EVENT Music and theatre blended seamlessly in Sunaad's ‘Swar Katha Upanishad.' G. SWAMINATHAN
Chandralekha's Spaces auditorium is an island of beauty and tranquillity in the city of cacophony. Except for a few rows of chairs many of the visitors squatted on the floor. On the simple stage, four rows of artists were seated; behind them, a crimson light illuminated the backdrop showing a tree with spreading roots above and branches below.
The stage was set for the interplay of Hindustani music and theatre based on the Katha Upanishad. High philosophy expounded through music and drama? Yes. The programme was conceptualised and performed by Sunaad, a diverse group of professionals, home makers and students of all age groups from Bangalore, who share a passion for Hindustani music, and want to promote our rich musical heritage. Katha Upanishad is a legendary tale of highly cerebral dialogue between Yama, the God of Death, and Nachiketa, a committed youth in quest of the truth. The conversation reflects not just an exchange of questions and answers between a guru and sishya, but undertakes the very purpose and philosophy of our lives.
For the first time, Sunaad staged its ‘Swar Katha Upanishad' in Chennai. Katha Upanishad has just three characters; Vajashravasa, his son Nachiketa and Yama. Nachiketa is disturbed by the incongruity of his father's observance of sacrifice and repeatedly questions as to whom he is to be given. Irritated by his persistence, the sage replies, “Unto Yama, I give thee.” Nachiketa's steadfast waiting makes Yama come to him and he grants Nachiketa three wishes.
It's about life too
Nachiketa wants to go back to his father and not to be angry with him; he wants to understand the ritual of the Vedic fire sacrifice for immortality and learn about life after death. The profound session showed that Katha Upanishad is not all about death but all about life.
It is no easy task to convert such a deep and intense subject into an engaging play, fully backed by music. It is to the credit of Sunaad that they made it happen with their commitment to music, heritage, culture and philosophy.
About 45 slokas from the Katha Upanishad were chosen and set to tune in Dhrupad style by Ramakanth Gundecha (of the Gundecha Brothers). The sutradar Anand Kasturi narrated the events and at times, related the similarity between the focus on music and philosophy. Young and smart looking Thomen Olapally played Nachiketa and the veteran Jagadish Raja was Yama.
The slokas had been carefully chosen and tastefully composed in 20 raags including Desi, Jujawanti, Kamod, Hameer, Maru Bihag, Ahir Bhairav, Sohini, Charukesi, Lalit, Khamaj, Bhupali, Multani, Hemavati, Gorakh Kalyan and Bhairav.
The other credits: Guided by Sri M (Sri Mumtaz Ali), directed by Tara Kini, drama direction by Arundhati Raja, script by Gita Shenoy and Anand Kasturi, sarod by C.S. Balasubramanian, pakhawaj by Ramesh Joshi with Dyaneshwar Deshmukh and flute by Sameer Inamdar.
True. There were no opulent sets; no colourful costume; no overacting and no stage décor to speak of. The music was soft and gentle sans elaborate orchestration. Yet, the overall impact was effective. It was proved that high philosophy can be communicated with simple translation, soulful music and sincere effort. The production not just entertained but also enlightened the significant principles of life.
About 45 slokas from the Katha Upanishad were chosen and set to tune in Dhrupad style.