CHENNAI: Celebrating her 25th anniversary in dance, bharathanatyam guru Anitha Guha and her students of her dance school Bharathanjali performed Sundara Kandam, A Signet of Hope for a fundraising event for AIM for Seva. The performance received a standing ovation and several rounds of thundering applause at the Music Academy on Saturday.
Anitha, a disciple of Govindrajan Pillai and Ananda Shankar Jayanth, is the foremost ballet producer of her generation. She has carved a niche for herself with several, much lauded mythological and thematic dance productions. In 2011, she presented Kishkindha Kandam and Sundara Kandam from Adikavya Ramayanam along with many senior gurus.
Sundara Kandam, which was initially a three-and-a-half hour ballet, was cut short to one-and-a-half hours and performed in the city. Later, dancer Anita Ratnam asked Anitha Guha if she could make the same production with 11 students, who will be sent to the US to perform in 20 cities. And, so it began and took shape as the production, which was staged recently. Guha spoke to CE about the process and journey with the most interesting part of the Ramayana.
“Six months ago, I had begun editing the production. I had read the entire Ramayana written by Valmiki and so, I could make a rough sketch of the whole thing. The moment I saw Sugriva lamenting, I made it a parallel for Rama’s lamenting scene,” she said.
Guha added that the scene where Lanka was to be described was challenging.
“In Valmiki’s Ramayana, Lanka is described in hundreds of shlokas. I was perplexed as to how do I bring it on stage, in seven minutes. In the end, I chose mallari, which is a god’s procession. Here, I named it Asuramallari, as it is a procession by Rakshasas,” she said.
Talking about her choreography, she said, “In the vaanara scene, we wanted a lot of maargam elements like a tillana and varnam. When Lakshmana talks to Hanuman explaining their journey, it is in the format of varnam. It made for a very interesting sequence. When Sugriva and all the vanaras are joyously jumping around I thought a tillana would be appropriate. The music and choreography were parallel.”
Thiruchelvam, the one who played Vali in the production had choreographed the entire fight sequence. “I certainly wouldn’t have imagined it like that. It was the way a man imagines and I’m not a stunt man,” said Anitha with a laugh.
Anita said that once the planning was done, she would discuss things often with music composer Neyveli Santhanagopalan.
She wrote dialogues carefully to differentiate the language of kshatriya Rama and vanara Sugriva. Anitha said that the music had to be rightly classical and folk.
Every production has obstacles that are overcome. “We worked hard for six months to get this show together. The dancer, who played the role of Hanuman, is actually a serious girl unlike the Hanuman you saw on stage. Training does that to you. Just a day before the performance, she had a severe neck pain and was in tears. We rushed to the hospital in the middle of rehearsal and treatment was given. Today, everything worked out tremendously well on the stage,” said Guha.
This same production is going to be staged in the US from August 17 in 20 different cities.