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An Artistic Unfolding of Natya Sastra

Bharathamuni’s Natya Sastra is the most invaluable and comprehensive dramaturgy text that India can boast of. Written between 500 BC and 300 AD by Sage Bharatha, it is an original guide that extensively covers all aspects of theatre

Published: 07th April 2014 08:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th April 2014 08:55 AM   |  A+A-

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Bharathamuni’s Natya Sastra is the most invaluable and comprehensive dramaturgy text that India can boast of. Written between 500 BC and 300 AD by Sage Bharatha, it is an original guide that extensively covers all aspects of theatre.

The title Natya Sastra literally means ‘science of theatre’, and the treatise contains 6,000 Sanskrit shlokas under 36 chapters, dealing with the fundamentals of our theatre and other art forms. It begins with the origin of theatre, and covers acting, costuming, make-up, properties, dance, music, poetic composition, play construction, grammar, audiences, rituals, and even the architecture of theatre. But, alas, most of our artistes do not explore this brilliant classic to refine their art.

Under such circumstances, a multi-faceted exponent of Bharatanatya, Guru B K Shyam Prakash did a wonderful job of presenting a dance feature on the Natya Sastra.

The event, held at ADA Rangamandira under the banner of his Keshava Nrithya Shaalaa, successfully tried to enlighten artistes, art lovers and the common man on the significance of this exceptional classical work which makes Bharatanatya a scientifically powerful and highly communicative medium of art.

Shyam Prakash, also a mridangist and choreographer, deserves to be commended for bringing out a DVD about Bharatha’s Natya Sastra. He  did well in presenting the Natya Sastra Samgraha, which enabled the audience to understand Natya Sastra in a compact form.

The dance feature, titled Panchama Veda (based on Bharatha’s Natya Sastra), explained the features of Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, Dharmi and Vrithi. Interestingly, it was an entertaining, audio-visual unfolding of the theme. It was also a skilful exposition of the work.

Shyam Prakash is an efficient teacher, not only in technical and artistic aspects, but also in the way he instils confidence in his pupils by being patient and generous. He has the reputation of being an expert choreographer who creates technically difficult and artistically demanding classical dance dramas. His productions, not least this one, are magnificent; every time one of his works is slated, seats are grabbed by avid rasikas.

The present dance feature was no exception. The spectacular fairytale atmosphere made it a feast for the eyes as well as for the heart, a true homage to Sage Bharatha. The dance feature blossomed with great ingenuity and charm. And there was never a dull moment. The participating dancers led us through the tale, establishing the right moods. The music, the choreography and decor blended together in a magnificent, harmonious whole. Each action followed the previous one gracefully, and became the ultimate illustration that dance expresses what words cannot.

The theme included the description of how Natya Sastra originated, as described in the first chapter titled Natyotpatthi. It says that in Threta Yuga, when human beings became incapable of realising the dictums of the four Vedas, Indra, Varuna, Kubera and Yama requested Lord Brahma to create a new Veda for the preservation of righteousness that would be entertaining, audio-visual and accessible to all. Brahma created the Natya Veda, combining various aspects from the four Vedas (text from Rig Veda, music from Saama Veda, abhinaya from Yajur Veda and rasa from Atharvana Veda) and assigned Sage Bharatha to implement it.

Thus it can emphatically be proved that the Natya Sastra is science. It contains all the essential features of a scientific treatise, such as observation,defining the problem, formulation of hypothesis, experimentation, theorisation and declaration of ambience on which it is based.

The dance feature was divided into seven scenes. The dancers Raghunandan, Ullas, Shrithi, Samhitha, Sowmya, Sukeetha, Chaitra, Soniya, Meghana, Gayatri, Divya, Amritha, Anilkumar, Nandakishore, and Sangeetha, among others, believed wholeheartedly in what they were dancing, and seized upon on the creation with enthusiasm and verve.

Each member of the cast, with their lovely, lithe bodies and lightness and joy of dancing, gave grace to even the most ungainly step. They were quick and light, with strong lines and feather-soft jumps, and what they had to express was all-important. The rendition gave many opportunities for the dancers to show their artistry. The Carnatic-music based tunes, composed by seasoned singer Tirumale Srinivas, created magical spells. The vocal renderings by Ananya and Srinidhi were imposing.

Raghunandan and Manasi Raghunandan assisted Shyam Prakash in the choreography well. The manner in which the classical dance lessons and exercises were put into Scene 5, many of them difficult and complicated, was remarkable. They were done with grace and softness and the dancing showed evidence of excellent coaching. As Bharathamuni, the diminutive and pleasant-looking G S Nagesh, a well-trained Bharatanatya dancer and now an expert guru, had the allure of a saint and was full of both the charisma and the bravura technique the role demanded.

Flawless Saatwikaabhinaya

Mantapa Prabhakara Upadhyaya, seasoned and famous exponent of eka vyakthi stree vesha Yakshagana, once again proved his unique hold over the medium with an excellent show at Bangalore Gayana Samaja on the concluding day of its three-day Nrithya Vaibhava dance festival.

Teaming up with the famous scholar Shatavadhani R Ganesh, Mantapa has made name with his artistic attempts to  explore the unexplored areas of Yakshagana. Blessed with a perfect physique, lovely feet and an expressive face, Mantapa naturally fits into the roles of different female characters. His enactment of the most difficult roles in the classical repertoire is both technically and artistically perfect.

He gave an added poignancy to his performance with his flawless saatwikaabhinaya with a loka dharmi slant. Technically, the complex choreography held no difficulty for him. The effortless and graceful movements and sensitive mukhijas were accomplished with delicacy and precision. The dancer was able to reach out to touch the hearts of his audience.

The fast-changing motifs of this music and the theme demanded an ability to pinpoint each new feeling with speed and unanimity. It was his quickness of response that created the magic in highlighting the traits of the characters. The performance, titled Sri Krishnarpanamastu, dealt with three important characters revolving around Lord Krishna, Yashoda (mother), Rukmini (nayaki) and Draupadi (devotee), and represented different ideas.

With his mature abhinaya artistry, Mantapa did full justice to each of the characters. Undoubtedly, his nuanced enactment brought the three characters to life. It was good to see the musicians extending the support by wearing the traditional red mundaasus (turbans). Ganapathi Bhat (vocal), Ananthapadmanabha Pathak (mridanga), Krishna Yaji (Chande), H S Venugopal (flute) and Shatavadhani R Ganesh (anchor) enriched the proceedings with their expertise and artistry.

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