CHENNAI: Tirupati is not just about queues, the 5-second darshan and the laddus. It’s the only place where you see Lord Vishnu travelling in reverse (a ‘back savaari’ utsavam); is a rare hill temple rich in all three things that make a temple — architecture, legend and folklore. And things like these are what Darshanam Art Creations’ Srinivasam Prapadye plans to shed light on.
“Tirupati finds mention in the Rig Veda and other scriptures. We ensure 200% that we don’t use any composition of ours. We use multiple sources and try to remain as authentic as possible. Puranas, Desikan, Ramanujar... they are all our assets and we try to showcase them,” says Dushyanth Sridhar, co-director of the dance drama that will premiere on July 23.
“We try to be as multilingual as possible. The performance will have dialogues and songs in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and the narration will be in English,” says Asha Krishnakumar, co-director.
It will have five scenes, and each consists of two tracks — a historically documented episode and characters will narrate the purana or vedic tract. “The temple has inscriptions by Pallava, Chola, Vijaynagara and other dynasties. These are our most authentic sources. For instance, we will portray Krishna Deva Raya’s association with Tirupati. He visited Tirumala seven times and gave huge grants,” explains historian Chithra Madhavan, who has culled out historical elements and studied inscriptions for this dance drama.The play will also deal with how Ramanujar who did not want to visit the Lord on foot, walked up the hill on his knees.
“Wherever possible, we try to link scriptural with historical evidence. People usually look at history as one stream and tradition as another. But the two are very much interlinked,” says Chithra.
The play will bring together 35 performers across age groups. “The dance will be in Bharatanatyam style and a there’s a bit of folk too. It’ll move across five time periods. The biggest challenge was to move back and forth without confusing the audience and knit the history and purana tracks together to form a seamless narrative,” explains Jayanthi Subramaniam, the choreographer. “Visually too, we have to make the different scenes look unique,” she adds.
The duo’s previous creation, Aranganin Pathayil, traced the path of the Ranganatha Swamy idol which travelled through many a hill and dale to prevent being taken by a Muslim King. The idol finally reached Tirupati and was there for several years before going back to Srirangam, where it belonged. “Even today, there is a Ranga mandapam in Tirupati, where the idol was housed and daily pujas were performed. These aspects of history can be seen through one’s own eyes,” explains Dushyanth.
The production aims to be an experience rather than just a ‘watch-and-go-home’. “If people go to Tirupati and say they experienced something more because of the play, that’ll be our biggest gift,” smile Dushyanth and Asha.