The air is thick with the scent of jasmine, and bees and butterflies flit from flower to flower. Soon the sun will set and the moon arise to bathe the world in its gentle, silver light. Restless, excited and worried all at once, Radha waits eagerly by the river for tardy Krishna.
The sculpturesque stances of Bharatnatyam, the scintillating footwork of Kathak, the fluid movements of Odissi, the alluring expressions typical of Kuchipudi together create a mesmerising spectacle that brings to life this story of eternal love from Sanskrit poet Jayadeva’s epic poem Gita Govinda.
The classic poem has often found expression in varied art forms, be it painting, music, writings or choreographic compositions. In a novel attempt to bring to fore varied interpretations of the literary masterpiece, Kavyarasa, an evening of classical dances based on songs from the Sanskrit composition, was held in Bengaluru last week.
Eminent dancers from the four dance forms came together to present their own representation of the 12th century poem, each at their lyrical and graceful best. The brainchild of Odissi dancer Madhulita Mohapatra, Kavyarasa was a dedication to the timeless stories of Krishna and Radha’s love, longing and striving, communion with God and their union.
“The real beauty of Geeta Govinda lies in its musicality. Sweet, soft and soothing lyrics set to melodious ragas and talas, with rich metaphors, imageries and rhythmic alliterations, touch the heart and soul of readers, listeners and connoisseurs,” says Madhulita. “The eight couplet compositions called ashtapadis fit a large number of tunes, igniting and inspiring artistic creativity in classical dancers. Today ashtapadis are very popular and integral to every classical dance style and its repertoire, which is why I thought of organising this event,” she adds. Madhulita has been teaching Odissi at her institution, Nrityantar, in Bangalore for quite some time now.
Eight noted dancers from Bengaluru who paid rich tributes to Jayadeva’s magnum opus were Sathyanarayana Raju (Bharatnatyam), Sharmila Mukherjee (Odissi), Anuradha Vikranth (Bharatnatyam), Madhulita Mohapatra (Odissi), Shama Krishna (Kuchipudi), Prateesha Kashi (Kuchipudi), Manasa Joshi (Kathak) and Meghna Das (Odissi). Each of them presented the timeless tale through a narrative thread that progressed as the relationship traversed through passion at initial union, to jealousy, pride, annoyance, disappointment, anger, separation, reconciliation and their reunion.
As Anuradha Vikranth performed on the ashtapadi, ‘Lalita Lavanga’ in Bharatnatyam, she depicted the beauty of spring, mesmerising audience with her graceful movements. Radha pining for her beloved was aptly portrayed through expressions filled with clarity, intensity and focus.
Manasa Joshi (Kathak) presented the ashtapadi, ‘Haririha Mugdha’ depicting Krishna’s romps with the gopis. Manasa’s deft hand and eye movements brought the character to life.
This was followed by Kuchipudi dancer Shama Krishna’s performance ‘Sanchara Dadhara’, where Radha recounts her moments of happiness with Krishna. With elegant footwork, Shama expressed Radha’s ecstasy.
Odissi dancer Meghna Das presented ‘Sakhi He’ where Radha describes her love for Krishna to her sakhi (friend) and their first night of divine bliss. Kuchipudi dancer Prateeksha Kashi performed ‘Yahi Madhava Yahi Keshava’ portraying a dejected Radha angry at Krishna’s infidelity. Radha waits all night for Krishna in vain. When he does arrive the next morning, there are signs of love-play with another woman on his body. Through graceful body movements and subtle facial expressions, Prateeksha well conveyed Radha’s pain.
Madhulita, who presented the ashtapadi, ‘Harirabhisarati’ showed Radha’s friend urging her to put aside her anger and go meet Krishna.
On his part, Krishna cajoles Radha to come back to him and Sathyanarayana Raju presented this emotion well in ‘Priye Charusheele’. Weaving elements of humour into his performance, Sathya has won accolades from critics and connoisseurs alike.
The concluding performance by Sharmila Mukherjee in Odissi was ‘Kuru Yadunandana’ depicting the long-awaited union of Radha and Krishna. Choreographed by the late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Sharmila was at her abhinaya best in expressing Radha’s joy.
“We chose eight ashtapadis from a collection of 24 and decided to give a narrative connect to all of it. Starting from season of love in ‘Lalita’ we went to Krishna’s beauty and Radha’s longing, then to their love, proceeding on to his infidelity, and following it up with anger and concluded it with Krishna trying to win Radha back. We tried to put in all basic emotions so that we can weave all these eight performances into a common thread and make the performances a complete whole,” says Madhulita.
A novel attempt, the event also reflected the importance that each classical dance form lays on Geeta Govinda. “Since Jayadeva belonged to Odisha, his wife Padmavati was a temple dancer and she performed on Geeta Govinda. Odissi has a strong connection to the compositions. But for its universatility, most classical dance forms have always accepted it as a common repertoire for the beauty of the composition and many legendary gurus from all these disciplines have performed on these ashtapadis,” shares Madhulita.