Savitha Sastry takes on ‘human gods’ in The Prophet
- Rakesh Konni
Pics: Santosh

October 25, 2013

Bharatanatyam dancer Savitha Sastry, known for her modern productions, premiered ‘The Prophet,’ a contemporary dance drama choreographed by the dancer herself based on an original script by her husband AK Srikanth. Savitha made an impact with the philosophy translated into a simple story and communicated well with good audio visual support. The solo production had some great support from a bunch of artists in music and technical side including sound recording and costumes. Music befitting the tone and theme was composed by Rajkumar Bharathi and as for the aharya part, the costumes were designed by Arun Kumar Tiwari.

The Prophet starts with a note: ‘It is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.’ But, by the time the show comes to a conclusion, we would tend to measure the human gods - both living and dead - in our minds. The Prophet revolves around one of the greatest philosophical questions of all time, ‘Who am I?’ Here, the protagonist ‘Prophet’ Devadhootha (God’s messenger) looks back at the journey of her life on her last day on earth. 

The story starts with the dance of devotees. This is one of the very few scenes in which Savitha relied on dance to communicate. Here the followers of the Prophet Devadhootha make a joyous procession to her ashram. Celebrations turn into the singing of a paean at the doorsteps of the ashram. In the scene that follows, Devadhootha does a kind of self introspection and starts to take us through her life’s journey. She believes she was guided by god at various stages of her life starting from her pathetic childhood days, when god’s voice guided her from the torture of an abusive father to a job in a dance academy. There she started off as a cleaner. The dance guru identifies a spark in her and enrolls her as a disciple. Her life makes a move to newer heights when she starts believing that she communicates with the divine through her dance. Her popularity rises. Everyone starts hailing her. But at this juncture comes the divine intervention once again, the voice of god, which prompts her to start an ashram for needy street children. Devadhootha thus becomes a ‘Prophet’ who can communicate directly with god, as she and the devotees believe. Everything goes well until the guiding voice tells her one day that she has only a year to live. The fear of death creates more doubt in her about her own existence. Savitha has employed pure dance here to express this doubt with some unconventional music to support it. When she starts getting answers to her doubts, she understands that in a world of equals where god has made no hierarchies, prophets do not have any role.

Savitha portrayed the story of Devadhootha’s destiny, divinity and doubt in three different costumes - of ‘human’ Devadhootha, of ‘Prophet’ Devadhootha and of a dancer (in the scene depicting the joyous crowd and in the scene in which she used dance to communicate Devadhootha’s doubt). The Prophet relied more on the narrations and its enactment on stage through abhinaya with the support of lyrics and contemporary music, suited well with the drama. It barely touched the nritta element of Bharatanatyam.

The art direction by the dancer and the technical direction by Victor Paulraj are worth a mention for their optimal use of technology and not making it a mere light and sound show. ‘The Prophet’ stands tall as a theater production when it states that one’s self love and imagination makes human gods or prophets and it is a kind of make belief that earns his/her popularity. From the progressive and novel thought behind it, to the music, the two projected sketches, the choreography and the presentation - everything bore the signature of the creative team behind the production. Though the purists might not accept the kind of deviation in this presentation, these contemporary adaptations of classical dances into modern theater context would definitely help the art form reach more people.

‘The Prophet’ is Savitha’s fourth independent production after ‘The Music Within,’ ‘Soul Cages’ and ‘Yudh’ and she premiered its presentation at ADA Rangamandira, Bengaluru on Oct 20, 2013.

A software engineer by profession, Rakesh Konni is a lover of classical dance forms and music. Writing and photography are his passions.