It’s an alluring prospect to watch the Ramayana unravel in the form of a dance drama on any given day, for the emotional richness and dramatic scope that the epic holds.
Delhi-based Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra’s version of the epic, Sriram , has a legacy of its own for its visual splendour, larger-than-life costumes, and inclusivity of several dance forms over the years. Technology has played its part in redefining the appeal of the dance drama, however, at the cost of some dilution. Hyderabad’s art connoisseurs were witness to this prestigious production, presented by Karvy and Art for Causes, at a packed auditorium of Shilpakala Vedika recently.
Spread across two halves and over two and a half hours, Sriram was unquestionably high on scale, replete with impressive lighting, rich audio visual content, stunning costumes and authentic make-up of the mythological characters.
The dance drama, registering every notable event in Lord Rama’s life from his birth to the swayamvar to his 14-year-exile from Ayodhya and the vanquishing of Ravana’s empire, was marked by impressive acrobatics.
The production was a notable fusion of several dance forms, folk elements and contemporary moves rolled into one. Occupying paramount significance among them were specific pieces set in Odissi, Kathak, and Kathakali that conveyed the contrasting perspectives of Rama, Sita and Ravana.
While the initial portions of the dance drama were quite leisurely paced and even appeared indulgent at places, the production paid the price for that in the choppy second hour where several significant episodes in the epic were skipped in the bargain for a crisp run time.
The persona of Ravana, modelled on mannerisms unique to the Kathakali dance form, was easily among the production’s major highlights. The appearances of characters like Jatayu, the golden deer, peacocks dotting the Panchvati, made for a pleasing sight. The plight of several female characters in the epic, particularly Surpanaka and Sita, were given adequate focus in relevance with the times.
Though the precise choreography, imaginative costumes did the job for the production, the impact could have been largely helped by the use of apt props for the various backdrops. The dance production desperately tried to utilise the audio visuals to make up for the absence of props, thereby affecting the organic quality of the drama.
Several visually engaging situations of the epic, such as the crossing through the Rama Sethu, the fire spreading in Ravana’s kingdom, the lifting of the Sanjeevani hill by Hanuman, lacked sheen in the display. Many important characters including Vibhishana and Shabari were also conspicuous by their absence.The dominant focus on the costumes and visuals had meant that a spectator couldn’t notice enough of the abhinaya of the dancers. The dancers, while displaying great physical agility (especially Raj Kumar Sharma in the role of Rama), were more in a hurry to move from one sequence to the other. As a result, the emotional impact was compromised.
The use of recorded music in place of live orchestration also didn’t help the production’s cause. Though the lyrical content (in Hindi) was full of enriching verses, the melodramatic background score couldn’t compliment the poetry enough. The director of the production, Shobha Deepak Singh, needs to make a concerted effort in lending seamlessness to the episodes and more precision to the presentation, next time around.