Friday Review

Awareness through art

A scene from Saroja Vaidyanathan’s "Prashna Chinha?".

A scene from Saroja Vaidyanathan’s "Prashna Chinha?".   | Photo Credit: 17dfrranee2

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Saroja Vaidyanathan’s ‘Prashna Chinha?’ neatly brings dance and drama together with a social message concealed within.

“The NatyaSastra” lays down among many things related to drama, dance and music, the aspects of subject matter that should be displayed in a performing art. And true to this, Saroja Vaidyanathan’s choreographical production, ‘Prashna Chinha?’ dealt with a topical issue, an illness (HIV-AIDS) that is gnawing at the fabric of society.

Scripted by renowned Hindi writer Mridula Sinha, who is now the Governor of Goa, the story unfolded the series of happenings leading to the marriage of a young, intelligent girl to the son of a wealthy sire who turns out to be a HIV-positive. All hell breaks loose when the girl gets to know that she is infected with the same. To complicate matters the child born to them is also diagnosed with HIV.

The parents on both sides are chastised by the new bride and later all rally round giving moral support to the couple while the doctor indicates that there is light at the end of the tunnel! The dance element of this social drama was based on Bharatanatyam and Kathak executed simultaneously on stage, by a group of dancers who glided in and out at regular intervals interknitting the narrative.

The irony of a marriage wherein the bride and groom spell out promises of fidelity, honesty, amity among other things was brought out aptly, though a tad modern, through the marriage ceremony scene with the priest, the havan, et al.

Vidya Gauri as the bride warmed up to the drama after the first two scenes and proved to be an able actor and Kathak dancer. Muzzafar as the husband and disease-afflicted, also a Kathak dancer, looked credible as a sick man but could have put up a more convincing performance as an actor. The ‘chakkars’ he undertook to indicate a gay, carefree attitude was the only form of Kathak displayed. What was grey in the story to this critic was the reason for HIV+. Can drug addiction cause the illness or was it coupled with homosexuality going by the glimpse of a young boy who enters the inner chamber of the groom and lures him out of his bedroom and his wife. The title seemed apt here, than in the briefing to this dance drama where it is meant to question the blame.

As a general rule, the “Natya Shastra” states that any subject that conveys a moral connotation can be taken up for staging a drama with great discretion in a cohesive way and most importantly with aesthetic delineation. This natya dharma as it is called cannot be violated. The existence of dance element in this drama cannot be refuted and if one had to derive aesthetics, well this was it. The artistic emotion (rasa) – a very subjective aspect – that got churned in the process of watching “Prashna Chinha” in this critic, was matsarya (dissatisfaction), notwithstanding the social awareness facet proclaimed in the sub-title.

Theatre artiste Girish Sharma as the doctor personified ‘hope’ that is the cornerstone of all human endeavours. The show was put up at the India Habitat Centre by Ganesa Natyalaya.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 3:56:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Awareness-through-art/article14425999.ece

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