Parshwanath Upadhye’s ‘Abha’ narrated the Ramayana through the Margam, at the Samarpana Dance Festival, Singapore
Samarpana Dance Festival was about efficient curation and presentation. It staged Bengaluru-based Parshwanath Upadhye’s Punyah Dance Company’s ‘Abha’. Using Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Sita’ as a starting point, the production, featuring Parshwanath, Aditya PV and Shruti Gopal, narrated the Ramayana.
The puppets told the audience in the beginning what to look out for in ‘Abha’.
The puppets said, ‘Oh no, why do we want to see a sad story? Do we not know that Ram married Sita, he was sent to forest for 14 years, Ravana came and kidnapped Sita, Ram killed him and brought her back. And like that story of an old man and an old donkey; people said the old man was stupid to walk and not sit on the donkey and when he sat some said how cruel of him. People say what they want to. Ram sends Sita again to forest asking Lakshmana to banish her. When Lakshmana breaks down leaving Sita in forest, she tells him: ‘Who can leave me? I am Goddess Lakshmi and have come as Sita with a purpose. Ram is doing his duty as Rajdharma. Please return reassured that being a daughter of Mother earth Bhumisuta, I will not be lonely!’ Lakshmana leaves reassured.
The puppets continued: ‘It is not a sad story. Look, the people of Ayodhya are delighted and eagerly awaiting the return of Ram, Lakshmana and Sita after killing Ravana. Let us join them!’
As a choreographer, Parshwanath had woven the Margam brilliantly into the story. It unfolded with melodious music and text in Awadhi/Hindi. After mallari, it moved on to jatiswaram. Varnam, in Kapi raga, included a slokam in Bageshri. The three dancers conveyed the energy and joy in the nritta segments.
The story proceeded: Lava and Kush grow up and with Sita’s permission go to Ayodhya, where they sing Rama’s tale. They return victorious after capturing Rama’s Aswameda horse. With them is Hanuman. At this point came a lilting tillana in raga Bhatiar, sung impressively by Chandan Bala.
The scene moves to Ram appearing and seeing his own images in Luv and Kusha, embracing them and begs Sita to return with him. But she disappears into Mother Earth and Ram as Vishnu returns to Vaikunt, where Lakshmana as Shesha is decorating the bed for Vishnu and Mahalakshmi (Sita). In another avatar, Krishna appears with Radha and Gopis. With the hauntingly melodious music of the flute, the audience was transported to Brindavana. ‘The end,’ as the puppets said, ‘is happy!’
‘Abha’ had immense contemporary resonance too. Sita telling Ram, not he, but she would kill Pushkar Ravana (Ravana’s cousin) spoke of woman empowerment.
Music and vocal were by Rohit Bhatt Uppoor along with Chandan Bala. Nattuvangam was by Preeti Bhradwaj and Shashi. Jairam KS played the flute, Suman Rani was on the sitar and Harsha Samaga on the mridangam, lyrics in Avadhi /Hindi were by Himanshu Srivatsava, in Kannada and Marathi by Parshwanath Upadhye and in Sanskrit by Roopashri Madhusudan. Lights was by Murugan.
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