Buddhavatara on stage - an interview with Siri Rama
by Lalitha Venkat, Chennai
Photos of performance: Lalitha Venkat
January 8, 2004
|The Kanaka Sabha Performing Arts Centre, Mumbai, in association with
The Lumbini Arts Society, Ottawa and SIFAS Performing Arts Company, Singapore,
presented Buddhavatara, a classical dance drama in Sanskrit on January
2, 2004 at the Balamandir German Hall, Chennai for the Indian Fine Arts
Society. Kanaka Sabha was established by Saroja Srinath and her daughter
Siri Rama in 1982 in Mumbai.
Choreographed and directed by Siri Rama, the production featured Chinese and Indian dancers from Singapore and India. Prof. V Subramaniam, a multi-faceted scholar of the Indian arts, has written the script and lyrics as well as composed the music for Buddhavatara. He has scripted and composed twenty-three dance dramas on Buddhist themes, which have been performed around the world by noted Indian choreographers. It is said that he has enriched Buddhism through the performing arts and the performing arts through Buddhism.
The Queen's sister Maya Prajavati has a vision of the future of the Buddha and the spread of Buddhism in the world. To music set on the keyboard by Kishan, this was presented almost entirely by the 3 Chinese dancers by way of their traditional ribbon dance, fan dance and a sequence where Low Kok Wai moved around the stage with a dragon head mounted on a pole. Seen purely as Chinese dance, it was entertaining, but did not quite fit in with the earlier part of the program. The whole cast assembled for the finale with chants of Buddham Saranam Gacchami.
The dancers were Archana Vijaykumar, Krittika Hegde, Vidya Mani Iyer, Neeta Kamath, Sujatha N Kotian, Surekha Shetty, Shobitha Kedlaya Ravi, Sarikha S Shetty and Chandrika S Shetty.
The orchestra included Narayan Mani (veena), Parameswaran (violin), Harish Raman and Siri Rama (Nattuvangam), KNP Nambisan (percussion), Rajesh Srinivasan (mridangam), Usha Srinivasan (vocal), Singapore based Bhagya Murthy on vocal and her son Kishan (keyboard).
Commending Bhagya Murthy for singing true to the original compositions, Jaya Subramaniam lauded the performance and gave an open invitation to Siri Rama to perform all the works on Buddhism penned by Prof. Subramaniam, who had flown direct from the Ottawa hospital for the presentation in India. His travel was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. Seated in a wheelchair, Prof. Subramaniam concluded the evening with his comments on the production.
Siri Rama, the choreographer of Buddhavatara, talks about her interest in Buddhist related themes to narthaki.com.
She is an accomplished Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi artiste currently based in Singapore. She has performed, taught, lectured and presented solo dance recitals and dance-dramas in several countries including Hong Kong where she was based from 1992-1999, the USA, the Middle East, Germany and Singapore. She holds a PhD in dance sculpture from the University of Hong Kong and is the founder-editor of one of the premier Indian dance education sites, www.kanakasabha.com.
In August 1996, she performed a solo recital at the City Hall Theatre, Hong Kong for the International Computer Music Conference. The entire recital was choreographed to computer music submissions to the conferences from composers around the world. In 1997, she participated in the World Wide Simultaneous Dance Event on the web and rendered a solo interpretation of the Silappadikaram webcast as part of a course on storytelling at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Lalitha Venkat is the editor of narthaki.com