February 22, 2010
Tyagaraja Ramayanam and Geethopadesam by the acclaimed dancer, Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant were solo performances. She painted the familiar story of Ramayana's sublime colors. The turning points in Lord Rama's life flit past as if in cinematic clippings. But the perspective changes the cast, in a superb manner, giving a spiritual aura to the legend that has dominated the subcontinent and travelled to the Far East.
The story of
Ramayana is told from the artist's perspective. Tyagaraja, the saint composer
is known for his devotion to Lord Rama. The body of work he left behind
is a proof to his unparalleled devotion to Rama. Nurtured in the traditions
of devotion, visions of Rama inspired the composer. Life of Lord Rama as
Tyagaraja saw, lay in his compositions. What led the dancer to adopt such
a stance of looking at the Ramayana may be personal. The dancer, Ananda,
rising like the phoenix from the throes of mortal illness, must have had
such visions, which she paints on stage. A confrontation with death casts
the understanding of life and its values in a different light. Tyagaraja
Ramayana is a compilation of Tyagaraja kritis embroidered with slokas from
Valmiki Ramayana for continuity. The turning points in King Rama's story,
has an ideal halo to an Indian mind. On stage, it acquires a symbolic dimension
from the poetic angle; reaches a philosophic height from a devotee's perspective.
Hence the multi-faceted piece is a sublime production of the human, the
heroic, and the divine aspects of Ramayana.
The scene of Siva Dhanurbhangam holds a mirror to male vanity. Fear, surprise, despair, defeat, and sense of shame writ large on each face form a parade of vain, glorious kings. And in contrast, we see the humility and nobility of the handsome Rama. Yet, even for such a prince, marriage must be a challenge. Life is under-writ in terms of trials and tribulations.
is a happy interlude in the piece. Sringara rasa dominates to indicate
the joy and love of the couple as "Sita Kalyana vaibhogame…." reverberates
in the background. The dancer is a consummate actor with expression her
forte. The second part begins with the life of Rama and Sita in the forest.
An endearing scene of bliss is a lesson with a message. Even in the middle
of the forest, devoid of the pleasures of the palace, leading a simple
life gives happiness, happiness being an attitude. And Bharata's Paduka
Pattabhishekam has an underlying concept of Ramarajya as an ideal with
all its political tensions. Tyagaraja says,
The disfigurement of Surpanakha is central to the story of Ramayana. Soorpanakha is a foil to Sita. Two aspects of womanhood in relation to man, and the joys and anxieties of matrimony is brought out. Then comes the tender scene of Sabari's love drenched in innocence, really rare. And Rama accepts the fruits, and comforts the old hunchbacked woman like a grown, lovable son. The interpretation of Bali Vadham to which credit goes to Tyagaraja was a surprise. The one crime that Rama committed in his life is the manner in which he killed Bali. Here the eye is turned to Bali. God realization on the throes of death is so human. We become one with Bali to realize the futility of a life in darkness with a sense of tragic waste and despair. Karuna rasa dominates when the supreme mercy flows as death comes as a relief to Bali. Hanuman crossing the ocean and the building of Sethu is presented as a miracle that springs from devotion.
yudha, an archetype, is the quintessence of vigor and veera rasa.
stamina and grace of Ananda is amazing when she immediately started another
solo, Geethopadesam, to select verses of chapter 4 of the Bhagavad Geeta.
Into the battle array comes the chariot: the prancing horses, the majestic
charioteer Krishna, and a confident warrior Arjuna. Soon Arjuna is the
shattered image of a weak human being. Scenes of his past rush into memory
reminding how all these individuals in front nurtured him from his boyhood.
The scene depicts human plight at the crossroads, its anguished moments.
As Krishna chides, the stirrings of the Right wake up his conscience. Then
comes the clarion call, to do the karma, do the dharma …. Kurukshetra is
transformed into a dharma kshetra and Arjuna gets the primordial vision.
The recital ends with Krishna, his revolving chakra in hand and a surprised
Arjuna gazing… "Dharma kshetre… Kurukshethre..." ringing loud in the night
The pallavi in ragam Saveri and adi thalam, a traditional piece of pure dance, painted the joy of dancing. With a graceful, charming expression the dancer is getting ready for a performance. We see accompanying musicians, integral to dance. The dancer strings a floral garland, decorates her hair; the earrings are in place; holds the mirror to see the reflection of her adorned face. And then flows a visual extravaganza of temple motifs interwoven with musical motifs. The technique of Odissi, the chauka and tribhangi, the sculptural poses that makes Odissi arresting, was a treat.. It was as if the stage had become a virtual land where the dancing sculptures of temples of Orissa came alive and musicians rose from its walls with their instruments creating a rhythmic chant. Konark and Puri came alive as in a dream. The dance recital started on a slow tempo and quickened in keeping with the rising excitement.
"Odissi is incomplete without Ashtapadi," said Kavita. And in Kerala, Ashtapadi is part of its ritualistic life. Ashtapadi began in Misrakapi ragam, adi thalam, Radha pining for Krishna, "Yamuna theere….." In this abhinaya piece, the sakhi narrates the plight of the lovelorn Radha - her physical, and emotional state in its allegorical interpretation, and spiritual dimension. And Krishna comes to the loving heart, how can he ever forsake anyone who loves him so much!!
The last item was based on Adi Sankara's Soundarya Lahari depicting ashta rasa in ragamalika and thalamalika. Taking a single sthotra, the dancer presented a string of stories from Siva Purana illustrating each rasa both from the male and female ethos, a unique feature that has scope for abhinaya. Sringara is perhaps the most popular and charming in its rendition. Parvathi and Siva in an evergreen garden of flowers is a classical setting. The coy maiden and the handsome male frolicking under the greenwood tree in spring is a celebrated archetype. The sringara rasa in male and female are two sides of the same coin: Siva and Parvathi complement each other.
Beebatsa is enacted using another story. How demons try to entice Parvathi and how she is disgusted with their efforts. The expression of both male and female is the highlight.
Raudram, genuine anger, is the result of insult rather than jealousy. Parvathi finds out a hitherto hidden Ganga; anger surges. She asserts her right to question her Lord. Vismayam, surprise, for Parvathi, springs from the altruism of her Lord. He drinks poison to save all the beings of the world. With what pleasure he drinks!! What all encompassing love!!
is just human. It is the fear of the snakes all around Siva that Parvathi
finds difficult to cope with. Hasya too is very human, playful mockery
seen on Parvathi's face as she plays with other maidens teasing each other.
Veera, valor, shows both the female and the masculine aspects of the psyche.
Durga is pictured as the epitome of power, both creative and destructive.
Durga is Mother Goddess and Mahishasuramardhini, as well. The temples of
Durga mark red as its color, the color of kumkum and that of blood. Karuna
flows from Siva and Parvathi, the ideal couple, the ardhanariswara. Poised
with abhaya and varada mudras, compassion flows from them to the hearts
of humanity. And the devotees, worshipping the Mother full of Karuna enshrined
in their hearts, are drenched in gracious, merciful love; Sivam reigning
in thandava poses. And the overwhelmed devotees prostrating…. sivam, sundaram…The
dancer too prostrated, tears flowing, the positive vibrations filling the
air on the eve of Sivarathri.