Dance ‘Kavyanjali' is a brilliant piece of choreography celebrating the life of Rabindranath Tagore and his literary influence on our mindscape. RANEE KUMAR
It's raining Rabindranath Tagore, ever since the nation took to celebrating 150 years of the Nobel laureate's birth. His literary footprints were trailblazers for many regional poets across the country, more so Telugu literature and thought of the 50s.
Ananda Shankar Jayanth's group choreography Kavyanjali is one such homage bringing into focus the deep influence the ‘Vishwakavi' wielded over Telugu litterateurs way back in the 40s and 50s. There was a concerted effort to weave together varied aspects of Tagore's poetic creation with similar poetic outflow by different poets of Telugu land. There is a distinctive tone to Tagore's poetry as it crossed the levels of consciousness. From Nature poetry, to the divine iconic to patriotic in tune with the times, the architect of Shantineketan emerged into a metaphysical poet who questioned the dichotomy of life and death. And that is where the Gitanjali stands. Hence, Ananda's dance pieces found four vivid expressions which she structured as ‘Nataraja', ‘Prakruti', ‘Maataram' and ‘Gitanjali'. Divine and nature-inspired verses find an equivalent in our own Devulapalli Krishna Sastry, while the nationalistic fervour is reflected in Rayaprolu Subbarao's patriotic lines and finally the philosophical Tagore mirrors in works of Balantrapu Venkata Rao and Oleti Parvateesam.
What Ananda created on stage was an artistically aesthetic picture of Tagore through his thought and verse as opposed to our own poets of the 20th century. The stage opened to a digitally breathtaking backdrop with Kavyanjali scripted in stark black Bengali alphabet and a tablet picture of Tagore at one end. This screen was lit up with a row of flaming red lamp-like illusions that set the border. The lighting kept changing in keeping with the thematic mood being enacted on the dais. Every Telugu song — be it Krishna Sastry's eulogy of the spring ( Vasantham ) or Rayaprolu's patriotic Vande twam Bhu deviym — is interspersed by a similar piece from Tagore in Bengali and the dance changes its pace. This was the highlight of Kavyanjali . The flow was a seamless one. For instance, the dance of the group miming the peacocks in utter delight at the onset of Vasantham is frozen and flown into the Bengali praise of the Varsha whose first raindrops send nature's creatures aflutter.
The hoary dance of Lord Nataraja whom Tagore calls upon in one of his poems finds an echo in Devulapalli's and the dance that followed was simply stupendous. Jinak Raj had the audience eating out of his hand when he gave a power-packed presentation with excellent footwork for the tandavam . Chiselled stances and accurate, lightning moves set him apart from the rest of the troupe, gender being no ground. His agility and concentration are marvellous. Ananda has mastered the art of choreography given the penchant for details, the sensitivity in portrayal of abstract or concrete, the care and concern to keep close to the original and last but not the least, adherence to a pure classical format with no dilutions whatsoever.
Gitanjali -inspired verses where the intensity of Tagore's thought process had to find an artistic expression with its equivalent in Ekanta seva by the Oleti-Balantrapu duo was given a profound treatment by Ananda. The solo presentation best suited the pondering mood that underlined the songs and the figure of a single artiste immersed in the vast expanse of the stage provided the depth that was required for such deeply reflective songs.
In the gamut of these four moods within Tagore's poetry and their corresponding reflections in Telugu poetic output, as displayed in the idiom of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, there was a slight crease that needs to be ironed out in future. The expression to the nationalist song (of Rayaprolu) requires a relook. Envisaging a young, emerging India on her way to freedom those days, it could have been worked out to instil a dual feel, viz. a patriotic fervour with an underlying emotion of passionate appeal. As it stands, despite the rich lyrical content, this dual emotion did not get translated in its distinctive manner.
Viewed as a whole, ‘Kavyanjali' presented a coherent picture of the literary shades that flowed out of Rabindranath Tagore's pen. The costume — a shade of the red offset with creamy white, the jewellery and the hairdo completed the ethnic Bengali. Vocal rendition in Telugu by S. Venumadhav and in Bengali by Sayantani Chakrabarti embellished the recital. N. Renukaprasad on the nattuvangam was his usual best. Percussionists T.P. Balasubramanyam and Sridharacharya, violinist Anil Kumar, Sitarist Nanda Kumar and J. Dattatreya on the flute enhanced the presentation. Jayant Dwaraknath's narration in English was welcome by those who knew little about Tagore's poetry. Kavyanjali was Shankarananda's salute to Gurudev under the aegis of National Sangeet Natak Akademi's Natyanjali to commemorate 150 years of Tagore at Ravindra Bharathi.