Dance

Mythical stories with a modern touch

Rajeswari Sainath and her group.  

Asmita, an organisation addressing women’s issues and emboldening them to resist injustice and bring awareness through performing arts, arranged the staging of mythical theme of ‘Menaka’ and her daughter ‘Sakuntala’ , drawing parallels to contemporary happenings . This was staged as a Bharatanatyam ballet with Rajeswari Sainath as Menaka and her daughter Vyshnavie as Sakuntala, at Ravindra Bharati last week.

The concept projected was Menaka becoming a victim of Viswamitra’s lust that resulted in the birth of Sakunatala, who too grew into a woman and becomes king Dusyantha’s sexual victim on the pretext of Gandharva marriage of changing garlands. This was actually a plan of celestial king Indra who deputes Menaka to disturb the penance of Viswamitra, who he suspected would usurp his seat of power. Menaka descends to earth and disturbs Viswamitra’s penance with her dance.

Lured by her beauty, Viswamitra forces himself on her. As a result, Menaka gives birth to Sakunthala who goes into the protection of Kanva Maharshi. The Ayodhya king Dushyanta happens to see Sakuntala in the ashram and instantly gets attracted to her charm.

He marries her in Gandharva style, spends time with her and leaves her with a promise that he would send his men to bring her to his palace and make her his queen. He also gives her his ring as memorabilia. Later Sakuntala gives birth to a son and when she goes to her husband Dushyanta, he fails to recognize her and therefore rejects her.

As for the presentation, Rajeswari choreographed it in such a way that her abhinaya was accompanied by verbal narration of the situation at that moment. The script was written by Vasanta Kannabhiran. The all female drama ran interpreting this narrative in dance, choreographed by Rajeswari.

The jatis’ structures provided by Rajeswari’s guru Karaikkudi Mani were a treat to watch. The best part of it was wonderful music track given by B.V. Balasai. In the absence of kirtanas it is a real challenge for any dancer to compose a dance matching the verbal narration with perfect mime and jatis. In fact what carried the drama was the way the sequences were filled with nritta based drama, proving the saying that nritta too has its own thematic expression. The ballet was presented to pre-recorded music score with commentary added to it.

Vyshnavie’s role as Sakuntala was invested with more substance. Nainitha played a role designed more as sutradhara. Sanjana and and Koka Hiranmayi gave brilliant support as lead support dancers.

The ballet began with prayer to Goddess Saraswati in a slokam. Dance and music simply dominated the script. There was gayatri chant too, created by Viswamitra. Major share of jatis went to prime roles played by Rajeswari and Vyshnavie. The way Vyshnavie displayed her love to Dushyanta and her joy of having a child were sequences worth watching. The seduction part was gentle. The suffering of a woman in silence was portrayed by Vyshnavie extremely well. Dushyanta’s arrival was notified with the background sound horse hoof’s .

Final bit of dance of Rajeswari, keeping her girls behind, was choreographic delight. The most attractive part was the message given by both ‘Menaka’ and ‘Sakuntala’ in a single line - ‘I defy the violence and rise like Phoenix from ashes. I fight against injustice’- a laudable end.


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 11:12:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/mythical-stories-with-a-modern-touch/article7633336.ece

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