Pranamam, a passionate tribute
by Padma Jayaraj, Trissur
September 5, 2004   


       The melodies of Mohammed Rafi once ruled the hearts of the Indian masses. The cinematic memory vibrates with his songs even now. Soorya Krishnamoorthy who conceived and directed Pranamam has taken Rafi as the ultimate in singing. And Pranamam is a passionate tribute to the doyens in the world of art, whom Rafi typifies.

     Pranamam is a multi-level, multi-star, multi-media stage show where dance, music, cinema, light, sound and special effects gel to create a new experience. Rafi's popular hit that created waves 54 years back," oh duniya ke rakhwale,' composed by the renowned music director Naushad Ali for the film Baiju Bawara (1952), comes alive on the stage amidst clippings from the film. The 3-minute song grows into a 90-minute spectacle. As the show unfolds, it is an interpretation at many levels.

     On the screen it begins with a cloudburst. The rains, different phases of rain, with special effects drenching the lush green land astound all the senses. Water showering, pouring, cascading, in rivulets, streams and rivers make an ocean: an ocean of music and Rafi's song booms in the background. Seasons, in their varied colours and charms, constitute Nature. Here, we humans live our lives in hopes and frustrations, in fears and glory, in dreams and disillusionment. Here, "Where the Sun madly in love with the Moon
wanders searching to follow her," we lead our lives of tragic contradictions amid storm and calm.

     At another level the visuals celebrate the varied landscape of the sub-continent, where we live our multi-cultured existence. Dancers in the foreground render human life, beautifully and lyrically. Kerala dripping wet is juxtaposed with the deserts of Rajasthan and the snowy mountain-valleys of Kashmir, with the people in their cultural milieu. The music of the rains, the romance of the deserts and the sublimity of the snow-clad mountains merge to create our aesthetics, culture and philosophy.

     What has happened to the people during these five decades after Rafi's first rendering and now, is another question asked. The implicit social dimension is a critique of our times. The feet that travel to and fro over the changing decades have lost the security of its traditional foot gears; they are weary, from running, broken and bleeding, is the sad commentary on our times of strife and division on religions lines.

     Kathak dancer Rajendra Gangani and his troupe, together with the Bharatanatyam team, choreography by Girija Chandran and presented by local talents give a classical dimension to the theme. The dancers give their interpretation of the theme of the song as they dance in conjunction with the moods of nature.

     Music is its soul and spirit: a fusion of the eastern and western, Carnatic and Hindustani, vocal and instrumental by renowned artists like Ramesh Narayana, (music direction and Hindustani vocal), Balabhaskar (violin), Anuradha Krishnamurthy (Carnatic vocal), Rashid Musthafa, (tabla), Prabhu (sitar),  Jeoboy (drums). In fact, music spills over, enchanting and playful in jugalbandi, catering to all sensibilities.

     Lighting and sound design gives a magic touch.  It adds to the fast tempo, which is so integral to our digital age.

     Conceived and directed by Krishnamoorthy, the show is a team effort of 22 artists moving from country to country.  Soorya stormed through Europe, Middle East creating waves of applause. The month of August saw Soorya performing through the  different states of India and is poised to cross the political boundaries into Pakistan and Bangladesh to reach out to the heart of the people of the subcontinent.

     The fans of Rafi felt let down since he was absent: neither his voice nor his hits were there.
     Krishnamoorthy, an engineer by training, finds fulfillment in his artistic work. He has won many national and international awards. Based in Kerala - the southwestern state of India - Soorya now has its chapters in 14 countries.