Dance

Bhavanis Prasannalaya’s students showcase a vibrant show

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Bhavanis Prasannalaya’s “Navarasa Ramayana” innovatively presented myriad human emotions through the epic

Any performance becomes doubly enjoyable when the performers’ enthusiasm and gusto is equally matched by the appreciation and commendation of the audience. This came into being at New Delhi’s Karthiyayini auditorium over the weekend, where students of Bhavanis Prasannalaya staged “Navarasa Ramayana”, under the baton of its founder and artistic director, Bhavani Anantharaman, on the occasion of its 29th annual day. The musical theatre depicted the story of Lord Rama, with various characters portraying navarasa, namely the emotions of love, laughter, compassion, anger, courage, fear, disgust, wonder and peace.

Fascinated by the epic since childhood, Anantharaman, during her research realised that each and every character in it portrayed not one but many emotions. “Deciding to call it ‘Navarasa Ramayana’, I felt that it was a great opportunity for my students to learn to express a wide range of expressions while depicting the characters,” she observes.

The dance drama based on the composition of Swathi Thirunal in Sanskrit has six charanams, each in six different ragas depicting six kandams. It covers the complete Ramayana, from Rama’s birth, his archery training, killing of demoness Tataka, marriage to Sita, exile to the forest, meeting Hanuman and killing Ravana. The kandams and their respective ragas were Bala kandam in Nattakurinji, Ayodhya kandam in Dhanyasi, Aaranya kandam in Mohanam, Kishkinda kandam in Mukhari, Sundara kandam in Purvikalyani and Yuddha kandam in Madhyamavati. Seasoned vocalist Kottakkal Jayan did a fine rendering of the composition with his robust voice while enunciating the nuances well. Anantharaman ably assisted him while doing the nattuvangam for the performance. The support by VSK Annadurai on violin and Jayan P Das on mridangam was commendable.

What made the show truly riveting was the dance and abhinaya by the students, aged between five and 45. Each gave their very best, creating a vibrant atmosphere on the stage. The young learners, in step with the vocals and music, set a fine example of group coordination as their hands, feet, eyes and body movements took place in unison. While the junior learners were full of verve, the seniors lent sophistication to the performance.

There were several scenes where more than one rasa was portrayed. The episode of Kaikeyi asking King Dasaratha to exile Rama and crown Bharata saw fine emoting. Faced by the queen’s vivid anger, the king initially wonders, then cajoles her and finally is astonished and crestfallen on hearing her demands. Likewise, an array of emotions was portrayed in the Maricha scene. Sita’s plea for the golden deer, her worried contour on hearing Maricha’s cry for help mimicking Rama’s voice, her imploring Lakshmana to aid his brother and anger and disgust at his reluctance to do so, gave the audience a taste of different emotions. Scenes depicting Rama’s childhood, marriage and coronation exhibited joy and happiness, creating an ambiance of festivity and exuberance.

Interestingly, the roles of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were played by different dancers in separate episodes. Thus the childhood and youth phase had young dancers portraying the characters, while the seniors took over from the Maricha episode. Besides providing a chance to several dancers, this conveyed the passage of time well.

Anantharaman’s choreography deserves appreciation for some innovative sequences in the dance drama. One such is the portrayal of concern on the part of the queens when their young princes undergo archery training and their subsequent reprimand by the Guru for it. She also ensured efficient use of the stage space as was noticeable during the battle scenes between Rama and Ravana.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 3:23:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/bhavanis-prasannalayas-students-showcase-a-vibrant-show/article30040787.ece

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