Attributed to the 12th-century Indian poet Jayadeva, the Gita Govinda extols through its eight verse pieces known as ashtapadis the relationship between Krishna and the gopis of Vrindavan, in particular Radha. The work delineates the love of Krishna for Radha, his faithlessness and subsequent return to her, and is widely taken on its symbolic metaphor value of the human soul’s straying from its true allegiance but ultimately returning to the source who created it.
Rhythm Society for Performing Arts too attempted with much vigour to celebrate the life and times of the Lord of the Universe through their production titled ‘Gita Govinda – The Musical: An eternal love song of Krishna’. Created by Pt. Udhai Mazumdar and based on Pandit Vinay Mohan Sharma’s Hindi translation of the epic poem, this particular production was replete with English narrations and Hindi songs.
Kathak danseuse Namrrta Raai who played the part of Radha and spearheaded this collaborative presentation said, ‘Pt. Udhai Mazumdar ji is not only the creator of this project but also my guru from whom I have been learning the intricacies of laya and tala for more than a decade. ‘Gita Govinda’ is one of his most beloved projects which he created way back in 2006 and was originally performed by my guru Late Dr. Madhukar Anand ji. It later became one of my favourite projects as the epic goes through all human emotions and is full of spirituality.”
The production was a spectacle to watch with group renditions on popular music, extravagant sets, and Namrrta looking resplendent in the golden attire designed by Sandhya Raman.
Vishal Krishna, a vivacious Kathakar of the current generation, played the role of Krishna beautifully. His inherent charm was on display but one missed his regular technically-rich performance style.
The musical sought to bring forth the ‘abhhinaya paksh’, which is often found to be missing in contemporary Kathak scenario. Namrrta commented, “Our ‘Gita Govinda’ project is a blend of abhinaya and technical Kathak repertoire. It explores countless dispositions such jealousy, sorrow, repentance, seclusion, yearning, love, peace, obsession, possession, ego, and ecstasy which one can’t enact without using the complete Kathak repertoire.”
The production chose the linear narration of Gita Govinda withashtapadis in their Hindi translations like that of Hari Riha Mughda, Lalita Lavanga Lata, Sakhi He, Priye Charushile, and Kuru Yadunandana, amongst others. The usage of vernacular dialects, Kathak’s open ended technique, and the lokdharmik treatment of the subject gave the entire presentation a rustic feel, which helped it reach out to the common audience. The voiceover artist’s correct pronunciation of the original Sanskrit verses ensured that the connoisseurs don’t lose out on the experience.