Accent on special effects
L. NARENDRA KUMAR is a young, innovative choreographer who exhibited lateral thinking from early on, having first made waves with his choreography in the ``Kalinga Nartana" thillana a few years ago. His Anusham group comprises young, vibrant dancers, each bringing in a different energy to the team. As Narendra says, ``It is a shared passion that brings us together." The theme of their latest production, premiered at the Bharat Kalachar inaugural, is the unusual story of Devayani and Kacha and the secret of the Sanjeevini, taken from the Mahabharatha. Creativity in movement and group choreography have been Narendra's forte, but in ``Mrutha Sanjeevini" as they would like it known, the uniqueness of the accessories fashioned out of the pods of the Gulmohar tree, and the success of the special effects seemed to take precedence.
Scripted chiefly by Narendra, the 75-minute production professed to be a dance drama. Unfortunately there was not enough dancing to even qualify. As for the drama aspect, the techniques were intuitive with impeccable timing and continuity, but it was dominated by the special effects: expert lighting by Kumar, the fire scenes championed by Senthil, and the vastly amusing magic tricks taught by Puyal Ganesh, amidst the frequent blood-chilling cries of the asuras. However the real disappointment was in the casual treatment of the narrative that got sidetracked by the spectacular happenings and the loose script.
While the intentions were admirable, implementation left much to be desired. As in the case of the asuras, even if their crude manner was acceptable, the jokes at the expense of another's speech difficulties or deafness were not in good taste. The question also remains about the need for the spoken word when the dialogue was always accompanied by hasta mudras.
There were moments of refined aesthetics like the well-thought out entries of the protagonists Devayani, Kacha and Sukracharya. The incessant tribal drum beats and the slow, deliberate movements of the asuras dressed in black, illuminated by the fire made a strong visual statement in Sukracharya 's introductory scene. But the extensive use of fire caused the scene to be staged outdoors. The Amirkalyani thillana composed by Narendra and sung unaccompanied by Rajesh Vaidya captured sensitively the growing affection between Devayani and Kacha. The introduction of movement in dialogue delivery in the last act, during the discussions among the asuras, desperate to kill Kacha, captured graphically the intensity of the mood, the rigid movements coming in unison when the group finally choruses an agreement. This resourcefulness is what one missed all along.
The recorded music composition was by Rajesh Vaidya and Narendra, while the live percussion with instruments ranging from the kanjira to the chandai, the udukkai and the mridangam, besides others, was handled by Keshavan and Kaviraj. The dancers were Guhendran, Shivakumar, Krishnakumar, Madhu, Ranjit, Guruprasad, Miyo, Akhila, Senthil, Vasanth, and Palani from Koothu-p-pattarai, in addition to Narendra and his talented wife Anusha.
Though some aspects of the production may have been disappointing, one should not underplay the importance of such trailblazers who have the courage to venture off the beaten track. The next time, one hopes, the talents of the group would be harnessed better.
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