, marital bliss with Yashodara and the joy experienced through the birth of a son. The emotive element should have reached a climax in the crucial scene where Siddharta decides to renounce his young wife and child.
At this point however, the scene was too swift for the audience to savour the gravity of the situation. A balance could have been struck to make the scene a little more profound within the time limit of the ballet. The footwork was in keeping with the transformation of the principle character. Mamta Madireddy, who doubled up as Mayadevi and Yashodhara, in quick succession could confuse a casual viewer. She seemed to take her dance too lightly as her adavus (as Yashodara) looked a little lackadaisical.
Her abhinaya, however, was good in parts. Sowmya as the charioteer (also Devadatta and Angulimala) was sprightly and expressive as the character and context demanded. The incidents in the life of Gautama Buddha culled out of very authentic Pali texts and other sources made for richness in content. Despite being a recorded ballet, excellent clarity made the vocal and instrumental pleasing to the ear.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu