Historical information on Meera Bai’s life may be open to debate, but it is her true devotion, poetry and spiritual quest that motivated Bharatanatyam dancer Chitra Visweswaran for presenting ‘Meera – The Soul Divine’ at the Aim for Seva’s fund-raiser event. The production that premiered at Chennai is currently touring 17 cities of the USA. “It is an attempt to look at Meera’s life from the perspective of a spiritual journey, than a historical one. The creation has been strung together using relevant situations from her life,” says the Padma Shri awardee.
Visweswaran, who collaborated with vocalist and composer Bombay Jayashri Ramnath for the production that aims to raise funds for the education of children in rural India, explains that it is a combination of music and dance. “Jayashri is a sensitive artiste and is open to doing different things. It is also important for an artiste to explore, experiment and create, and I found all that in her. She is deeply spiritual. Her music gives wings to dance,” she says.
She is surprised that this mammoth production took only four months to make. “I think it happened because Jayashri and I had already seeped into the Meera consciousness. Both of us have been brought up in North India, and Meera is very much a part of our psyche. The making of this production involved revisiting the research done earlier, from the lyrics point of view and adapting it to describe her spiritual journey,” she added.
Her reading on the subject of Meera began many years ago. She says, “In the mid 90s, I presented a show that highlighted the parallels of Aandal (the only female Alvar among the 12 Alvar sants of South India) and Meera. My husband had composed Carnatic and Hindustani music for each portion and I had played both the roles for the production.”
But over the past few years, Visweswaran has been selective on her performances, either group or solo. In the performance prepared for this tour, she has gracefully performed a key role. “The story line for this fund-raiser required a senior Meera. If it was a production that didn’t call for a mature character, I don’t think I would have participated,” she says.
Visweswaran has used her sense of aesthetics in the performance. The production doesn’t feature any large-scale props except Krishna’s idol. “I like simplicity. We’ve just incorporated a few line-drawings to add a flavour to the place,” she says.
The danseuse’s treatment for this production emphasised on the spiritual journey of the princess and her search of Krishna. “At each stage, we present her bonding with her giridhari. Reading on the subject also revealed a story of the priest opening the temple door one morning to find Meera Bai’s drape on the idol of Lord Krishna. We’ve taken inspiration from that story to portray how she becomes one with him,” she notes.
Visweswaran affirms that the cause to raise funds to educate rural India is worthy and she is delighted to be a part of it. “There are many brilliant boys and girls in rural areas, who don’t get the opportunity. In my view, it is important that spiritual leaders do not just look at the rituals of religion, but also apply those values to society. Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s vision was also to provide value-added education to the children of rural India,” she adds.
The Bharatnatyam exponent recalls that Sant Tirumular had aptly said, ‘Our art form makes men of animals, and a god of men’.
She says that for Jayashri and her, the production has been a spiritual journey. She believes that within each person, there is a spiritual quest, sometimes dormant and needs to be awakened. “A visual representation through performing arts can help people relate to it. I don’t want people to just be entertained, but I want them to experience Meera’s journey,” she says.