Friday Review

The dramatic churn

Alokparna Guha.

Alokparna Guha.   | Photo Credit: 01dfralokparna

Danseuse Alokparna Guha explains how dance can beautifully blend with drama through her unique production “Hridi-manthanam”.

The recitals of renowned Kathak danseuse Alokparna Guha and a guru with the Bickram Ghosh Academy are a treat to experience, especially her abhinaya and unique style of padhants (reciting mnemonics) in which she infuses dramatic elements with a variety of voice-throws. This, perhaps, is due to her passion for theatre. Her lead role as a dancer-actor in “Aanartita” has established her acting prowess with telling effect and now she straddles both dance and group-theatres with equal ease.

That she is a researcher too, was proved recently when her organisation, Pushpak, presented a unique show titled “Hridi-manthanam” (Churning the heart) at Kolkata’s Gyan Manch . Conceptualised by Alokparna, it also marked the completion of 20 years of her dancecareer.

The choreographer-director was ready to share what led her to explore anga-natya the way she did. On the dance form, Alokparna says: “Kathak is popularly known for its intricate foot work and pirouettes now but the dance originated within the premises of temples with “kathakata” (story telling). Movements came later to attract listeners. Kathak-anga’s origin and journey, therefore, imbibes a constant use of ‘vaachik shilpa’ (art of elucidation) and, of course, ‘abhinaya’ (acting) to express the words used. This is the only dance form where the dancer has to recite a ‘padhant’ before executing them through body movement, especially footwork.”

Sharing her views on the show, Alokparna says, “For the production of ‘Hridi-manthanam’ I chose the story of Tapati (daughter of Surya) and Sambaran (father of Kuru). The latter had a crude, rustic personality initially; but changes and evolves into a very matured, polished and confident person. To show this process of evolution, I thought of applying the ‘Nayaka-Bheda’ as described by Bharatamuni in his Natyashastra (200BC). I realised that these ‘bheda-s’ or characteristics are flowering better with the help of different dance idioms like Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kathakali and Kalaripayattu.”

While working on the the production, Alokparna realised that this will neither be a pure dance nor a drama. “The story was building up with the use of different aspects of ance forms but it also incorporated a prominent use of dialogues too. Ultimately, ‘Hridi-manthanam’ proved to be a blend of both dance and drama based on my realisation of anga-natya. Anga means body and natya stands for acting. In the artistic arena this means a lot of dance-based body movements within the periphery of theatrical application.”

Continuing further, Alokparna says: “I also realised that since long the idea was churning and taking shape within me through my solo renditions, group presentations and dance dramas; which paved the way for my involvement with theatre activities. Initially, I took theatre casually but very soon I was surprised to sense that Kathak and theatre are working hand in hand inside me.”

On reverting to Bharatmuni, she says, “His definitions of nritta and nritya (technical and expressional dance) and natya (pure abhinaya) further instigated me; because throughout my journey with dance I have experienced that the technical arena of dance and abhinaya-based dance movements are inseparably interlinked with each other. Kathak uses them in its own anga or bodily-language, Bharatanatyam in its own anga or expressionThe same applies in the case of natya where pure abhinaya is expressed through ‘aangik’ (bodily), ‘vaachik’ (orally), ‘saattvik’ (emotional purity) and ‘aahaarya’ (empirically enacted) modes. I find them like inseparable siblings when I am on stage – either for Kathak or theatre.”

While working on this production Alokparna felt that conformity and experiments are like distances and closeness – very subtle, enjoyable, beautiful and researchable. “I realised that dance movements are going out to explore theatrical periphery; therefore, it is a marriage of anga and natya. This anga-natya is a splendid experimental journey for me as I don’t have to stop anywhere, omit anything or prevent anybody from opening up in any way.”

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 3:53:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/The-dramatic-churn/article14410354.ece

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