Turning fable into a dance fantasy

Ananda Shankar's production ‘Panchatantra' set the stage on fire

April 26, 2010 08:54 pm | Updated 09:12 pm IST

Ananda Shankar Jayant and her disciples perform "Panchatantra".

Ananda Shankar Jayant and her disciples perform "Panchatantra".

Could anyone think of choreographing the tales of Panchatantra, especially in a dance format? It calls for exceptional creativity, stupendous sensitivity to the subject and above all, the motivation to make it aesthetically presentable. Ananda Shankar's magic wand weaved another wonderful production and aptly titled it Panchantantra – The Dancing Tales. Staged for the eighteenth time, it still ran to a packed house.

These ancient Indian fables, in the line of Aesop's fables, were cunningly capsuled in animal story form wherein lies a moral. The didacticism is not blatant: it's open and simple. It seems tailor-made for tiny tots and yet it holds sway on the senior citizens ripe with wisdom.

The five stories each underline a moral – like the arrogant lion and the smart hare, the crocodile, the clever doves, the stupid tortoise and so on. Ananda's production was brilliant in more ways than one. The dance was not too complicated though it was a beautiful blend of free style and Bharatanatyam. The outstanding music oscillated between classical swaras to military band to war beats and chirpy notes in keeping with the story being played. The backdrop created a make-believe forest just with the help of drapes and lighting. The costumes were stark white flowing freely with just a coloured robe thrown in with each sequence to make a difference.

To manage a host of dancers on stage at a single point of time with each group doing its own bit and yet synchronising with the entire dance-drama is no mean achievement. It calls for perfection in direction and concentration among all the artists. Not one single dancer fell out of tune, more so the little ones who formed the monkey brigade. And to top it all was the element of humour. To usher in the comical aspect in a dance drama without it descending to vulgarity is a Herculean task. The aesthetics were in place but the mime tickled the audience no end.

The final aim of any art form is to reach the audience and entertain them. Shankarananda Kalakshetra's Panchatantra not only swayed its viewers but also was educative to all the little ones who thronged the auditorium led by their parents. It was a mid-summer treat for the baking Hyderabadis.

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