(Image courtesy : kshk.org)
Martha Graham once said
“Art is eternal, for it reveals the inner landscape, which is the soul of man”.
It is often said that the beauty of art lies in the fact that it can be used as a powerful medium to transport people to a magical land. It is often said that art forms can release in people, the ability to imagine scenarios beyond what they had thought possible in their realms of imagination. It is often said that art forms mesmerise people – they hold people spellbound, they enthral, they charm, they fascinate, they captivate. It is often said that art feeds the very depths of human spirits, it feeds the soul.
I’d heard of all these and much much more about art and its various forms since I was a child. Born into a musical family, I’d been exposed to the manifold nuances of classical music from an early age. In the process of learning classical music, despite having experienced the simplicity and the complexity of music, I’d never been able to identify myself with that form of the Arts. Never before though, had I actually experienced the magical transportation into a completely different world - with art forms as the conduit. Like the saying goes “there is always a first time”. That, for me, was last Saturday evening when I watched the Abhinava Dance Company perform Kathakitathom.
Each piece presented by ADC on Saturday was a masterpiece in itself. The performances dazzled on many different levels, they touched and played with the audience’s hearts like harpists on a harp. They appealed, at times, to the emotions of love and passion – tenderness, affection, love and compassion – all portrayed outstandingly through gestures and body language.
It was admirable, for I found myself transported to the middle of the forest when watching Shakuntala and Dushyanta. Adding to the magic and giving an unbelievable depth to the piece were the graceful dancers in the background who seemed to float on air as they moved across the stage. It was almost as if the entire story which I had hitherto only read in an Amar Chitra Katha, played out in the canvass of my mind. It was beautiful, to say the least. What had hitherto been a mythological story just bloomed to life on Saturday. I was beside myself, happy for Shakuntala when she found her love in Dushyanta. I found myself thanking the bee for having made them meet and a part of me actually felt sorry for the little bee and for the slap that it had to endure in the process :-).
With their rendition of Meera Madhuri they so enchantingly portrayed “love in separation”. Aside of evoking strong feelings of empathy for Meerabai as she pined for her beloved one could not help but smile at the mischief that was so supremely embodied in playing the part of Krishna. The lovable impishness that is the very essence of Lord Krishna was portrayed exquisitely.
The most powerful rendition was the piece on Abhimanyu – Veera where the artistes sought to portray the sentiment of valour. They could not have chosen a better personality than the dauntless, fearless 16 year old warrior Abhimanyu. There was a point during this performance when I found myself gripping the seat handles because what it manifested in me was this insane urge to stand up and scream “Stop it. Stop it. Leave him alone. Please leave him alone”. At the end of this piece, when Abhimanyu is shown lying on the battlefield, it was almost as if one could smell the dust in the air, one could reach out and feel the treachery on the part of the Kauravas who broke almost all the rules of battle that were supposed to be followed. One could feel Abhimanyu’s anguish, not because be lay on the field broken and bleeding but because one could relate to his feeling of “having let down” his loved ones despite his best efforts. At the end of this piece, all I remember feeling was a sensation of being choked. There was this lump in my throat that just refused to go away. There was a distinct sense of outrage against the Kauravas for what they purportedly did eons ago on the battlefields of the Kurukshetra. Once again, the transportation to a land, a time and a place, to an era an eternity before – was magically complete.
Their rendition of Rang was what it promised to be – an explosion of vivid colours and breathtaking movements. It was a spectacular unleashing of energy on the stage – so powerful yet so graceful.
With their finale, Kathakitathom, ADC quite literally drew the audience in – in what can only be described as an explosive finale – a climax, a culmination that left the audience wanting more.
What I also noticed on Saturday last was the presence of a great many youngsters (not that I consider myself old, truth be told J, in the audience. All the youngsters, I am sure, would have benefited a great deal from having watched the performance on more levels than one, on more planes than one.
It is quite normal and natural for children to ponder about god. How do we know that God exists ? is a question that is commonly thrown at parents at some time or the other. It is a question that is born out of natural curiosity and out of a need to validate that there indeed is a Universal Force out there, directing our actions. Try explaining that to youngsters and there are times when one is quite tongue tied. I’m sure a great many child that day must have realised, while watching Meerabai and Krishna on stage, that God is seemingly everywhere. In many young minds, watching Lord Krishna watching over and helping Meerabai through her actions, must have driven home the fact that God is omnipresent and omnipotent.
The rendition of Abhimanyu brought youngsters face to face with a harsh, hard fact of life. Life is more often than not, unfair. There are rules – yes, there always are rules. But it is not necessary that people always follow them. It is not necessary that people adhere to, respect and go by rules all the time. This is so true of life itself, is it not ? I’m sure there have been numerous instances where people have had to come face to face with this harsh reality of life. The more important message that it conveyed to the youngsters out there is that one does not give up, one should not give up. Stand up and fight for what you believe in, even if you have the whole world against you. That was a very powerful message indeed to deliver to the up and coming generations and a very important one at that.
The synchrony of all the dancers sent forth yet another extremely influential message to the audience – in that it brought forth the power of teamwork.
Saturday evening gave credence to a quote by Havelock Ellis that I’ve heard many a times “Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself”.
The music, the lighting, the costumes and the grace and talent of the dancers that evening brought together one of the most enthralling, alluring, rejuvenating and captivating performances that I’ve witnessed in a long long time. It is an evening that will forever remain engraved on the canvass of my mind.
Last but not the least, a sincere thanks to KSHK for having organized this programme and we look forward to many more. It was also extremely heartening to see the efforts being taken by KSHK in collaborating with NGOs back home in India, in helping provide youngsters with a stepping stone towards a better future – through education. It is indeed a thoroughly commendable effort on the part of KSHK. I, for one, doff my hat to both – KSHK for their laudable efforts in endeavouring to better the lives of a section of the population back home and ADC for having been the medium in bringing forth the beauty, the splendour and the magnificence of an incredible art form.