Dance & drama together celebrate great women

20171022 193636 webLOS ALTOS, CA: Bay area got an opportunity to witness women power as four renowned women artists mesmerized the audience at the Smithwick theater, Foothill College, Los Altos on Oct 22 with the tales of bold Vasavi, ardent Andal, epitome of chastity Kannagi and Rambha, women of yore who became immortal.

It was an evening of scintillating performances by some of the best talents of India. The event was presented by Venkatesh Babu of Indian Classical Arts Academy, Pleasanton-based organization which helps to promote Indian classical dance forms in the Bay area.

Shekhar Vishwanathan from Indian Fine Arts Academy of San Diego is the national promoter of this multilingual production covering three classical dance styles of South India and being presented in seven cities all over US.

‘Antaram,’ produced by Bharatanatyam dancer Krithika Subrahmanian was led by Mohiniyattam danseuse Gopika Varma, Kuchipudi dancer Yamini Reddy, veteran actress Suhasini Maniratnam and Krithika, herself portraying the Bharatanatyam component. A spectacular blend of classical dance, drama, visuals, music and theatrics, the two-hour-long performance featured stories that are as inspirational today as they were centuries ago.

This wonderful dancing trio brings to life great iconic women characters such as Andal, Kannagi and Vasavi. Their stories are woven together into a beautiful fabric through the theatrical interpretations by Suhasini, the storyteller. There are myriad examples from mythology and contemporary life, powerful stories that need to be told and passed to the generations to come. The eclectic mosaic of songs reveals the artistry of great music composers A.R. Rahman, Rajkumar Bharathi, O.S. Arun, Hyderabad Brothers, and Arun Gopinath.

The trio work in great harmony and their excellent chemistry is very obvious in this most unique presentation where dance and drama come together to celebrate great women in history and mythology.

The production highlights all the South Indian classical dance traditions and as such selected stories from each of the southern states, with each representing different aspects of feminine aspiration. With Young Vasavi of Penugonda kingdom, who sacrifices herself in a bid to escape the advances of a lecherous king, for example, represents the expansion of mind over body.

She is portrayed through Kuchipudi by Yamini. Vasavi’s life is worth remembering because of her faith in non-violent religious values and her defense of the status of women.

Krithika illustrates the story of the Vishnu priyay Andal. She is known for her unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu. Andal’s story, told through Bharatanatyam, illustrates the capacity to envision and attain the almighty. Through her verses, Andal disclosed her passionate yearning for Lord Vishnu and this was articulately portrayed in her dance moves.

Gopika Varma, who conceptualized the production and depicted the valorous Kannagi, beautifully emoted Kannagi who is the manifestation of kriyashakti. Her actions brought her divinity.

Rambha, enacted by Suhasini, is a 15th century scholar-dancer from Sri Lanka. She becomes the beloved of Emperor Mohammed Adil Shah, is immortalized in Bijapur’s Gol Gumbaz, has the second largest dome in the world and is the connecting thread that represents liberation.

She is the consummate woman who embodies the dynamism and strength of these iconic character. Though both Rambha and Emperor Adil Shah are no more; the structure Gol Gumbaz still stands tall and silently recites their story of love.

Antaram meaning “inside” has been successful in conquering the distance between the audience and various dance forms by using a wise mix of creativity and technology, visuals, stories, music, dance, play, narratives and great artists.

Women as depicted here have critical roles to play in all walks of life, be it in the family, community and nation building. With many recognizing women’s equality and empowerment as the solution, we are marching a step closer everyday for a better tomorrow.

Vidya Sethuraman
India Post News Service

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