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Mammudha - an artistic representation of Cupid
A Shree Bharatalaya production
- Lalitha Venkat, Chennai

November 25, 2007

Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy who has completed 60 years in her journey of dance this August 2007 and is in her diamond jubilee year, returns to the stage this December season in Shree Bharatalaya's latest production MAMMUDHA - FROM DUST TO LIFE about the icon of love - Cupid - in his avatar as Manmatha or Mammudha as he is known in the villages of Tamilnadu. She plays the protagonist role of Manmatha with the students of her dance institution Shree Bharatalaya.

The production is a blend of Bharatanatyam, traditional folk dances of Tamilnadu like Poikkal Kudhirai, Theru Koothu (street theatre) and a bit of modern dance.

The show premiers on Sunday, December 9, 2007 at Narada Gana Sabha under the auspices of Karthik Fine Arts during the acclaimed December dance and music festival.

Artistic director Sudharani Raghupathy, composer/percussionist KSR Anirudha and professionals from various fields who have assisted in the production speak about their experiences.
Sudharani Raghupathy
KSR Anirudha
Sudharani Raghupathy
"This is a traditional theatrical production. What's new today becomes tradition tomorrow!
In the 60 years of my journey, I was usually a solo dancer as I was too tall. This is the first time I am taking a male role. Why am I doing a male role at this age? One has to look virile, masculine and energetic, is it not, for this role? Mammudha was not all masculine. He was a bit effeminate too and very graceful. So there is no need for me to do vigorous dancing and jump around on stage. He was happy and over confident, arrogant yet frightened. He represents everything good. Mammudha is a universal concept. He is in every soul in this world. I have immensely enjoyed doing this role."

Why is the title Mammudha and not Manmatha?
"Because that is how Manmatha is known in my village and most other villages. Temple festivals called Mammudha Vizha are dedicated to him and is still a living tradition in Tamilnadu temples. They know Rathi, but Manmatha is only Mammudha to them. Even in Lavani (folk music and dance of Maharashtra), they refer to him only as Mammudha. Though Manmatha has been portrayed on stage as part of a larger story, this is the first time a total production revolves around him."

KSR Anirudha - Production, Concept, Soundscape and Direction
"Manmatha, Cupid, or Eros, orů.. his influence is everywhere - in the big metros, the cities, the little towns, the rustic villages. Why this theme? Is it a justification to present a dance drama just to be in the race this season? Not at all. Everybody's objective is to finally let culture speak for itself. Nothing is unique, everything has been done. I'm just the catalyst here and we have put in our humble efforts to preserve our tradition in a systematic format.

The first step was the audio recording using traditional music for a traditional repertoire. Next was to set it to visual poetry. The dancers had to undergo training in the folk forms for a month for their roles. No art can be classified as traditional or folk. It's a parallel growth in India. In the name of modernity, no part is left vague. Movements, lyrics, music - everything is direct tradition in all its splendour.

The students have all been fantastic because despite heavy school and college schedules and exams, they have devoted so many hours to rehearsals. Having a wealth of talent is fine, but one needs money too! That's when we approached our sponsors and our work is finally on its way."
Therukoothu master class
Dr. Kausalya (Retd. Principal of Govt. Music College, Thiruvaiyar) - research
"There is usually a Madanotsavam in dramas, but this is the first time a whole production is based on Manmatha, so it was wonderful to do research work on it. In villages, there's always a Manmatha festival. There's a 600 year old temple for him in Tamilnadu where he's venerated as a god. In the month of Maasi on full moon day, the whole story of Manmatha is enacted. When he is burnt, everyone in the village even have a purification bath. We have brought in many facets of Manmatha that is generally not known. We are under so much pressure nowadays that it is wonderful even to just think about this beautiful person."

'Manna' Srinivasan - resource guidance
"There's nothing new under the sun. Everything has been attempted at some time. How you use the components in proportion is of importance. Since this production is a blending of several genres, it's an attempt to get one to flow into the other."

S Rajeshwari (Retd. principal of Govt Music College, Chennai) - music composer
"My guru was the chief music composer for Shree Bharatalaya and I'm honored I was chosen for this production. I used my 40 years of singing for dance and vocal stage concerts to compose something classical but blend into the folk or whatever style was being depicted. I was so enthused, I did the composing in just 2 days! Apart from usage of the appropriate ragas, the way it is sung with the right emotional tone is very important."

V V Ramani - costumes, stage decor and props
"I did not have to restrict myself to any parameters. Because there are elements of folk, ballet and traditional Bharatanatyam, I deconstructed the imagery and adapted the costumes of the styles and produced something different. Of course, they vary according to the requirement of the scene."

Mithran Devanesan - lighting
"I bring the theatrical style of lighting. I have been a great admirer of Sudharani Raghupathy but only now do I have the opportunity to do light direction for her production. Apart from her, the dancers range from 10 to 30 years of age. This passing down of traditional repository of knowledge is something one can never find on the Internet. A production such as this will definitely invite some positive and some negative reactions. Forget the laurels or brickbats. Just go ahead and do your best."

e-mail: ksr_ani@yahoo.co.in