Dance

Of epic proportions

VISUAL SPECTACLE: 'Krishna'. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao  

Dancer Shobana’s latest production, ‘Krishna: The Musical’, which premiered on Janmashtami day, had all the ingredients needed for a sensual spectacle. Graceful choreography, aesthetic costume, superb lighting and brilliant co-ordination among the 50 dancers made for a visual delight. Most important, the show brought into focus life’s highest philosophical values – love, faith, devotion and enlightenment – with power and poise. Peace was the leitmotif here, and aptly so.

The dialogue drama married dance, music and the spoken word in a seamless manner to retell the life of one of the most loved Indian icons. It was a kaleidoscope of colour, with Kalarpana’s promising dancers pirouetting, swaying and leaping along with Shobana who, in the title role, lent a contemporary edge to the traditional tale with her novel choreography. Inspiration for this ballet came from various corners, including some of Osho’s works. Amalgamating dance styles --- Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, and cinematic – Shobana wove the story in six segments, to highlight one aspect of Krishna’s personality -- --- the philosopher, the lover, the negotiator and so on.

The ballet began with His birth at a Mathura prison. Childhood in Gokul, boyhood in Vrindavan spent with cows, gopis and Radha, and the Dwarka sojourn, diplomatic missions to Hastinapur… each segment was a study of Krishna, the human avatar. “He came to earth to be among us. He played pranks, he loved and he master-minded strategies. He believes in living life like all humans, but like a lotus, he is unattached and untouched. He is the Yuga Purusha,” explains Shobana.

‘Krishna’ was also an opportunity for the young performers of Kalarpana to take the stage and let their artistic energy flow. And the 50 dancers acquitted themselves in a splendid manner. They were a picture of confidence, and their team spirit and poised dancing proved winners. The execution of the sequences, the entrances and exits… a lot of thought had gone into every aspect.

Bringing on the title and credits just after Krishna’s birth is announced was dramatic, as it was intended to be. The early sequences where Krishna spends happy days at Gokul stealing butter and tormenting mother Yasoda, grazing cows or courting Radha, were a showcase of spontaneous energy, something that was a constant in this show. Special mention has to be made about the ‘Lagaan’ number ‘Radha kaise na jhale,’ for which Prabhu Deva has lent his classy choreography.

Subtle touches highlighted the theme of peace beautifully. Like there a scene where Krishna asks ‘all those who want peace to follow Him.’ And sadly, there’s no one.

Before every segment, there was an introductions in English and Tamil, a tad too long at times, but appropriate. Using the voices of well-known actors to portray key characters worked well, especially those of Prabhu (Nandan and Bhima), Shabana Azmi (Gandhari) and Konkana Sen (Radha). Vivek, the voice of Krishna, was a pleasant surprise.

The costume was definitely a high point. Bright colours for the gopis, white for the Pandavas, black for Duryodhana and Shakuni, yellow for Karna and of course, shades of blue and pink for Krishna… Shobana got it right once again.

As for music, Carnatic and Hindustani ragas dominated. But there were snatches of Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo,’ the track of ‘Dhoom’ and ‘Dabangg’ and the classic ‘Piya tosa naina’, to represent Bollywood influence. Did it gel with the theme and the soulful classical strains? Not really, especially the title track of ‘Dabangg.’

The Gitopadesam segment too did not have the required impact. Perhaps, if there was a voice over for Shobana when she preached to Arjuna, it might have worked better. For, the Gita is the most powerful philosophy, and Shobana’s mime, though appropriate, did not really touch the audience.

Having said that, ‘Krishna’ was still a fascinating experience. And what made this production different was the approach to Krishna, the God.

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 9:56:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/of-epic-proportions/article2396315.ece

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