Tracing Mira’s story, musically

In sync: Savita Narasimhan; Vignesh Ishwar; Gowri Ramnarayan; Amritha Murali and Nisha Rajagopalan.

In sync: Savita Narasimhan; Vignesh Ishwar; Gowri Ramnarayan; Amritha Murali and Nisha Rajagopalan.  

‘Miradasi’ scored high on bhava and bhakti.

Let’s face it. We live in times when theism is an admission expected to be accompanied by a half-apologetic, half-embarrassed air. Add to that, a small, but very vocal lobby that clamours for the divorce of the performing arts, particularly music, from the bhakti concept. So, you couldn’t be blamed for wondering how many takers a musical presentation on the saint-poet Mira would have in the current milieu. Plenty, as it turned out, going by the full-house at the Rukmini Arangam, Kalakshetra Foundation.

In collaboration with Kalakshetra, ‘Miradasi’ was a JustUs Repertory production helmed by Gowri Ramnarayanan (music direction, script and narration) with live vocals by Savita Narasimhan, Nisha Rajagopalan, Amritha Murali and Vignesh Ishwar, backed by a recorded score featuring Easwar Ramakrishnan (violin), Vishnu Vijay (flute) and Sai Shravanam (tabla) enhancing compositions set to music by stellar musician-musicologists such as Pt. Dilipkumar Roy, Pt. Falguni Mitra, R. Vaidyanathan, Professor Srinivasa Rao, Rajamani and Anjali Mehr, Visalakshi and Dr. Padmasini. The presentation was a tribute to M.S. Subbulakshmi (centenary year) and Rukmini Devi Arundale (80th year of founding Kalakshetra).

Mirabai was among the poet-saints who exemplified the ideal of absolute surrender to God (sharanagati). Gowri’s narrative touched upon how, in strife-torn sixteenth century Rajasthan, when bards sang of blood and valour, Mira’s songs soared to a different realm, one of love and beauty, in her quest for the lotus-eyed God, Hari.

To her, God was a lover, artist and healer, a perception antithetical to that of feuding communities which worshipped him as a warrior, avenger and exterminator. When a vigraha of Krishna was given to the child Mira, a Rathore princess, by a visiting saint, it accompanied her everywhere, marking the start of a life-long pact between the Lord and his devotee (‘Prabhuji Tum Chandan’).

Her joy is unbounded when she dreams of Krishna as her bridegroom. However, her tryst with the temporal manifests in a marriage proposal from the powerful Sisodia clan. Wedded to Rana Bhoj Raj of Mewar, Mira holds firm in her resolution to worship only Krishna despite exhortations from her in-laws. Seeking to win his young bride’s favour, the Rana builds her a mandir where she can worship Krishna at will. Exasperated, then angered by her continued immersion in Krishna consciousness, he distances himself. Neither threats nor attempts on her life can induce her to change her mind. Censured and condemned, a tired Mira writes to Goswami Tulsidas, who urges her to leave those who are averse to her Lord. His inspiring lines ‘Jaake Priya Na Ram Vaidehi’ sprang to life, visually illustrated by natya acharya Priyadarsini Govind’s abhinaya.

Across scorching desert sands, Mira’s agonised journey to Brindavan is a test of faith. At Brindavan, she has a vision of Krishna at play with Radha, rejoicing in the colours of Holi. Dancing to a lovely tillana choreographed by Haripadman (faculty, Kalakshetra), two young natya exponents communicated the charming vignette. Mira’s final journey is to Dwaraka where she is gathered into Krishna’s embrace.

The vocalists dove deep into the compositions, striving to mine the transcendence and intensity at their core. And came up trumps. If Vignesh’s vision of Abhogi was softened by tenderness, Savita’s melodic intuition lofted fervour to a high. Amritha drew you into the promise of a new dawn in ‘Jaago Bansi’, while Nisha’s rendition of ‘Daras Bin Dukhan Laage Nain’ made Mira’s pathos her own.

Akhila Ramnarayan’s audio projection was spot on, ensuring that the sensitive, aesthetically streamlined recorded score made an impact in conjunction with the live vocal soundscapes. The lighting design by B. Charles heightened the mood.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 4:41:34 AM |

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