'Ekaantha Seetha... a Lonely Furrow'
celebrates women of courage through the ages
- Jessi Kaur

October 24, 2006

'Ekaantha Seetha... a Lonely Furrow,' a dance-drama produced by the Cleveland Cultural Alliance and choreographed by the well known Bharatanatyam maestro V P Dhananjayan was presented by Kalalaya at the Foot Hill College Smithwick Auditorium on October 14, 2006. Ekaantha Seetha is a celebration of women of amazing character who fought the odds that life dealt them with extraordinary grace and courage. Ranjitha Ashok's script draws inspiration from the epic Ramayana, the annals of history and the unsung heroines of contemporary times that quietly fight the prejudice and subjugation of their everyday existence. In all three episodes life presents tough situations to three women who take on the challenge and show amazing grace under fire. An ensemble of sixteen dancers brings their stories alive.

In the first episode, Vaidehi, King Rama's Queen popularly known as Seetha, has to prove her purity by going through the agni pariksha (test by fire). Gossip and rumors, damaging to a woman's reputation then as they are today, compel King Rama, the prajapati, (king of the people) to banish Vaidehi from Ayodhya for the second time when she is seven months pregnant. She raises her two sons to be worthy warriors as befitting their royal descent. However, having fulfilled her task as mother she will not be compromised or questioned yet another time, even if it is by her husband who is the King! The tone and tenor of the first episode is befitting to the epic theme. It is rendered in classical Bharatanatyam with the dialog in Sanskrit. The heavy layered costumes reflect the regal era but could have been more colorful. Sreelata as Vaidehi in muted gold beautifully personifies the purity of her character and dances her way to the hearts of the audience. Narendra Kumar as Rama is majestic and stern. Madhusudanan and Renjit Babu as Lava and Kusa are delightful.

In the second episode, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi becomes the accidental monarch in her early twenties when her husband passes away. She does not yield to the manipulations of the British and dons the armor herself to defend Jhansi from the ruthless onslaught. Young in age, she is fierce in courage and fights like a noble warrior. Vicious tongues do not spare her either. In her death she serves her country as she does in her life and paves the way to India's freedom. In keeping with the North Indian locale of the story, the tempo and the mood of Ekaantha Seetha changes in the second episode. The North Indian flavor is captured in the music and the dances are a blend of Kathak, Kathakali and Bharatanatyam. The lyrics are in the background and not interpreted by the dancers. The ensemble and Sujatha Srinivasan who plays Laxmibai adroitly handle the martial moves. The costumes, however, lack imagination.

The third episode is the story of a young village girl that refuses to be thwarted by an old fashioned mother who believes that young girls must be protected from new fangled ideas stemming from education. Aparajitha, "the unvanquished one," has ambitious dreams beyond her humble beginnings. She faces her share of disillusionment but the encouragement of her Guru gives her the support she needs to remain steadfast. The story, unlike the earlier two, is harder to understand and is a tad longwinded. The cadence and pulse of this piece is vastly different form the other two episodes. The music, the dances are faster paced. The story, though lacking the luster of the earlier two episodes, is punctuated with clever humor. The musicians at the wedding scene do an amazing pantomime that is totally delightful.

Guru Dhananjayan took on a daunting task when he chose to choreograph three totally diverse pieces that span three completely different eras. From the standing ovation that the performance got at the Smithwick Auditorium, he clearly succeeded.

Ekaantha Seetha will be presented in several cities across the nation.