Friday Review

When creativity meets artistry

Scene from the ballet on Meera.

Scene from the ballet on Meera.   | Photo Credit: 13dfrRanee

At the ongoing Festival of Ballets-2016, Shobha Deepak Singh’s “Meera” and “Shree Durga” brought to life myriad shades of woman power.

Two ballets on woman power; contrasting yet co-relating. Meera Bai, the human mystic, personifies rebellion while Durga, the deity, embodies reformation. The status, birth, circumstances were totally unlike; one was born into a Rajput conservative social strata, married into a noble clan, but bent on being consumed by love for her deity Lord Krishna that finally led her to renounce her family life, defy social strictures and take to a life of free will and understanding. The other is Mother Goddess, a self-created energy in the form of a woman, who is born to rid the world of evil in the face of her male counterparts. The ballets emphasised the potent women in these two characters who are otherwise poles apart.

The celebrated lore of Meera as brought out in a ballet had elements of tableau, folk and other dance forms that enhanced the production by way of a tale told in the most aesthetic manner. Meera’s own lyrics suffice in taking her story forward without additional inputs. Everything about “Meera” was ethnic – the Rajasthani costume, the music and songs, the subtle stage setting where a flight of stairs leading to a platform often acts as substitute for a palace, a temple and so on. Creativity and artistry seemed the core elements of Shobha Deepak Singh’s dance plays and Meera was no exception.

The effective use of roped cloth, chunari draped like an angavastra , exotic lighting that emphasised the mood of the protagonist and other artistes on stage, not to talk of the ongoing narrative like the piece of cloth held by two dancers often doubled as a backdrop for Meera, the bride. And on the very same screen becomes the canopy for her royal wedding with the Rana. The same cloth with a change of colour denoted Meera’s transformation into a jogan later on. Similarly, Meera’s chunari is symbolic of lord Krishna, who, we are supposed to imply as being close to her heart. The entry and exit of a group of dancers, a la sutradaar role, helped fill in the gaps that occur naturally in a musical ballet as this. The alter ego of Meera depicted through another dancer similarly dressed but devoid of the embellishments was suggestive of Nature (the essence of Meera) which is trapped by social norms of marriage and life of royalty. This arrest of her inner yearning was subtly brought out by a group of dancers with roped chunaris engulfing Meera as she mimes fighting to break free. The plunge to signify her end was also brought out beautifully through mime and music. The bidai (bridal send off) song set to Rajasthani tunes and other Meera melodies like “Ranaji, Ranaji mey kya karoon, Giridhar preetam pyaro...”, “Rana vish pyaala...” and “ab na rahoon ji tori ghat; laaj gayi ghoonghat ki..” to name a few were akin to musical narration taking the story ahead.

Supreme female energy

When it came to the second ballet, “Shree Durga” – the epitome of supreme female energy or Shakti that could just about annihilate anything that is negative and evil – the director did not resort to any story per se but presented the Mother Goddess straight as a powerhouse born to rid the earth of unwanted evil doers. Mayurbhanj Chaau with a dash of free dance fitted the bill. Durga’s emergence in resplendent fiery red costume was itself a breathtaking scene where the group dancers converge and before the audience is able to discern anything, the Goddess rises from the centre. The solo dance introducing Durga where the dancer went into ‘paltas’ was emphatic to the character and was reminiscent of Yakshagana dance style of entry and self-introduction. So were the other characters: Mahishashur, Kali and Rakhtabeej. Between the deity-demon combat lay stream of dancers flowing in and out be it the female army of the goddess or the male militia of the fiends. This ballet was short and sweet with creative features like mask (for goddess’ lion, a la Purulia style), use of twisted rope-like cloth to symbolise a particular aspect, a few martial art antics (like hata yoga) marking the entry of Raktabheej, the dramatic lighted torch dance by Kali as she entered, the props that gave an illusion of drops of blood on the floor of the stage, the special effects, the off-stage drama, all of which seem the hallmark of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra productions.

The combat between Durga and Mahishasur to measured percussion taal, the paltas they take circularly encountering each other alternated with the female retinue attired in bright red crossing arms with the demon’s forces in a series of ancient battle techniques brought out the ‘veer rasa’ (emotive element). The more fierce Kali stirred “vibhatsa” creating a sense of revulsion which was captured to the core in the scene where she devours blood and scatters skeletal heads after vanquishing Rakhtabeej. Kali dressed in black looked every inch her mythical wild original. Her dance was in keeping with her character and so was the warfare in swar tan with her opponent the rakhshas. The ultimate was the inebriated Kali atop lord Shiva who lies down supine to contain her thirst for blood. Shiburam Mohanta as Durga was convincing to the core while Molina Singh as Kali gave a sterling performance. Swapan Mazumdar as Mahishasur and Vishal as Rakhtabeej proved to be dexterous dancers. Light designer Sharath Kulshresth enhanced and enriched the presentations. Shobha Deepak Singh deserves credit for creating magic every time we revisit her ballets.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 2:52:32 PM |

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