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‘Nimitta,’ conveyed a social message

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Shila Mehta’s ‘Nimitta,’ was spun around the Amba Shikhandi story

After a well-received concert tour of Belgium and parts of the U.K., Shila Mehta presented ‘Nimitta’ — the Amba Shikhandi episode from the Mahabharata, at the Experimental Theatre, as part of NCPA golden jubilee. Original concept, script and choreography by Kanak Rele, adapted to Kathak style by Shila Mehta, using Charani ballad singing, one of the oldest style of story-telling, ‘Nimitta’ was an artistic attempt to voice the global issue of gender bias.

“Nimitta is a raging social comment in the contemporary context. Indian legends have always accepted neuter gender, who have performed righteous actions of the highest order in our history,” said Shila Mehta.

As the act opened, a small pool of light envisioned the curling arm movements of the dancer. The scene was the Kurukshetra war field and Shila was the very image of a warrior. Backed by narration and percussion, describing the battle, Shila’s movements were energetic and footwork, authoritative.

Engaging narrative

Shikhandi, stands in front of Bhishma, the man he was born to defeat, as per cosmic design. Memories of his previous life as Amba haunt him. The battle that is on, is far less painful than the conflict within Shikhandi, of the male and female in one body.

Shila divulged the woman in the man by switching from the masculine movement of her right body to temperate hip curvatures and restrained hand gestures of the left side. She was now Amba in Kashi, decking up with joy, coy and grace.

Donning multiple roles, Shila portrayed the story of the princess: her romance, her swayamvara thwarted by Bhishma, her anger on being betrayed, her vow to avenge, her rebirth and her valour as Shikhandi. She switched from one mood to another seamlessly. Amba’s self-immolation was dramatically defined.

The lucid recitation of Deepak Sneh’s lyrics by Anand Singh and Shila Mehta, a wise blend of melody and rhythm by Somnath Mishra and Vivek Mishra, aided by Sandeep Mishra on the sarangi and Zubeir Sheikh on the sitar, made for a complete pre-recorded package. Special effects by Hemang Mehta were an additive. Costume designed by Sandhya Raman allowed scope for adding and shedding the image of Shikhandi and Amba as per the need of the scene.

“Gender comes from flesh, the soul has no gender,” said Shila justifying how tradition is relevant today. A good deal of exploration and efforts have gone into this crisp production.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 2:18:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/nimitta-conveyed-a-social-message/article29972177.ece

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