Kalakshetra’s Valmiki Ramayana at Iskcon, Bangalore
- Ulaganathan Ganesan
e-mail: ulag_nath@yahoo.com
Photos courtesy: Iskcon Bangalore
October 11, 2016

The Iskcon temple on Chord Road in Bangalore is one of the major attractions for travellers to this Garden City. Situated on a hillock, this temple is very well maintained and is known for its various social welfare activities which include the very popular Akshaya Patra scheme. The program started in a humble way in the year 2000 serving noon meals to 1500 children in various schools in Bangalore. Presently it is feeding about 14, 29,878 children in about 10,845 government schools in 10 states.

Every year to coincide with Dasara, Iskcon organises a cultural festival lasting a week and last year also, the Kalakshetra troupe performed in the open air theatre. This year from Sept  25 to 30, Kalakshetra revisited under the guidance of its director Priyadarsini Govind and they presented the six part of adaptation of Valmiki Ramayana as choreographed by Rukmini Devi Arundale.

Despite the weather playing truant and rains coming down heavily on a couple of days, the performances drew almost a full house. Iskcon management left no stone unturned to make the event go through flawlessly. There were no VIPs making long speeches and no elaborate felicitation of the artistes every day. Priyadarsini handled it with aplomb and routinely went through the motion of announcing the names of the dancers every day after the show. Only on the last day, the senior management of the Iskcon temple felicitated the artistes and the director.

The six episodes presented were Sita Swayamvaram, Sri Rama Vanagamanam, Paduka Pattabhishekham, Sabari Moksham, Choodamani Pradhanam, and Maha Pattabhishekham with some of the artistes playing multiple roles. The more than 50 member cast included senior faculty members, senior students, full live orchestra and technical staff from the Kalakshetra Foundation.

The show stopper or scene stealer was Hari Padman who essayed the role of Hanuman. His vibrancy on stage, somersaults, and almost total domination whenever he was on stage earned him the loudest cheers and on the last day there were many in the audience, especially the children who were after him for a selfie or a photograph. The dancer who played the role of Rama was brilliant and conveyed the various rasas effectively. Ravana lacked the stature and the figure. The Kalakshetra team lived up to the expectations of the audience and each performer contributed to the overall beauty of the production.

A novelty was the description in English through slides on both sides of the stage as the show was on. This was a good decision as it helped to cut out the introduction of the scenes through an MC.
G. Ulaganathan is a senior writer and journalist based in Bangalore.