Many dance productions revolve around the theme of love. The pining, the separation, the lust, the heartbreak … romantic love never fails to draw in audiences. Come May 26, Indian classical dance lovers will be treated to a production of Shringara – Divine Love, a thematic bharatanatyam performance showcasing six of India’s finest talents in the authentic Kalakshetra baani (style).
Presented by Kalpana Dance Theatre – in collaboration with the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Cultural Centre and the High Commission of India in Malaysia – the one night performance introduces a stellar cast comprising Shijith Nambiar, Parvathy Menon, Nidheesh Kumar, Indu Nidheesh, P.T. Narendran and Sreelatha Vinod.
The original production was conceptualised in 2009 for a tour in Britain commissioned by Milapfest UK and danced by husband and wife duo, Shijith and Parvathy.
“Back in 2009, it was the first time we were doing a duet thematic presentation after our marriage and we wanted to explore the various aspects of Shringara (rasa – or essence – used to portray love between a man and woman),” says Parvathy in a recent e-mail interview.
“We started with Krishna and Rukmini and later it developed into a script involving other couples from the epics. We have now reworked the whole production with two other couples and ourselves. Shringara or love is like a large canvas with myriad colours or emotions. There is so much that one can portray within the framework of Shringara.”
The production explores three concepts of polar opposites, which resonates across many cultures.
The three couples will offer their take on Ayoga Shringara or the aching, longing aspect of love caused by privation; Sambhoga Shringara, the state when the hero and the heroine are together or united; and Vipralambha Shringara, the state when they are apart.
While the heartache and pain of separation from the loved one is conveyed through Vipralambha Shringara, the intense desire for the lover is conveyed through Sambhoga Shringara.
The dancers have drawn their material from three great epics in three Indian languages: The Rukmini Kalyanam canto from the Bhagavatham in Telugu; the Kamba Ramayanam in Tamil; and the Kumarasambhavam in Sanskrit.
In each of these three pieces, the sentiment of divine love revolves around three couples: Rukmini and Krishna (danced by Nidheesh and Indu), Sita and Rama (Shijith and Parvathy), and Parvathy and Shiva (Narendran and Sreelatha).
“All three stories are well known. What would be interesting is how the story is linked to each other and how it is woven into one production,” reveals Parvathy.
“Usually such stories are performed as dance dramas with a larger group of dancers whereas in this work, the story unfolds only through the main protagonists. Light design and minimum props are also some of the highlights of the production.”
Has it been tough working with the best of dancers?
“No drama at all,” she says. “Since the emotion of love remains constant through the whole production, it was challenging to not repeat any movements or ideas in each segment. All the dancers involved in this work know the kind of work we do and have been closely associated with us from the very beginning of our journey as dancers and choreographers. Most importantly, they know us closely on a personal level, too.”
Refusing to divulge their ages, Parvathy says: “We come from all age categories. Dancers who are senior to us as well as junior to us. Experience is what matters rather than the age.”
Through their demonstrations at dance venues in both India and overseas, Shijith and Parvathy awe viewers with the spiritual power of bharatanatyam. Their selfless love and dedication towards their art inspires them to be unique and exemplary in their discipline. The young ambassadors are recipients of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awarded by the Sangeet Natak Akademy, India.
Parvathy adds: “The production ends with a finale invoking the Shiva-Shakthi energy and all the six dancers are on stage at that point. It is the first time we are all coming together for a production. Some of us have worked together earlier but not all six of us.”
The 105-minute Shringara – Divine Love is set to be one of the highlights in this year’s dance scene.