A new step
Sonal Mansingh's Naatya Katha “Krishna Ranga Rachee” emphasised more on the religious rather than the spiritual aspect of Krishna's myth.
In cadence Sonal Mansingh at a recent performance in Coimbatore.
To revitalise and reinvent are very important issues for every artiste at various stages of one's career. Unless one can do this, both art and artiste can become jaded. So one is in full agreement with artiste/scholar Sonal Mansingh embarking on a different art journey of dancer becoming pure Kathakar where one's considerable experience of ancient texts, epics, poetic legacy of different genres of poets along with the dance, not to speak of the considerable ability for articulation, can integrate in evoking a new experience which can entertain while enlightening audiences. But whether the artiste's Naatya Katha “Krishna Ranga Rachee” presented under the aegis of the ICCR at the Kamani auditorium in New Delhi rose up to one's expectations is questionable.
Given the artiste's background, one was expecting a unique treatment bringing out varied philosophical implications of how myriad poets had been inspired by the Krishna myth. An accessible divinity with a personality with so many human resonances, Krishna in the exuberance of his multifaceted personality encapsulates a whole canvas of emotions and attributes, inspiring innumerable poets to create work exulting in this extravagant combination of divinity and humanisation. Harikathas on the Krishna myth, even today provide a rich experience, the singing alone transcending the audience to a different level of ecstasy. But for those in a cosmopolitan audience, expecting an art experience, Sonal's approach was, to say the least baffling, with the line between religiosity and spirituality getting blurred, and a few left the auditorium midway.
Sonal making a dignified entry, settling down on the raised platform on stage flanked by the musicians, beginning with a prayer and singing of hymns and verses in praise of Krishna, meditating on the power that “can make the dumb speak and the lame climb mountains”, and revelling in the sringar King who sported with Radha and the Gopis, while marvelling at the same power manifesting as the ten avatars, as expressed in Jayadeva's lilting Geetagovinda, added up to a promising start. After this the actual narration of the epic in the Hindi/English mix which despite the artiste's full command over both languages somehow interfered with the flow, particularly in the description of Krishna's childish pranks and feats, did not inspire suspension of disbelief for all in the audience.
In Vrindavan or in a temple courtyard, this kind of direct narration with no philosophical spin-offs, would be ideal, particularly for the young. Sonal, with her straight singing without frills and nuances, should have made more use of the trained singer in Bankim Sethi who beyond also singing the chorus on occasions, had little role to play. The artiste's deep faith, expressed in her compositions like “Jara,' has created much acclaimed art.. But here the seated position with mudras used with facial expressions while speaking in the Hindi/English blend (never easy), and even narration while standing like the episode of Krishna hiding the clothes of the Gopis in the attempt to rid them of their egos did not evoke rasa as expected. The Ras Krishna having nothing to do with the philosopher on the battle field – this part of the myth did not form part of the presentation.
A standing ovation by a near full Kamani audience, not to speak of an NRI from Canada commenting fulsomely about how Krishna had come alive for her through the Katha experience, made one wonder if a religious discourse was indeed what most expected.
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu