Antar Yatra - One Dance Narrative - Seven Cities - Supporting Children
A Report from Srividya Angara Sinha on Bangalore Performance
Three classical dance forms are brought together by Guru Sharmila Biswas to present Antary Yatra. With songs from Six different languages, the performance offered glimpse of the inner domain space of women dancers in India.
Well thought dance productions have been gaining attention in the art community in the recent times. The scope of the dance forms in creating space to explore the feelings and expressions combined with the distinct elements is "The Inner Journey". Sharmila, Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya (Bharatanatyam), Amrita Lahiri (Kuchipudi) and Shashwati Garai Ghosh (Odishi) collectively make the journey and the imagination is brought to life.
"A creative acme for this rasika, one that will be entrenched in the mind for a long time"
ANTARYATRA, conceptualized and choreographed by Guru Sharmila Biswas, renowned Odishi dancer, and founder of ODISHI VISION AND MOVEMENT CENTRE was staged on the 30th of July at the Chowdaiah Memorial Hall, in Bengaluru. Presented by AIM for SEVA, Antaryatra explored abstract thought, but gave it a premise in the form of the birth of Apsaras, heavenly damsels who were keepers of the art.
ANTARYATRA weaves the threads of three dance forms – Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Odissi through the loom of a tightly woven script, tied and dyed by stunning music (SRIJAN CHATTERJEE), and elaborate props (NANDAGOPAL JANA), to create a magical tapestry of storytelling presented by a dedicated team.
Much has already been written on ANTARYATRA, and its tour around major cities of the country. What can I say that would be any different? But here’s an attempt..
When the curtain rose, the audiences saw a long-limbed dancer stretching on stage, with two others dressed in traditional AhArya, walking across its length, casually warming up. The first thought was that they perhaps weren’t ready and that the curtain had gone up a moment too soon. Clearly that was not the case as evidenced later. Amrita Lahari (Kuchipudi), Lakshmi Parthasarathy Atreya (Bharatanatyam) and Shashwati Garai Ghosh (Odissi) shared an easy camaraderie on stage, nudging each other playfully, prompting one another to take stage first. And when they each did so, the powerful dancing that ensued consequently blurred the others in the background; a rare feat to achieve..
Their opening piece had them covering the generous expanse of Chowdaiah Memorial’s stage effortlessly. That they made it all look so easy is testament to the years of training behind them. The interplay of the various bols and jathis of all the three styles involved was a treat to watch, and hear.
After their trio exited, the Sutradhaara or narrator in the form of Guru Sharmila Biswas took stage, explaining how when the Ksheera Saagara or milky ocean was churned, from that act were born the heavenly damsels, the apsaras. Endowed with beauty and invested with knowledge in the 64 art forms, the brought harmony and happiness to the spaces they occupied. They were nityasumangali … ever-auspicious, they were devadasis…. Always in the service of the Lord. Guru Biswas was supported by four other Odishi dancers, who were brilliant in their execution of the apsaras and everything thereafter. Take a bow ANKITA KULABHI, ROHINI BANNERJEE, MONAMI NANDY, and TRI PAUL.
Our three protagonists enter the stage to find that they’re chosen to propagate the divine art … they’ve been gifted the art called dance. At this point a ‘man’ enters catching the eye of the women and each of them want him to stay … lovingly trying to get his attention when a wise voice says ‘When you have the lord opening his arms for you, would you still go after this ordinary man? When the magical world awaits you, would you still go after the mundane?’
Each dancer then delves within different aspects of the sense to find the Supreme. Kuchipudi danseuse Amrita Lahari finds that the lights of the twilight render everyday objects exalted. She finds in the colours of the “Sandhya”, Krishna and performs with virtuosity to the vibrant music that lights up not only the stage but also the onlooker’s mind. When the ensuing night steals away the magic that was woven only a little while earlier, she is bewildered. Was it all an illusion? The next instant finds her
closing her hand on a peacock feather tucked away delightfully in an unexpected corner. But with the surety of darkness, the sense of sight can no longer hold her mind. She must tune out of this, and tune into another sense.
Here’s where the Bharatanatyam idiom takes over in the form of Lakshmi Parthasarathy Atreya ….the dancer exploring the Divine through the sense of sound. Temple bells and gongs sound in the background. What is missing conspicuously is the beat of the mrdangam in this section of the music, the bols interspersed only with the strains of the piano. But the percussive absence was more than covered with the sharp, shaft-like movements of the dancer, here one instant, there another; reveling in her joyous stomping, rediscovering and exulting in the sounds that emanate from it. From the external, the search turns inward to finding the sound within, and peace steals over her. Born of her is a metaphorical child … is it the art that has been internalized? Is it the beginning of creativity? Or is it maya?
Odishi dancer Shashwati Garaigosh was as fleet-footed as the deer she portrayed in her piece … a search that stretches deeper and deeper into the realms of the mind … caught in the process of creation, does one lose sight of oneself? That which sets you free, does it turn around and ensnare you? Is it all an illusion? This entire sequence is open to interpretation but is supported by the famous Maya-hiran episode from the Ramayana where Rama searches for the elusive golden deer.
A question that arose in the mind of a fellow-rasika was this - why the need now to lean on mythology when it was an exploration of the abstract hitherto? There was a magnificent moment when ‘Krsna; (the mask was Beautiful!) stands behind the bamboo blind and Shashwati becomes the puppet underneath. It was a creative acme for this rasika, one that will be entrenched in the mind for a long time.
The individual pieces gave way to the sutradhari handling life-size puppets, hanging them over the bamboo blinds while a soulful on-stage rendition by singer/music composer Srijan Chatterjee took place in the background. The three principal dancers came onto the stage to dance to a languorous rendition of Sakhi He….the famous astapadi by Jayadeva, before sliding gracefully to a conclusion, narrator, supporting dancers et al.
Guru Sharmila Biswas’s ANTARYATRA is the journey of three different women dancers exploring their inner workings in order to transcend the outer world, or it could be one dancer who uses three different paradigms to get there, each paradigm represented and personified by each of the three protagonists? The destination is absolute but the paths and perspectives are relative. It could be whatever you wanted it to be, as long as it takes you to the feet of the Supreme. Then alone would it be YATRA: ANTA: … the end of the journey.
Report - Srividya Angara Sinha
August 2nd, 2016
*All views are of the contributor.
Special thanks to Swagata Chakraborty for the pictures.