Exploring Kunti's dilemma

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It was a fairly well attended evening at the Azad Bhawan auditorium in New Delhi, when the dance drama “Kunti Ka Dwandwa”, conceived and choreographed by Punita Sharma, a disciple of Jaikishan Maharaj and Benaras gharana Guru Mridulal Misra, was presented. Though the late start with a wait of over three quarters of an hour for the audience proved to be an irritant, the recital when it started, was a pleasant surprise — for it is not often that one has seen Punita's choreography in Delhi. The thought provoking theme centred around one of the main heroines of the Mahabharata, Kunti, was given a treatment which was mature and done by a troupe of well-trained dancers.

Kunti, the mother of the Pandava princes, went through the troughs and peaks of life, largely brought on through her own actions. As a young maiden, having summoned the Sun God to her side through the power of her chants, she had to bear the brunt of a love child, whom, she, as an unmarried young girl, decided to give up. When she recognised Karna as her abandoned son in the Kaurava durbar, she watched him being insulted as the low-born without coming to his rescue. In order to ensure that the Pandava sons remained united against the Kaurava might, she forced on Draupadi the hapless situation of being wife to all the Pandavas without a care for what Draupadi's preferences were. When faced with the impending war against the Kauravas, she had no hesitation in stealthily approaching Karna, revealing the deeply kept secret of his parenthood and pleading that he support the Pandavas.

The spirit of the theme

In less than 40 minutes to catch the dilemma of Kunti was not easy. But using for textual base the poems of Ram Dhari Singh Dinkar and Shiela Siddhantkar, Punita Sharma's tight choreography without ever straying into self-indulgent virtuosity — always a temptation in Kathak — caught the spirit of the theme. Intelligently, she decided on Chhau movements for the male characters like Surya, and the Pandava/Kaurava princes. The dice game scene was mercifully short, a wise move for an episode that has been shown countless times in dance, making originality in treatment well nigh impossible. The attempt to disrobe Draupadi was also cleverly handled, and the Kunti/Karan (Karna) dialogue was moving. The passion with which the dancer as Karna in a very brief sequence showed his indignation at Kunti's attempt to be mother after so many years of being branded a low born, was very effective.

Led by Ajay Bhatta who has trained for Mayurbhanj Chhau under Guru Janam Jaisal Babu (along with Odissi learnt under Anirudh Das, and Contemporary Dance under Santosh Nair), the Chhau participants acquitted themselves well. The restraint of grounded Kathak with the amplitude of broad swirling movements of hands and legs covering space in Mayurbhanj Chhau, blended well. Mahesh Prabhakar's score by sticking to a recitation pattern in the battle scenes added its own zip. Lighting by Miland Srivastav was sensitive.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 11:52:53 PM |

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