A new dance series presents research-oriented performances using good production values

Pratiroop is a recent online series hosted by Warrier Foundation to promote classical art and raise funds for underprivileged children. Senior gurus such as Rama Vaidyanathan, Vyjayanthi Kashi, Dr. Neena Prasad, Sharmila Biswas and Prerana Shrimali, representing different genres, have mentored dancers Prateeksha Kashi, Nishtha Budhlakoti, Rohini Banerjee, Divya Warrier and Keertana Ravi, respectively.

“We have been able to reach over ten lakh people across our social media platforms, taking them through the actual journey of how an artiste evolves. The series was powered by Indian Raga and guided by their CEO Sriram about how to change viewer perceptions towards research-oriented productions and to reach new global audiences,” says Divya Warrier.

Interactive sessions

Divya, a Mohiniyattam dancer, disciple of Jayashree Nair and Dr. Neena Prasad, was mentored by Guru Sharmila Biswas. The presentation begins with an interaction between the mentor and mentee. Says Biswas, “All our skills arise from inherent passions, different for each person. Developing skills to perform is by itself very creative.”

Choosing Hidimbi as the nayika was a conscious effort by Divya to come out of her comfort zone. A rakshasi, the cannibal wife of Bhima, she was a woman with strong likes and dislikes. How did she bring up her son with ethics and values as a single mother?

Once the subject was decided, Biswas instructed Divya to read and research. After about a month of reading everything from Vedavyasa to Peter Brooks, ancient and modern texts in Hindi, Malayalam and English, Divya ended up with a vast volume of notes, crowded and confused.

Biswas set some basic rules for the script. Divya wanted to look at Hidimbi as a person, not influenced by conventional thoughts. It was not the image of a demon grotesque, loud, heavy-footed, but an agile and innocent mother with the wisdom of the animal world.

Divided into segments

The next step was to divide the story into scenes, including soundscape, dialogues, and basic movements. Gradually the script emerged. Putting together the music was a challenge, the singer from Kerala, the lyricist from Delhi, percussionist and recording person from Mumbai.

Next came the choreography. “Sharmila didi wanted me to explore a few things — Hidimbi’s signature walk and usage of Vachika.” Divya learnt how to communicate effectively, about the importance of extensive research and analytical thinking, and about sticking to traditions while having an open viewpoint and objectivity.

In the opening scene, Hidimbi performs morning puja. Her toddler son Ghatotkach interrupts her constantly. Their playfulness is like a tigress and her cub. The music is a ritualistic chanting followed by a lullaby. As Ghatotkach grows up, he is shown getting trained in astra, maya shastra and the ethics of warfare, Dharma Gyana. The smoke effect adds to the visual impact. Ample facial expressions, detailed hand gestures, and body language bring out Hidimbi’s persona.

The next scene, inspired by Punar Milan of Prasuraam Rajshekar Basu, brings out the soft and romantic dimension of Hidimbi when she meets her Aryaputra. The use of English dialogue, while effective in conveying the mind voice, is a bit too sophisticated in the conversations with Ghatotkach. There are patches where the dialogue and music seem to overlap. The deployment of tanam and alaap sets the right mood for the scene.

The Kurukshetra war starts. Ghatotkach is eager to join the family war, and his frustration is depicted clearly. Then the call comes and Hidimbi sends him with joy.

Poignant depiction

Hidimbi sees the war through her mayadrishthi and cheers the valorous feats of her son. When he is slain and in deep anguish, she flies to the battlefield and protects her son’s body from the hovering vultures. The metaphysical dimension of the cannibal mother is explicitly brought out by Divya’s eloquent abhinaya.

The pained mother watches the celebrations in the Kaurava camp. Why is there a celebration in the Pandava camp? The story of Hidimbi ends on this poignant note. She carries her son and flies away.

The music direction and percussion (udukkai, chendai and mridangam) is by Satish Krishnamoorthy, music composition and vocals by Jayan Kottakal, and lyrics by Dr. Chandrashekaran Nair.

The opening conversation segment between the mentor and mentee is a bit too long and tedious. Effective use of stage space and light added to the quality of the programme. The use of props, particularly the red drape and white screen as Divya moves in and out of the shots, was proof of some good video editing by Krishna Perla.

The Mohiniyattam costume refurbished with a dhoti-pant suited Hidimbi’s boisterous image. Divya plans to add two more scenes, Hidimbi as nayika and daughter-in-law for future shows.

The Mumbai-based author writes on music and dance.

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