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Poulasya Charitam: Ravana Brahma
- Veena Murthy Vijay

August 9, 2018

Siddhendra Kuchipudi Art Academy presented Poulasya Charitam, Ramayana with an overview on Ravana Brahma at Balaji Temple Auditorium, NJ.

After the success of ‘Nirbhayam’ which dealt with a social theme carrying the message of gender based abuse on July 27, on the second evening, Siddhendra Kuchipudi Art Academy presented one more unique production based on the Ramayana with a focus on Ravana Brahma’s character titled Poulasya Charitam - Ravana Brahma, a dance drama in traditional Kuchipudi style. The unique feature of this production was Guru Swathi Atluri herself adorning the male character role of Ravana Brahma, a rare attempt by a female dancer.
The production dealt with Ramayana from the perception of Ravana Brahma as central character. Ravana was a great king of Lanka, a Brahmin well versed in Vedas, music and a Shiva bhakta. He ruled Lanka along with his wife Mandodari, a great pathivratha. Even though he was a man with all attributes of great intellect, power and wisdom, Ravana’s weakness was giving in to his desires and abducting Seetha, Lord Rama’s wife.
The dance drama opened with an overture in Vaikuntam. Jaya and Vijaya, the dwarapalakas (the god’s guards) at the door of Lord Mahavishnu in Vaikuntha, are cursed by the Sanath and Sanathkumara Rishis to be born as Rakshasas for 3 births and then later join the abode of Lord Vishnu or be separated as devotees of Lord Vishnu for 7 births. They curse Jaya Vijaya because they forbid the Rishis from entering the abode of Lord Vishnu. One such birth as a demon is Ravana Brahma along with Kumbhakarna who is an enemy of Lord Vishnu.
After the prelude, the Pravesha Daru with powerful movements composed to jathis, marked  Ravana’s grand entry, the pravesham of Ravana into his kingdom while the dancers praised him. Guru Swathi danced with great vigour along with her students; one could definitely not think that it was a lady dancing as male character with perfect makeup. The grand makeup by Sudarshan and powerful vocal rendition by renowned musician from India, DSV Shastry, took the presentation of Ravana Brahma to the next level. Swathi’s control over her nritta and sustained  impactful abhinaya made the whole production a sheer art lovers’ and audience delight. Reshmi  as Mandodari danced with graceful movements and beautiful abhinaya.
Swathi was very impressive in enacting the scene of Ravana listening to his sister Shoorpanaka. Ravana does not understand Shoorpanaka’s ploy. She tells Ravana that Rama’s wife is most beautiful, more beautiful than his consort Mandodari, thus instigating him to go to Rama. In the next scene, Ravana Brahma approaches Mareecha in the forest to take the disguise of a golden deer. Swathi’s portrayal of Ravana was most convincing while ordering Mareecha to go as a deer. In later scenes, Ravana entering in the disguise of a Shaiva Sanyasi and abducting Seetha were effectively enacted. At Ashokavana, Ravana gives Seetha an ultimatum and leaves; either she agrees to marry him and become his queen or be put to death in the next two months. At that point of time, Hanuman enters with Rama’s ring and tells Seetha that Rama will soon be there to rescue her. Seetha with great happiness gives her Choodamani to be given back to Rama.  The last scene was enacted with high energy by Swathi and her disciple depicting the powerful fight between Rama and Ravana. Ravana is killed by Rama and he reaches the abode of Lord Vishnu.

All the characters did justice to their roles resulting into a grand production of two hours. Poulasya Charitam was presented under the guidance of Guru Sri Hari and choreographed by Swathi Atluri. Music production was by Dandibhotla Srinivasa Venkata Sastry. DSV Sastry on vocal, Rajagopalacharya on mridangam, VBS Murali on flute, Dinakar on violin, Sashidhar Rao on veena - the collective expertise of all the musicians brought about a high impact climax to the dance drama.

Veena Murthy Vijay is the director of Sri Raja Rajeshwari Kala Niketan, Samanavay Dance Company and AIM Bengaluru International Arts Festival. She is also President, World Dance Alliance, Karnataka Chapter, Asia Pacific.