Contemporary presentation Dance

Fresh spin on Shakuntala

Pujitha Krishna

Pujitha Krishna   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

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Dancer Pujitha Krishna explores Shakuntala’s emotional journey and her resilience in the face of insurmountable challenges

Pujitha Krishna’s earliest memory of reading Shakuntala is from her school days. Now, the dancer recreates the Sanskirt classic, Kalidasa’s Abhignana Shakuntalam with a contemporary touch in her new dance production Swacchanda Vallari: A Creeper Untwines to be staged this Friday. Without going for a complete adaptation, Pujitha presents her own take on the classic with a blend of dance, drama and theatre elements in this solo production.

“I don’t leave the stage at all,” laughs Pujitha, who explores a sea of emotions that Shakuntala goes through when Dushyant does not remember her. “It is a story set way back in time but has a universality to it. I am exploring the process of a journey that any human being has to go through when something negative has happened. During that moment of dejection, betrayal and shock, what could she have been going through. The emotions are there, but what is the learning curve? What would Shakuntala have experienced to finally accept and move on.”

The one-hour presentation shows a dejected Shakuntala wandering around the forest alone, conversing with a voice emanating from the forest. Her poignant past is revealed during this inner conversation. “In the end, it is revealed that the ‘akashvani’, is her own inner voice, that’s encouraging her to think beyond this state of despair and betrayal.”

She calls Shakuntala, a Nature’s child. “Everything she wears is born or derived from Nature. Daughter of an apsara (Menaka) and a sage (Vishwamitra), she grows up in a hermitage and is raised and sheltered by birds as an infant. After an unconventional wedding with Dushyant, she is separated from him but she raises their son Bharata until he turns eight. Pujitha’s production therefore explores the growth of Shakuntala from being dependant on Dushyant for emotional fulfilment and acceptance to growing into a strong entity capable of living independently.

Pujitha combines two art forms — Kuchipudi and Vilasini Natyam — to execute this concept through the production. While the dialogue between akasha vani and Shankuntala is in English, the rest of the drama includes Sanskrit lines from Kalidasa’s text. Pujita admits it was a challenge to juxtapose the languages without seeming odd or bizarre. Another challenge was to know how to end the story. “What would be a fitting end, especially for a dancer, to know that this would be symbolic? There are a few symbols too like a creeper, which is a symbol of helplessness; how do I play around such symbolism?”

She observes it is vital for the modern generation to find a connect with our stories. “We grew up with these tales and received them in different forms. These stories have a different interpretation and if you present them in a new light, the interest is created and people see how it is relevant to us even today.” With a blend of tradition and modernity, the presentation focusses on the context of the original story. “When I depict Shakuntala in the gandharva wedding, I use a traditional approach. I am not distorting the characters. I bring a fresh spin to what the character may have experienced which could be relatable in a modern day situation.”

She is keeping her fingers crossed for the response to her production. “Today’s audience is restive and does not have the patience to sit through something introspective. They are not interested unless 15 dancers are dancing to the same loud beat on stage.” But then Hyderabad also has a sizeable group of discerning culture aficionados, so this production would definitely interest them.

Swacchanda Vallari: A Creeper Untwines, a solo interpretive piece combining dance, drama and dialogue is on at Shilpaseema (Shilparamam) on June 14; 7 pm

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 10:01:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/dancer-pujitha-krishna-explores-shakuntalas-emotional-journey/article27914654.ece

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