Asmita, Resource Centre for Women, Hyderabad, presented ‘Peace on Earth' in the presence of Surjit Singh Barnala, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, and N.Murali, managing director, The Hindu.
It was written and directed by Vasanth Kannabiran, founder, Asmita, and a Women's Rights Activist, who had been nominated for the Nobel peace Prize in 2005.
The credits for music and choreography go to veteran mridangist Karaikkudi Mani, well-known flautist and musician B.V. Balasai and senior dancer Rajeswari Sainath.
‘Peace..' combined English commentary, Bharatanatyam and fusion dance, and drew upon stories of women of courage from different faiths - Esther, the saviour of the Jews, Mary of Magdella, a devoted apostle of Christ who was the first witness to His ascension, Rabia of Basra, a poverty-stricken Sufi Saint from Iraq who taught people to love God for God's sake not out of fear, and Akka Mahadevi, a Hindu poet and ascetic who was devoted to Chenna Mallikarjuna (Shiva) and did not see the need for clothes arguing that, ‘You can strip the clothes from me, but can you strip the nakedness that covers me?'
The production had a grand opening scene. A vast expanse (the Music Academy stage at its biggest) of space with a white screen as background, muted lighting and a calming Buddhist chant ‘Vajra Guru Mantra...' There could not have been a better definition of peace. Powerful and full of rhetoric, the spoken word simply took over the production. They served to narrate the stories well but the words within the scenes gave no room for any other expression. The softly intoned nritta pieces acted as punctuations between the narratives segments, with Rajeswari and her students executing tidy movements.
The young dancers, dressed in neutral costumes of salwar-kameez with minimum ornamentation, were also foils in the background to the drama being enumerated in the forefront.
They kept the mood and the continuity. The focus of the musical score was also gentle and flowed through the native music segments smoothly.
The Carnatic classical was dominated by beautiful flute and veena instrumentals while the world music included the Arabian Belly Dance-inspired music, the organ-dominated Church music and the Persian-Iraqi santoor music.
While the production had lots of space and serenity in its design and some magnificence in the lighting (Bijon Mondal), the creativity in the choreography was minimal.
The most banal were the four heroines; it was like a ramp show in the beginning when they were introduced and continued to maintain that model-like facade throughout. There was no depth to their enactments.
Yet, one would think the production scored in its overall objective of bringing communities together, considering the idealism, research and sincerity behind it. The minutiae then cease to matter.