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Apara: Krishna's companions
- G. Ulaganathan
Photos: Yatish

December 19, 2018

Chitra Chandrasekhar Dasarathy is a chip off the old block. Daughter of the legendary Prof CV Chandrasekhar, she breathes new life into the Puranas and gods and goddesses on stage. Her latest production 'Apara -An ode to Krishna' presented at ADA Rangamandira, Bengaluru, on December 7, 2018, looks at Lord Krishna not with the usual myths, stories and thoughts associated with him and singing his praise as a lover boy eternally flirting with the gopikas. Apara is an exploration into the ideas of form, colour and movement that emerge from him. It is a wonderful production looking at Krishna differently, done through the exposition of four symbols associated with him.

The first is colour - his body which is in various hues of blue. As dark clouds gather, heavy with drops of rain, their hue resembles Krishna, and flashes of lightning enliven their form and colour. Neelamegha pours its colour over him and he becomes resplendent as Neelameghasyama. Chitra and her team very effectively used Rabindra Sangeet and a verse from Krishna Karnamritam to juxtapose images of the mighty, expansive and dark rain cloud and Krishna who becomes endowed with the tint of the Neelamegha.

The second Apara in focus is his garment, the peetambara, the fabric which finds total companionship through its proximity to his body. That rustle of ochre silk with its cascading warmth is created by human hands. It rustles in the pleats and folds. It comes alive with patterns woven into it. In the Tamil pasuram, Tiruppan Alwar gives life to the piece of cloth which is longing for a friend as it sways to the winds. Finally when it comes to rest on Krishna, with its gentle, soft folds it hugs Krishna with affection and feels proud that it is on Krishna's body, around the navel, the very origin of Brahma, the Creator himself. It has found the ultimate sakha or friend.

Next comes Mayil Peeli, the fallen peacock feather which finds glory on his crown. The Mayil, the peacock, appears dancing on its awkward feet. Yet, all that captivates us is its beautiful plumage with its myriad hues. Peeli, a lone feather, falls on earth even as the peacock walks away. The fallen feather suffers in loneliness and the fall from the beautiful plumage. Suddenly, the feather finds itself placed on Krishna's crown. It now finds movement of its own! Now, the proud peeli revels in new found glory and almost vainly looks at the world from its high perch. Mayil Peeli thus reaches the pinnacle.

And finally, Murali, the flute, in the hands of the supreme musician Krishna. From this coming together of the creative spirit and the flute, emerge Naada and the ultimate rasa. The brilliant Surdas composition takes us to another world. The poet conveys effectively that Krishna, above all, is the ultimate artist. With a piece of bamboo in his hands, he creates a world of Naada. But who is the master? Here Surdas puts flute above Krishna himself. In this melodious composition he tells us that even Lord Krishna surrenders to the will of the flute. Surdas' poem captures this delightful interplay between Krishna and the flute with a touch of humour through the eyes of one of the devotees waiting for a glimpse of Krishna. Should we be in awe or should we be jealous of this peculiar interplay? As the notes emerge from the flute, they begin to dance with Apara and the Raasa begins at his favourite Kadamba tree under which he stands playing his flute.

Apara was staged for Dr. Bharat Chandra Foundation in memory of the legendary choreographer Udupi Jayaram. The concept and choreography was by Chitra Chandrasekhar Dasarathy and her entourage include lovely dancers Pavithra Jayaraman, Priya Kaul, Rajalakshmi, Rajeswari, Roopa Guha and Roopa Manoj. The dancers were fluent in their movements and used the stage effectively. Praveen D Rao's musical score, as always, was an asset to this production.

Such a charming creative work needed good props on stage and imaginative lighting. Sadly it was found lacking. Hopefully Chitra will concentrate a little more on this aspect to make it more appealing next time.

Ulaganathan Ganesan is a senior dance critic based in Bengaluru.