On January 26, around noon, the iconic Rajpath turned into a canvas of colours, song and dance, as 480 performing artistes embodied threads of the country‘s rich cultural diversity. Though this year’s Republic Day parade marked many firsts, perhaps the most vibrant of them was the Vande Bharatam — the Nritya Utsav showcase led by the Ministry of Culture.
What resulted in a smartly-executed display of colours and celebration of the arts, was months in the making. Young dancers from all over India, across genres like classical, folk and contemporary, were assessed and selected for the parade. While Santhosh Nair and Tejaswini Sathe choreographed the contemporary dancers, classical dancers were captained by Rani Khanam, and folk artistes by Maitreyee Pahari. The music was done by Bikram Ghosh and Ricki Kej.
Designer Sandhya Raman, with decades of experience in clothing artistes, especially dancers, was called in as the creative visualiser of the showcase.
“This is the first time that the Ministry had taken an approach keeping design in mind. It was a really challenging job,” says Sandhya. Why did they land on the rainbow? “The rainbow is who we are. We are so different in our hues and shapes, and yet we come together,” says the designer.
Sandhya worked with the larger concept of colour and of how every single dancer can be placed within the spectrum. “We started with the spiritual section of the rhythmic patterns of culture, clothed in yellows, reds and oranges. We had glimpses of white coming in, signifying serenity.”
From there, the reverse of the VIBGYOR is what we saw with the Bharatanatayam dancers clad in red, Odissi artistes in orange and then the Kuchipudi dancers in yellows. The folk section was a sea of green: Sandhya adds, “We wanted to highlight it and show the ‘nurture of Nature’ in this particular showcase.”
The final part threw light on contemporary choreography, where greens merged into blues and purples, resulting in colours of the national bird, peacock. “The peacock showed how the youth of India is going to bring out the beauty in our lives,” says Sandhya.
The designer says that it’s not just the costumes that she had concentrated on. By touching upon traditional, folk and contemporary practices, the display attempted to focus on the diversity that the country is known for, keeping in mind the importance of unity. “An underlying message that I had in mind is that we are very accepting and respectful of all people as a community, and hence the pride colours can be seen on the peacock.”