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DECEMBER 2001 Contents
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CONTEMPORISING AN EPIC THROUGH BALLET
- Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra
"The basic idea behind these two changes was to make the dance-drama contemporary and to convey the real meaning of the epic to a larger section of the audience", says, Shobha Deepak Singh, production director and vice-chairperson of the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra.
Besides the two changes, the storyline too has been re-organised and the concept of conquest of good over evil has been given a more contemporary interpretation. The new format of presentation is totally state-of-the-art keeping in pace with the advent of the electronic media but without losing the essence and sanctity of Ramayana.
Rehearsals for the dance drama started four months in advance in June and will carry on till the completion of the show. This year 45 dancers participated for the show and over 200 musicians were involved with the recording of the sound track. The music score comprised more than 300 pieces and it took 90 days and two studios to complete the soundtrack. Nearly 2,000 studio hours were consumed for the music recording.
Says Singh, the moving force behind the dance drama, " The characters and incidents in Ramayana provide the ideals and wisdom of day-to-day life. They speak of family life, heroes and demons and battles and of universal truths."
But what was the need to change the storyline? Singh is ready with that answer, " We tend to concentrate just on the story telling aspect of Ramayana and entirely miss out on the real meaning beyond the words. It is very convenient not to ask questions for fear of having to look for answers. But I am not such a person. So, my team and me have tried to move away from the routine and tell the story in an approach as timeless as the epic itself."
Singh says that this year she has tried to excavate the layers of text in an attempt to understand the subtext, because that is the real treasure of epic. " Its intricacies form a vital and sublime core."
She says that she and her research team have tried to make the epic more relevant to the current times. According to her, such re-interpretations are very important as they make the Ramayana's appeal contemporary and more and more people can relate to it.
" For example our interpretation is that the golden deer Lord Rama kills signifies temptation; the Laxman Rekha defines the moral space and is a subtle reminder of the pitfalls that may follow transgressions, and the giant Hanuman leap is an indication that if you are focused, devoted and concentrate, you can take on gigantic tasks. Similarly burning Ravanaís Lanka was Hanumanís way of charring the demon king's gigantic ego. These and many more concepts form the backbone of our new presentation," she explains.
As for renaming it from Ramayana to simply Ram, Shobha Deepak Singh explains, " We have attempted to bring forth the divinity and compassion of Ram and not let it get lost in a jungle of blind faith. Which is why we have also deliberately written a new script and have moved from the original language Avadhi on to Hindi, as it is more easily understood by all. This yearís Ramlila is an attempt to present the universal truths in a manner that everyone can understand and embrace," she adds.
Absolutely devoid of the barriers posed by period drama and language, the performance in the open-air theatre certainly provides an unforgettable experience and is packed with powerful episodes.
The interesting interplay of light and shadow, symbolic sets, excellent choreography, incorporation of various dance forms like martial, folk and classical, eclectic costumes and ornaments designed by Singh herself after studying the paintings and sculptures make this ballet worth watching many times over - a crowd pleaser, as also an artistic conquest.
" The endeavour of our presentation is to remind people of the importance of truth and honesty as also good values in life which have attained an even greater significance in the world today. In fact every year in our journey into India's rich past we find more and more contemporary messages for our present world," says the director summing up the essence of the epic dance drama.
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