In India, taking to cultural activities at a young age is no surprise. The varied states and their equally colourful performing arts motivate the artist within. For Shashidharan Nair, director of Sampurn Ramayana by Aryan Heritage Foundation, it was no different. At the age of eight, his grandfather introduced him to the art of Kathakali, and from there on began his journey into the world of dance and drama.
“The journey,” says Nair, “has been extremely fulfilling but it has not been easy. When I went on to learn other dance forms (he is proficient in Chhau and Kalaripayattu, besides the modern dance forms), it was a tough task in the beginning. A lot of training in different styles and forms, coupled with hard work and perspiration, has been a part of this journey. But, I must say, it has been an enriching experience.”
With over five years of experience in performing arts, Nair today finds his directorial and choreography work made it easy for him. “I can work on any theme and music as well as manage to work with both professionals and amateurs with equal ease,” he says. Blending modern dance with Kathakali, Chhau and Kalaripayattu in his stage performances, he believes movement design and vocabulary depends on the theme that is to be presented.
Some stage performers have a set of superstitions they follow before entering the performing arena, but Nair claims he has no time for those. “When I am performing on the stage I try to rediscover who and what I am and focus on the character that I will become on stage. That’s how I prepare for the audience and the show, the rest I leave to my performance,” he says.
For this maverick performer, who has essayed many a role on stage and choreographed countless products, it has not always been a smooth run. “I had to choreograph ‘Parikrama’ based on the theme of five elements. It was created for Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra 20-odd years ago and posed a real challenge as it required unusual movement design. However, I am glad that it turned out to be a great success and the unusual movements spurred many similar productions with others emulating the movements even today,” he smiles.
From the time Nair started his tentative journey on stage to the times now, the theatre world has undergone a sea-change. Where once it was all a manual process, technical innovations have made an entry, and the director-choreographer thinks that it has helped the stream. “They have helped add a dynamic dimension to theatre,” he says.
Sampurn Ramayana is a three-hour-long Broadway-style Ramlila using modern technology, covering a 180-ft stage that is further divided into six sub-stages. The show is performed by over 120 professional actors and dancers. It comprises 16 original sound tracks with fusion of Indian and Western music. Multi-layer LED screens give depth to the scenes and a 3D effect to all the visuals.