The book by Dr Uma Anantani that was released (2/8) with a welcome informality at the H. K. Auditorium has the title Tridhara (University Granth Nirman Board, 2022), a collection of the researcher-choreographer’s articles in three segments – Dance, Beauty and Spirit. I take the liberty to use this title (instead of the prosaic ‘A Double-Bill of Dance Productions’) for the programme that combined the book release with two Bharatanatyam dance performances, one preceding and the other following, by Rasadhwani’s Artistic Director Shivangee Vikram and her team. The three parts were pleasingly coordinated in a level voice with a sense of economy of time by Gargi Anantani, who flew from Bangalore.
The three pleasing streams of the programme, following an invocation to Lord Shiva that evening were Moko Kahaa-n Dhundhe … a group dance on the well-known Kabir poem, the book release right in the auditorium close to the stage just in a few minutes and Gandhi Geeta, the other group dance based on Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography Satya-na Prayogo and the Bhagwad Geeta, the treatise spelling out the Hindu way of life. Moko Kahaa-n Dhundhe re Bande has the saint poet’s famous simple lines highlighting the advaita philosophy of finding God within, not without in temples and masjids and in places of pilgrimage. Tera saai-n tujhme hai, jaan shake to jaan, are Kaibir’s words of wisdom.
With a distant steady gaze, Shivangee expresses the underlying idea and other dancers – Preksha, Mrinalini, Bhagwat, Shaili – support her. Two episodes are briefly portrayed to illustrate the symbolic presence of tera saai-n tujhme. One is of the Dalit Shiv Bhakta Nandnaar whom even the Nandi gives way so that he could have his Lord’s darshan. The other is of Draupadi vastraharan episode, in which responding to her desire, Lord Krishna invisibly protects her when in the Kaurav Sabha she is being disrobed by Dushasan. Music was specially composed for the nritta and nritya components by Krishnamoorthy (Mumbai) and Amit Thakkar (Ahmedabad). Dipti Desai’s vocal rendering has a vibrating quality.
At a time when uninformed observations swarm social media, it is reassuringly timely that Dr Anantani draws parallels between Mahatma Gandhi and the Bhagwad Geeta and through an inspired conceptualization elevates him, his work and his approach to a level of Shri Krishna’s philosophy revealed in the treatise. It is common knowledge that in moments when hope receded, Gandhi turned to and had comfort from the Geeta and with it, he has admitted, ‘I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow.’ A simple mortal with a frail body, learning from his own mistakes, thus earned the epithet Maha-atma.
In Gandhi-Geeta, she scrupulously avoids presenting him in flesh and blood with a pair of specs, bare-chested and wearing a dhoti, walking with a stick in his right hand with a song in the background – through overuse they have become cliches. Instead, in her choreography with three young dancers known to many for their talent honed with training – Shivangee, Kathanki and Manasi – clusters of images signifying without specific references the Mahatma’s compassionate work, ups and downs, doubt, struggle, torment, the final triumph and in the process his own evolution as a human being constantly following the path of Truth in the light of the precepts in the Geeta. A warrior in the Kurukshetra of life, he became a Karmayogi, as the choreographer asserts.
The images the three Bharatanatyam dancers create are from Gandhi’s Kurukshetra of life as also from the Kurukshetra of the Mahabharata where Shri Krishna’s exhortations to Arjun to not give up the battlefield were uttered. The absorbing images emerge and overlap, getting the viewer to reflect upon both and realize what is meant by sthitapragya. Jayan Nair’s music, a blend of Hindustani and Carnatic, is the auditory aspect of the images. Light designs (Parth) illumine them. It’s suggestion that predominates and characterizes Gandhi-Geeta. It is heartening to see that within the structure of Bharatanatyam, there is an exploration to carry thought at the highest level, keeping the aesthetics of the form intact. Ashish Khokar, editor of the annual AttenDance, who flew from Delhi for the performance, made a special mention of the aesthetics of the dancers’ costumes.
Photo Credit – Dip Memento Photography
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