A lively crowd, a spirited performer, this sums up Jayaprada's Amrapali, staged in Gujarat recently.
The form is fading but the will is game. The class is waning but the magic still lingers. As Jayaprada the parliamentarian steps back for Jaya the dancer, the rhythm seems to be missing but the devotion makes up for it. Her mega production Amrapali touched Mahua, a remote corner of Gujarat this past week as part of the Asmita Samaroh, a three-day music and dance festival organised by the devotees of Morari Bapu to celebrate Hanuman Jayanti.
Directed by Bhushan Lakhandari, who earlier choreographed Hema Malini's innings on stage, Amrapali has some definite pluses. The crowds that swelled at Mahua to have a glimpse of the performer proved that art - diluted it might be - could be taken to the masses. While on the first two days Pandit Ajoy Chakravarty and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt performed in the precincts of the temple, for Jaya a huge stage was erected. It's not just that the production with a 60-odd-member crew required a grand stage; Jaya's popularity also asked for it.The tale of the nagarvadhu (bride of the city) of Vaishali, who sacrificed individual love for her city state is significant today for it combines as Jaya puts it, "patriotism, dance and sacrifice" and this she says finds a resonance in her personality as well.However, years of dancing to film songs has somewhat taken away the purity of the classical dance form. Though it appears she is trained in Bharatanatyam, the choreography reveals little use for it, making the puritans squirm. Her contention that the subject is supreme holds ground but the apparent lack of practice because of her busy schedules as a Member of Parliament boils down to an addendum of film steps interspersed with smatterings of Kathak, some use of hand gestures and sundry classical images of fleeting nature.
She gets away in a live performance by enticing the viewer with a huge screen playing her delicious visuals but a televised one would soon catch her out.However, as Morari Bapu succinctly put it she combines "art and heart". And when the twain meets, everything else goes into the shadows. The festival conferred awards on Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Kishan Maharaj and Pandit Birju Maharaj for their contribution to the field of music and dance.