The woman down the millennia
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur
March 7, 2008
perhaps, is the most fitting occasion to think of the status of the woman
in Bharath; to think of the concept of ardhanariswara in today's
context. Sponsored by Thalam, a cultural club in Thrissur, the Siva temple
at Punkunnam showcased Sthree. Conceptualized and choreographed by
Anjana Anand, Priya Krishnadas and Radhika Vairavelavan, Sthree was a dance
presentation with introductory pieces set in between. Jisha, recalling
the role of a Sutradhar in Sanskrit dramas, explored the woman's
plight from a feminist perspective. The entire recital was a re-reading
of the story of the woman in Bharath, down the ages.
in Vedic times was Ushas, Pritvi and river Saraswathi: personifications
of nature, and water, the source of life. Indian culture began paying tribute
to the feminine principle. "STHREE is a presentation of Bharatanatyam and
Mohiniattam choreographed within the framework of a traditional margam,"
As in the
theme, it was a step above tradition in costume as well. In the very first
scene itself, the Bharatanatyam costume was enhanced to showcase shades
of the ancient tradition in dress and it blended with the Mohiniattam attire.
In the background, verses from the Rig Veda gave authenticity (ragam Gambeeranattai,
When the gods
failed, they harnessed the female force to create Durga to kill the demon
that intrigued them. Durga is strength personified: astride on her lion,
she fights; kills; returns, her mission accomplished. Durga, the power
of Shakti is the product of bhakti movement. The second scene was choreographed
from a varnam composed by Muthaiah Bhagavathar, "Shri Rajarajeswari" in
set the tone of re-reading the story of Durga. It was a sarcastic inquiry
into how the creator became a killer. Was it a plot and a trap for the
persona of the woman? She was sent to kill when the male gods failed. Thence
began this attitude to venerate. Whenever the impossible is attained, Sthree
Is it a pointer
to Sati-Ma of later times in Indian history? Or did it generate
the male ethos of either enslave or idolize which is evident even today?
Well, this is problematic stance embedded in the performance. It is a reminder
that we are the product of the 21st century surrounded with social problems.
scene presented Draupathi from our epic times. The facade of modern woman
inherits her genes from this icon of the Mahabharata fame. Draupathi, born
from fire, goes through fire. She marries the man she wants. Yet finds
herself as the slave of five men: wife, lover, sister and cook to the men
in her life. They play their political chess-game with her life. In front
of everyone, she is abused. In utter helplessness, she falls at the feet
of Krishna…No man, only God can save her even today. The dance showed the
other side of her persona too. Born of fire, she manipulates Krishna to
kindle a war…tragedy is writ into her personality.
was a captivating picture in Mohiniattam format that focused on her beauty
and strength. The solo performance by Priya was a Padam, "Pari Pahi…."
(Navarasa- Adi). The accompaniment of edakka by Ajith gave a realistic
With the Radha-Krishna
cult came the Dark Age for the women of India. Woman in love was given
a philosophical dimension with the jeevatma yearning for and merging
in the paramatma. The lovelorn maiden came to the center stage.
Religion and sensuality was juxtaposed. Radha and Krishna became the archetypes
of love, betrayal and disappointment, an eternal human situation. It was
a beautiful rendering of the Swathi Thirunal composition "Chaliye…"
(ragam Desh - Adi thalam). With the sringara nayika, the music changed:
Hindustani music reverberated, reminding us of Geeta Govindam that has
influenced all dance forms to our own times.
It is true
that love has imprisoned her. Passion blinds her. Swinging in joy, she
is unaware of the realities of life. Confined to the walls of her home
there is just one bright streak, motherhood.
remains a mystery. The darling blue-boy, cherished by tradition, is replaced
by Kannamma, the girl-child, the apple of her eyes. The essence of Krishna
is in the female form. Lullabies echo as she is bathing her daughter, feeding
her, playing with her, putting her to sleep: a sweet rendering of
the pangs of motherhood. Tamil songs from Bharatiyar rang in the solo performance
in Bharatanatyam, "Chinnanjiru kiliye" (Ragamalika). Somewhere at
the back of our minds, female infanticide in modern India cast a gloom.
Frail of body
and strong of mind, the mother is a contradiction and a mystery like nature.
Back to nature, the theme was rounded off. The recital ended with
a tableau of the woman stretching out her hands as if her soul and spirit
yearn for help, a touching gesture. The sense of liberation was reinforced
by Tamil song from Bharatiyar, "Shakti Koothe" (Adi). When "Vande Mataram"
echoed as the background score, one could not, but feel the ironic edge!!
"We have chosen
compositions from literature which reflect the multi-persona of women through
the ages. It is based on a traditional repertoire and blends the two classical
styles of Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam. We realized that the woman
plays a central role in most dance compositions and she reflects diverse
attributes! So we selected compositions, which brought out a different
shade of the woman - right from her personification as Nature in the Vedic
period to her qualities as mother/lover etc…"
So here is
a unique theme in exceptional form. They were supported by a team of able
musicians - vocal- Balakrishnan; nattuvangam - Ambika Buch; mridangam -
Baba Prasad; violin - Veeramani; flute - Murali.
would have made the rendering much more graceful. This young group deserves
encouragement to come out with more productions to carve a space for themselves.
Jayaraj is a regular contributor to narthaki.com