A poetic repertoire

Kalamandalam Chitra talks about giving a visual interpretation to Prabha Varma’s lines through mohiniyattam

Published: 12th May 2017 10:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2017 05:10 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI:Aheartbroken Shakuntala stands in the royal court where her very virtue is under trial. Rejected and humiliated, she begs the king to stop torturing her with vicious words. ‘They sting like thorns and singe like burning coal’, she says. And portraying her anguish and disgrace through a nuanced performance is Kalamandalam Chitra, as she gives a visual interpretation to Prabha Varma’s lines through mohiniyattam. “There is a sublime lyricism in Prabha Varma’s poetry, something that matches the beauty of padams penned by Swati Thirunal,” says the dancer after her performance at Tagore Hall.  

Chitrangana, the group production, is inspired by an illustrious artist and his works celebrating Indian mythology. “Chitrangana means the woman in picture. I wanted to do a production on Ravi Varma women and approached the poet for penning the lyrics. From the artist’s repertoire I chose three ladies- Shakuntala, Sairandri and Yashoda. I went to him with the paintings and explained my theme. I wasn’t sure how he would react. But he happily agreed and in 10 days the poems were ready,” says Chitra.

The next task was to find a composer who could do justice to the brilliant lines. “Madhusoodan, who has scored music for the production, is a theatre artist who is closely associated with Kalamandalam. He is well aware of the structure of mohiniyattam and together we worked on the production.”
Chitra says her production follows all rules of mohiniyattam in Kalamandalam style. “Since the poetry is so smooth and soulful I went for a choreography that suits the essence of the lines. Fast steps that hardly gel with the pace of the poetry were avoided. But it’s necessary to break the softness at points and that was handled by alterations in rhythm.”  

She adds that Chitangana is more like a theatrical production where light is employed to brings in a sharp dramatic effect. “Jose Koshy has handled the light and it’s an integral part of the production. Each segment in the story is separated by the play of light and darkness,” she says. Chitrangana features a total of five dancers and since Shakuntala, the first part, took almost one hour, Sirandri was kept for another occasion. “This time it was just Shakuntala and Yashoda. It’s my first group production and it’s our 8th stage,” she adds.  

Shakuntala is rejected by the man she loves, Sairandri is insulted despite having five warrior husbands and Yasoda is ever-worried about her son. Chitra says it’s the various facets of womanhood that she tried to capture in Chitrangana. “I am keen on visualising more women-centric poems. Presently I have zeroed in on a couple of poems by O N V Kurup including Swayamvaram and Bhoomikkoru Charamageetham. And this time I am going for a solo production,” she winds up. 

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