Natya Darshan Seminar
EPIC WOMEN - Conference / Performance conclave
Dec 22: Epic Women performances
Photos: Vipul Sangoi
December 22, 2012
The second evening of the Epic Women conclave commenced with a solo performance by New York based Preeti Vasudevan, a disciple of the Dhananjayans. She premiered ‘Savitri: Dancing in the forest of death,’ a solo contemporary dance creation. With a broom, a plastic bucket and coconut coir ropes dangling like a curtain, she recreated the myth of Savitri with her dance and theatrics. Dressed to suit her well-maintained figure, Preeti’s work with jarring screams and vocally disturbing sounds was weak in communicating to the audience. She tried to caricature the characters of the story but her performance came across as jarring. This is the kind of work that New York City audiences (who may know nothing about Savitri) might tolerate, but not the discerning Chennai rasikas.
The second performance was by Kalpana Raghuraman from Holland. She premiered ‘In the spirit of Frida,’ a tribute to the world-renowned artist Frida Khalo. In a simple stage set, Kalpana powerfully conveyed Frida’s body wracked in pain by assuming a position on the floor, rising with accurately recreated painful motions, while excerpts from the famous movie ‘Frida’ played in the background. Kalpana’s choreography using her own body, imaginatively recreated the visuals being displayed. She powerfully evoked the pain and sorrow in Frida’s life and the courage with which she fought to create another world through her art. Kalpana’s abstract movements were thoroughly riveting in this 19-minute solo. She used her body, lying down and yet profoundly active to depict Frida’s strength and courage in pursuing her art defying social rules and overcoming physical pain. Indeed, Frida’s indomitable spirit is an inspiration to women of today.
The third show ‘Gandhi: Warp and Weft’ by Delhi-based Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran was a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, his philosophy and ideals. Taking a woman’s perspective of Gandhian philosophy and its relevance today, Geeta explored the various concepts of secularism and Ahimsa. Using the technique of Bharatanatyam, contemporary movement and some wonderful music, Geeta got across Gandhiji’s message to the gathered rasikas.
Geeta’s idea of performing Gandhian abstract philosophy in a way that it can reach out to the lay person is commendable. Using just a single standing chataai as a prop and with various changes in her costumes, Geeta effortlessly conveyed Gandhi’s message on all the six topics she chose. While the production was not directly connected to the theme of the conference, it showed a different and fresh take on Gandhi through the eyes of a 21st century Indian woman.
The evening ended with a brilliant performance by Kapila Venu, a masterful Koodiyattam artiste. Describing the pain and suffering of Sita from the Ramayana in her mono-act ‘Sita Parithyagam: The Abandonment of Sita,’ Kapila exhibited her mind blowing talent and skill in the Nangiarkoothu style. Kapila with her versatile talent was able to portray several characters in the story with equal ease. With expressive abhinaya and excellent Mizhavu players Kalamandalam Rajeev, Kalamandalam Hariharan and edakka player Unnikrishnan, the show got a standing ovation in the end.
Kapila is one of the most versatile actors of the Koodiyattam tradition. Depicting the entire story with extreme purity of the art form and honest depictions of the characters, Kapila had everyone in the audience mesmerized by her superb acting. In the final scene when Sita refuses Rama’s demand to prove her chastity by a fire ordeal, deciding instead to return to her mother, the Earth, Rama’s repentance was worth seeing with a thousand eyes, especially through Kapila’s moving abhinaya.