NSD returns to stage with Kalidasa’s classic

From Abhignananashakuntalam.

From Abhignananashakuntalam. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The National School of Drama (NSD), which recently acquired Prof. Ramesh Chandra Gaur as its new director, reopened after a two-year hiatus with the staging of Kalidasa’s Abhignanashakuntalam.

The NSD Repertory Company staged the 1,800-year-old play to a packed hall, enacting it on the principles described in the Natya Sastra.

Music, set design, choreography and direction were by Prof. Rita Ganguly. The script was rewritten in Hindi, with clever interpolations of Urdu shayari and modern contextual references. Surprisingly, the latter were not jarring. Various traditional theatre forms across India, like Kerala’s Chakyar Koothu, have always included relevant socio-political references.

According to Rita Ganguly, the 30-member team started rehearsing only from mid-February, but the two-hour show with dance sequences and newly recorded music went off without a hitch.

The play started traditionally with the installation of the ‘jharjhara’, colloquially called the ‘nazar battu’, to ward off the evil eye and spread positivity amongst the audience. Senior dancer Geeta Chandran did the traditional installation ceremony. As Rita said, the traditional approach to the classical arts is to absorb the art with open receptivity, and not to keep one’s critical faculties at the forefront.

Perfect choice

The music was appropriate for each scene, and Rita’s rendition of each song reflected her training under the greats like Sidheshwari Devi and Begum Akhtar. The court scenes were enacted with Carnatic music, with veena and mridangam being played in the background. The tanam, set to raga Amritavarshini, rendered during the dramatic scenes, was apt. And ragas such as Khamach and Bihag were the choice for depicting the love scenes between King Dushyant and Shakuntala. The songs were rendered to the accompaniment of shehanai, flute and pakhawaj.

A scene from Abhignanashakuntalam.

A scene from Abhignanashakuntalam. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Enacting the dialogues with hand gestures was realistic. The costumes and dance movements were in sync with the mood. Geeta Chandran remarked, “To make non-dancers move gracefully to the music is in itself a challenge. I would say this exercise is one of the most important outcomes of this play, in addition, of course, to understanding the traditional text. We have always included Mahakavi Kalidas’s works in our dance presentations, but using it for a full-length theatre production is really impressive.”

The auditorium, with excellent acoustics, did not require mics. The walls were adorned with textile paintings with themes picked up from the scriptures. The entire experience was immersive in every sense.

The Delhi-based author writes on art and culture.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 4:56:38 pm |