Vibrant exposition of the Ramayana

(From left) Adithya PV, Parshwanath S Upadhye and Shruti Gopal of Punyah Dance Company in a scene from ‘Abha’   | Photo Credit: Hareesh N Nampoothiri

The stories from the Ramayana has inspired artists of many generations and it has been told and retold in myriad ways. So it’s challenging to come up with a new work based on the epic and make an impact. It is in this context that ‘Abha’, a dance ballet presented by Bengaluru-based Punyah Dance Company, comprising Adithya PV, Parshwanath S Upadhye and Shruti Gopal, gains attention.

The production is an innovative attempt to retell the story for a contemporary audience. It has drawn inspiration from Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik.

‘Abha’ doesn’t follow the conventional way of storytelling and yet is firmly rooted in the traditional aspects of the repertoire. The production incorporates pieces such as varnam, padam and thillana, resembling a margam, each presenting segments from the Ramayana. Although the events did not fall in order, when presented together it gave the whole picture, as in a finished puzzle.

The ballet starts with Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returning to Ayodhya after the period of exile and the people rejoicing at their arrival. The first two items covered this part and more, such as the crowning ceremony and the episode where Rama is forced to send Sita back to the forest.

The choreography remained a strong point throughout the recital, and the trio presented it with precision and coordination. Both Parshwanath and Adithya brought in a lot of energy and Sruthi, instead of trying to keep up with them, danced to her strength and did well in emphasising the feminine aspects. There were instances of beautiful imaginative sequences, which did not deviate from the main thread, further embellishing the narrative.

Role play

Shruti portrayed Sita for the most part while Parshwanath and Adithya presented several men in her life, responsible for her happiness, sorrow, struggles and reconciliation. In the varnam piece, Lakshmana worries about Sita being left alone in the forest. However, she reminds him that Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu and she is goddess Lakshmi and it’s all nothing but an illusion.

(From left) Parshwanath S Upadhye, Shruti Gopal and Adithya PV of Punyah Dance Company in a scene from ‘Abha’

(From left) Parshwanath S Upadhye, Shruti Gopal and Adithya PV of Punyah Dance Company in a scene from ‘Abha’   | Photo Credit: Hareesh N Nampoothiri

The story and the characters being very familiar, the trio wisely kept exploring those aspects under check. The focus was more on the moments and the associated emotions. Sita was presented across a full spectrum: from an innocent young girl who makes lifting the sacred bow of Lord Shiva a child’s play to the proud mother who ensures her sons are well-versed in archery. Sruthi could’ve been more thoughtful in approach, making the distinction in each stage more evident and the sentiments better conveyed.

Inclusion of the killing of Pushkara Ravana (mightier sibling of Dasamukha Ravana) by Sita was a surprise for sure, but the effect would have been amplified if they had adhered to ‘Adbhuta Ramayana’, which says Sita takes over when Rama falls during the fight, rather than Rama graciously letting Sita to do the job!

Without knowing that the story is about their parents, Lava and Kusa learn the Ramayana from sage Valmiki and present it in front of Rama. Parshwanath and Adithya aptly maintained the sensibilities of Lava and Kusa when they acted it as a padam. The recital ended with a thillana, during the course of which Rama meets Sita for one last time and invites her back to be his queen. However, Sita chooses to return to mother Earth.

The story of Ramayana concludes there, but ‘Abha’ doesn't. It had a short tail-piece depicting the happenings in Vaikunda at the same time. Anantha and Lakshmi wait for the arrival of Vishnu, after finishing his incarnation as Rama and, upon his return, the three set out for their next chapter in Dwapara yuga. This addition proved effective in giving the presentation an intriguing ending.

Musical tracks composed and rendered by Rohith Bhat Uppoor and light design by TM Nagaraj were the other highlights of the programme.

The event was organised by Punyah Dance Company under the aegis of Soorya India.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 7:11:21 AM |

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