Sudharani Raghupathy collaborates
with Professor Skelton on The Silappadikaram
October 31, 2003
Sudharani Raghupathy co-founded Shree Bharatalaya 33 years ago. She has been collaborating with Professor William Skelton of Colgate University (Hamilton, New York) for the past two years on production of the Tamil epic, Silappadikaram, for the Music and Dance festival season in Chennai. Some of the greatest musicians and scholars have worked on the musical score and lyrics, which accompany the dance.
The text is in ancient Tamil, a classic language as important as Sanskrit or Latin. This collaboration is unique because they are using the original text to authentically recreate the story.
Sudharani Raghupathy talks about the production.
Why did you choose to produce The Silappadikaram?
My initial interest in producing and presenting The Silappadikaram began with the fact that it is one of the oldest epics in the world; furthermore, it is widely known throughout India. It is historical, mythical, and even a religious work that provides a clear depiction of ancient South India.
Did anything else about the epic strike you?
It is a rare epic in which a woman is at the focal point of the story. And though it is so old, it is relevant in modern terms. The epic is performed widely, not only because of its historical legacy, but because audiences are able to identify with the very human emotions that are present in the story.
When did you begin working on this production?
Professor William Skelton and I began working on this endeavor two years ago.
Was anyone else, besides yourself and Professor Skelton, involved in making your vision become a reality?
Yes. We sought the help of Dr. Raama Kausalya and Maravanpulava K Sachithananthan to translate and further research the epic.
Vidwan Madurai N Krishnan, who is one of the founders of Shree Bharatalaya, composed the musical score.
K S R Anirudha composed the rhythmic syllables for the dance and helped in the choreography as well.
What have you found most difficult in producing The Silappadikaram?
The most difficult part of the entire process has been editing the original text and choosing the most essential scenes to make the story a whole. It is impossible to recreate all of the scenes in a two-hour production. Thus, we have chosen what we felt communicates the most and what is integral to the story.
What do you see as the strengths of the production?
The strengths of the production are the cooperation with Professor Skelton and between Shree Bharatalaya dancers and the Colgate India Study Group. In the past eight weeks, we have created a carefully constructed work borne of serious research and artistic creativity.
Why did you collaborate with Professor Skelton and the Colgate India Study Group?
We collaborated because we have been friends for more than forty years, and we believe the production will be both spectacular and exciting in its uniqueness.
Do you have a role in the production?
I will be playing the role of Kavunthi, the Jain saint.
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