Epics retold through a blend of art forms

Sonal Mansingh   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The universal appeal and relevance of our epics are what inspire artistes to revisit them.

Sonal Mansingh’s two-day ‘Kala Yatra 2020’, a virtual presentation, was a blend of performances, talks, paintings and puppet shows.

The festival began with Kalakshetra’s ‘Sita Swayamvaram’. The presentation lacked vibrancy, perhaps it was an old recording.

Choodamani Nandagopal’s talk on the ‘Abduction of Sita’ followed by the depiction of Rama’s exile through a puppet show made for a seamless flow of episodes. Choodamani explained how the Ramayana lends itself beautifully to diverse art forms. The navarasas find perfect expression in the epic.

Referring to the maiming of Shoorpanaka evoking laughter in Sita and Lakshman, Choodmani said it was difficult for 21st century minds to laugh over an instance of a woman getting maimed, no matter how wicked she is. Her lengthy talk, though very informative, could have been made more interesting with pictures.

Aesthetic presentation

The Dramatic Arts college of the Thailand-based Bundit Pattana Silpa Institute depicted the Swarn Mrig (golden deer) scene. It was replete with aesthetic movements and mime. The costumes, particularly the headgear, caught the eye. The Mareech dance was well choreographed. The presentation proved how the Ramayana is popular across South East Asia, with each region adding its own flavour to the epic.

Prasoon Joshi’s elucidative talk in chaste Hindi on the character of Jambavant, who spanned across three yugas, bridged the abduction episode with the quest for Sita and the ensuing battle with Ravana where Jambavant plays a pivotal role in igniting (as a motivational speaker) Hanuman’s prowess.

Joshi stressed on the conversation between human (Ram and Lakshman) and non-human (Jambavant and Sugreev) as indicative of interactions at higher levels of consciousness. Another puppet show showed ‘Lanka dahan’ (Lanka on fire).

The curtains came down with ‘Sankatmochan Hanumanashtak,’ a group presentation by the students of Delhi-based Shri Kamakhya Kalapeeth, depicting the life of Hanuman, his companions Bali, Sugreev, Jambavant, his search for Sita, and his innate devotion to Lord Rama. Sadly, occasional disturbances marred the visual appeal of the presentation.

A performance from Kala Yatra 2020

A performance from Kala Yatra 2020   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Next on Mahabharata

With its wide range of characters, the episodes from the Mahabharata on day two made for a lively offering. Dr. Bharat Gupt threw light on the incidents that led to ‘Bhishma Pratignya’ (Vow of Bhishma).

The professor maintained that Bhishma was a flawless character and if there were faults, it was in his father Shantanu and the social milieu of the times. The comparison of Bhishma with a Greek tragic hero was interesting.

It was followed by a riveting solo by Sonal Mansingh. For those of us who have not seen her on stage recently, it gave a glimpse of her artistry, especially her abhinaya. The multi-layered character of Draupadi — from a proud princess of Panchal to a morally wounded woman who loses everything — was explored with finesse. Her fiery spirit was brought to the fore with conviction. The back and forth technique and the use of fabric as a metaphor were commendable. Sonal’s dance was an eclectic mix of Odissi, Bharatanatyam and contemporary.

Focus on Karna

‘Karna Vadh’ by Rasa United (Delhi), that brought together Chhau, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam, had ace dancer S. Vasudevan in the lead. He conveyed the pathos of Karna through an effective narrative.

Dr. Sahana Singh spoke about the Mahabharata and education, with examples of learning centres that had thrived in that era.

The battle of Kurukshetra and its aftermath were well portrayed through Nangiar Koothu, and the dancers of Natanakairali showcased ‘Urubhangam’. Balarama, Duryodhana and Gandhari were played in front of a huge brass lamp, the light accentuating gestures, eye movements and expressions. Even the goriest scenes were played with such subtlety that they lingered long after the show was over.

The author, based in Delhi, writes on classical dance.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 12:07:33 PM |

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