Photos courtesy: The organizer
May 12, 2023
Meera is actually a minor historical figure but a major influencer, in today's jargon!
She may have suffered indignity and ridicule in her times but now she represents women's empowerment, fight for rights and love. In her times, the clime wasn't right but now she shines bright and sings light her tale of undying love for Krishna. Married young as per custom then, she was a child bride. The idol of Krishna her mother gave her goes with her as her originally married husband. Rana on earth accepts her affliction and affection for Krishna and he even indulges her. Alas! All good things must come to end soon and he is gone with the wind and his brother Rana Vikram takes an exception to her great attachment to other man in her life - Krishna - her first love. Poison cup or snakes or people in court talking ill of her make no difference to her, she carries on and reaches Braj bhumi where she spends time before ultimately merging with Dwarkadheesh.
An earlier work by Sonal Mansingh on the same theme of Bharat
(Courtesy: Mohan Khokar Dance Collection@IGNCA)
Kamani was in dark for a minute that loomed like eternity. And the lord said let there be light! There was nothing light about Sonal Mansingh's Meera. She was centred, stable and self-contained. Generally, Sonal Mansingh looms large on stage and her energy is all over the place. This once, she sat peacefully for most of the 45 minutes rendition and was an epitome of depth and dignity, mesmerizing with meaningful interpretation of this tale of Meerabai.
One has seen umpteen versions of Meerabai on film immortalized by MS Subbulakshmi, then Nataraj-Shakuntala production followed by Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra's work which one saw in the same hall some 30 years ago. Sonal Mansingh's had class and content. The screen projected visuals that contained miniatures and patachitra depictions of various myths connected with Vishnu avatara and Krishna like Gajendra Moksha (where an elephant was saved from the jaws of a crocodile) or Narasimha (half man half lion who saved his devotee Prahlad from an evil father) and cameos from Meera's childhood and marriage were depicted on one side of the stage. A fulsome production, this is one work from India that ought to be seen worldwide. Is ICCR listening? Live music in the pit of the hall added to the fulsomeness of the work. Sonal shone like the gold metal she is named after.
Delong Padung group from Arunachal Pradesh
Jharkhand's Mardana Jhumar
Bhagoriya of Madhya Pradesh
Shashwat Bharat is her latest offering to showcase the richness of India that is Bharat - musicians, dancers and more. Movers and shakers of Delhi could be seen too, each one trying to sit in the front row. The owner of the Kamani hall had to look for seats reserved for her in the front row and just as she was walking to it in the dark, one hefty photographer plonked himself in it. All want to be leaders; no one wants to follow in this city of darbar culture and politics. Having seen it from childhood for fifty years - that's like half a century - one is amazed at Delhi's culture or lack of it. Everyone's ego seems larger than their talent or abilities. Sonal Mansingh took to the mike and alluded to politics in dance field and sounded off with many who damage from behind and play games while smiling to the face.
In that setting to bring 170 artistes from all over India is itself a feat. No doubt helped by many individuals and set-ups, still the idea of presenting on an indoor stage setting so many artistes in three evenings was a fare not to be missed. In the heat of Delhi, it rained art.
Santhals of Odisha
Thapattam from Tamilnadu
Gujarat's Maniyaaro raas
She made all dance to her tunes in the finale of folk offering by six select groups drawn from various parts of the country. Gussadi of Andhra region, done by the Gond tribals whose headgear made of peacock plumes was a work of art while Mardana Jhumar from Jharkhand was manly with lot of drum beating. Santhals of Odisha rubbed shoulders with Bhagoriya of Madhya Pradesh. It was left to Thapattam from Tamilnadu to shake the whole hall up and their vigorous movements with sweet smiles said it all. Gujarat model dance dandiya and Maniyaro raas, was a rhythmic ending to the three day festival, which Delhiites benefitted from. Sonal Mansingh proved to be the ultimate showman who showcased Shashwat Bharat.
Khokar is a critic and author by profession; historian by education; arts administrator by occupation; archivist by disposition; film compiler through documentation and celebrator of arts and artistes by tradition. More details on attendance-india.com
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