The many faces of a deity

The production concluded with a presentation of Dashavatar

By Kathakali Jana
  • Published 24.11.18, 2:05 AM
  • Updated 24.11.18, 2:05 AM
  • a min read
A moment from the performance of Leela Madhubani Chatterjee

Down to earth and divine at once, flirtatious on the one hand and a profoundly wise statesman on the other, Krishna is certainly one of the most engaging deities in the Hindu pantheon. The tales around him lend themselves to the colourful idioms of various Indian classical dance forms and continue to inspire dancers and choreographers who effusively adapt the narratives into dance.

Under Madhubani Chatterjee’s direction, Jahnavi’s Leela at Madhusudan Mancha recently explored the Bharatnatyam vocabulary to delve into the Krishna myth. The institution’s dancers, who were young and fresh, recounted the well-loved legends of Giri Govardhan, Kalinga Nartanam and Vastraharan from Krishna’s childhood and youth.

Chatterjee’s focus was on the myriad manifestations of the romantic, mischief-loving and beneficent Krishna. The youthful energy and verve of the dancers matched the mood of the dalliance with the gopis and the expressions of valour and mental prowess that these stories are grounded in. It is to Chatterjee’s credit that she took it upon herself to explain the deeper significance of each of the stories before they were performed. The conscious effort on Chatterjee’s part to step out of the precincts of faith to provide lucid answers on the real significance of the stories deserves applause. If Vastraharan is fundamentally about trust and unconditional surrender, she explained, Giri Govardhan exhorts one to rely on karma as a means to attain a spiritual plane of thought.

The production concluded with a presentation of Dashavatar. A take on the theory of evolution expressed chronologically through the avatars of Vishnu, the music for the production naturally drew upon the lyrics of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda. This was embellished with the mnemonic syllables used in Bharatnatyam to create a soundscape with a rich pattern of varied rhythms. Chatterjee’s impassioned singing of the text added to the production value of Dashavatar. However, the evening would have gained from greater synchronization in the dancers’ movements. Well-rehearsed coordination makes a lot of difference to the aesthetics of group choreography.