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Kala Sadhanalaya's Jagat Pavani Ganga
- Navya Maitri Konda
Photos: Anubhava Sj

October 21, 2018

Kala Sadhanalaya's Jagat Pavani Ganga recently completed a successful tour in the United States. On September 23, 2018, the production was presented in association with the University of Silicon Andhra at the Gary Soren Smith Center for Fine and Performing Arts in Fremont, California.

Conceptualized, choreographed, and directed by Guru Revathi Ramachandran, Jagat Pavani Ganga explored the significance of India's holy river, from her history to her current state of damage. While experts often speak of the fine line in arts activism between suitably and ostentatiously conveying the message at hand, this production not only stood at the brink of incredible poignancy but also ignited a deep call to action.

Beyond the awe-inspiring, seamless performance by the ensemble, Jagat Pavani Ganga was underlined with a profound sense of authenticity. Lalgudi GJR Krishnan's masterful musical score, inclusive of various instrumentation, languages, and ancient and contemporary verses, and Murugan Krishnan's marvelous lighting design - primarily featuring blue light, which often is used to connote pervasiveness and protection, in nearly all scenes - evidenced the widespread reverence of Mother Ganga. The terracotta jewelry coupled with the earth-toned costumes with sheer blue accents also added to the ethos.

This projected authenticity, consequently evoking a sense of familiarity, was further built upon through the use of subject specific choreography. The introductory sequence featured dancers with diagonally outstretched arm positions that alluded to the Kailash Mountains, while a latter sequence involved some dancers running to clap hands with other stationary dancers, symbolizing the current created by the river hitting the rocks. As a plethora of stories were explored, the powerful juxtapositions between instances kept the viewers engaged and on their toes. For instance, the verve of Lord Shiva's tandava was immediately followed by the pure elegance of Ganga flowing from his matted locks; the overwhelming joy of the Garwhali folk number was followed by the divine stillness of the Ganga Aarti. It is also important to note that the simultaneous juxtaposition between the projected shadow play illustrating destruction and the dancers experiencing consequent turmoil also drove the need for advocacy home.

However, what perhaps elevated the message most is Revathi Ramachandran's novel usage of unconventional elements, including vachika abhinaya and breaking of the 4th wall. Atypical to the Bharatanatyam repertoire and Bharatanatyam productions, vachika abhinaya was not only experienced through the trills of the Garwhali but also through the dynamic, engaging sutradhar, wonderfully played by Karthik Anantha Subramanian. As the backbone guiding the story forward, the sutradhar set precedent for the act to come, speaking right to the audience and to specific audience members through impassioned monologues. This breaking of the 4th wall is virtually unheard of in the Indian classical dance spectrum; its usage kept audience members engaged while invoking a deep sense of empathy in them. Moreover, concluding the production with a procession through the audience, this masterful strategy had the audience on their feet even before the dancers returned to the stage for the final sequence.

Ultimately, it was Guru Revathi Ramachandran's all-encompassing vision, extraordinarily brought to life by Manasvini Korukkai Ramachandran and the Kala Sadhanalaya ensemble - Aparna Sundaram, Darshana Rajendran, K M Jayakrishnan, K B Madhusudhanan, K R Sreenath, Krishna P P, Saindhavi, Suvi Kumar - which made Jagat Pavani Ganga a moving treat for the California audience. Having cultivated a deep sense of empathy in all viewers, it is needless to say that the entire Jagat Pavani Ganga team has together planted necessary seeds for action to save Mother Ganga.

Navya Maitri Konda is a disciple of Deepa Mahadevan (in Union City, California) and a 4th year undergraduate student at Stanford University.