November 18, 2009
Presented to a sold out house, the ballet was conceived by the company's artistic director Anuradha Nehru and jointly choreographed by Nehru and Jai Kishore Mosalikanti, both senior students of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. Mosalikanti has also received significant praise from audiences and critics alike for his innovative choreography and challenging rhythmic sequences.
The ballet centres around the love between Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth Sultan of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golkonda, and his Hindu wife (and the ballet's namesake) Bhagmati. It is said that the city of Hyderabad, or Bhagyanagar, is named after her and that Bhagmati lived in the village of Chichlam, where the Charminar now stands. If the story arc was well trod territory (the Shah's youth, his first encounter of Bhagmati, their falling in love, the inevitable obstacle that separates them, and their eventual reconciliation), the production's presentation was anything but ordinary.
showcased two Kuchipudi Kalanidhi Company members with Silpa Nanan playing
Bhagmati, and Chitra Kalyandurg as Ayesha. Yagna Mutnuri (another Vempati
Chinna Satyam student) played the Shah himself, and Kishore Mosalikanti
took the role of Iqtidar, the court advisor. Kalanidhi's other company
members and a number of talented Indian classical dancers from the DC /
MD area successfully supported the main characters as court dancers, labourers,
vendors, and in other roles.
note also needs to be made of the production's technical aspects, which
utilized the best aspects of Western performance and its space in order
to vividly and effortlessly invoke the sights, colours, and sounds of Hyderabadi
life. The European tableaux vivants was delightfully used at the beginning
of the ballet to introduce the audience to the bustling street life of
Hyderabad, and the variety of its citizens (culturally, religious, demographically
and gender). Instead of excessive scenic staging, locations were suggested
using silhouettes against various coloured lit backdrops. Bhagmati's village,
for example, was illustrated using the visual metonyms of a temple and
a tree. Later, when the Shah is carried across the flood waters of the
Musi River to be reunited with his love, the production used a long blue
cloth that measured the length of the stage to indicate the stormy waters
reminiscent of a Greek epic.
the final event of 'Samasta,' Kuchipudi Kalanidhi's second festival of
Indian classical dance. The festival's programming included "Yaatra" (performed
by Kalanidhi), and a lecture demonstration by the talented streevesham
exponent, Vedantam Venkatanaga Chalapathi from India. Nehru adds in the
programme notes that Bhagmati was a concept that had been brewing in her
head for about a decade, and the careful precision in its production and
execution were clearly visible. It is an exciting development in Kuchipudi
that this tradition can be remolded and rewritten for international audiences
without any of the form's essence being compromised. In this regard Kuchipudi
Kalanidhi has a great deal to be proud of.
Prithi Kanakamedala is an independent researcher and educator in theatre and performance studies. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.