Bhakti Rakti 
- Probal Gupta, Bangalore

June 26, 2009 

Shambavi School of Dance under the leadership of the Kuchipudi legend Vyjayanthi Kashi in collaboration with Ananya headed by Dr. Raghavendra organized a thematic experimental production based on the amalgamation of Kuchipudi and Karnataka Yakshagana on June 13 at the Seva Sadan Auditorium. Scripted by the literary genius Satabdhani Dr. R Ganesh, the production stands out as the one of best of the synthesis productions. 

Before I start to critically analyze the aesthetics of the evening’s performance, I will have to comment on the commendable work being attempted by Dr. Ganesh and Mantap Prabhakar to make Yakshagana solo, improvising from Natya Sastra various nuances within the traditional genre to provide an aesthetic splendor to this art. Dance is an audio visual art and exquisite majesty is required for the connoisseurs to enjoy the same to a level of supreme. The progression should be enduring for enabling any form of dance to survive and at the same time to foster, thereby avoiding the same to become moribund. The assiduous work done by both Dr. Ganesh and Mantap Prabhakar requires a standing ovation for the beauty of the costumes and concurrently providing soothing affluent touch to the musical score, thereby not allowing the singer to sing at a higher decibel, and that has definitely added rhythmic value to the musical score of Karnataka Yakshagana.

Both the dance forms used live orchestra commencing with invocatory slokas in each of their styles creating pertinent ambience.  Mantap Prabhakar, who has more than 800 performances to his credit, commenced with exhibiting the character of Rukmini in traditional Yakshagana style. Using the traditional pravesha daruvu, he slickly demonstrated the various nuances of the form he specializes in, with ease. His dance is overwhelming, the dance movements always under a tenacious control, abhinaya highly pertinent with the character he portrays and could even lead a lady to envy his attractive physical beauty and looks while he dons the garb of a woman. 

Vyjayanthi Kashi, one of the country’s leading Kuchipudi exponents, followed next with a pravesha daruvu, entering the stage and immediately providing a sparkling sensation amongst the rasikas. In an interview with Kashi post program pertaining to the research she has undertaken to visualize and portray her character of Satyabhama, she commented on her subsequent indulgence in the depth of the character. Satyabhama is beautiful and belonging to a royal family, is proud of herself too. Yet she does not exhibit the same to the external world because of the attitude she carries. She is in tremendous love with her Lord – the Supreme Krishna and knows that she would attain Him one day. Here lies the intellect of the choreographer and definitely the beauty that she carries to portray the character with finesse. The execution of her performance using the appropriate jathis befitting the character to bring out the nritta aspect of Kuchipudi deserves special mention. Her gait to portray the haughty Satyabhama, the subsequent usage of dramatic monologues mesmerized every aficionado to the core. 

Beginning with a traditional padam portraying the character and the subsequent stories of Satyabhama congruent to the Kuchipudi dance repertoire, the two characters merged beautifully on the stage at an altercation with the lyrics scripted by Dr. Ganesh. The confrontation concentrated on the characters meeting their soulmate - the Supreme Krishna and their struggle exhibiting their love and urging Sri Krishna to be theirs with the scene culminating with Sri Krishna walking away with Rukmini. This enrages Satyabhama who decides to attain Sri Krishna if not physically, however, through her penance which she successfully achieves. Satyabhama’s mingling with the macro or the supreme Krishna was beautifully portrayed by Kashi whose subtle abhinaya definitely evoked the rasa of the scene.  The climax of the story leads to both Rukmini and Satyabhama attaining their own Lord in their own possible endeavor. Here lies the appropriateness of the title ‘Bhakti – Rakti.’

It must be mentioned that both the characters never tried overdoing  and overtaking each other on the platform of performance, yet exhibiting their excellent skills in a manner which is highly praiseworthy.

The evening concluded with a Vitapi Thillana set to Adi Talam and scripted by Dr. Ganesh describing the beauty of both Yakshagana and Kuchipudi and the place from where they hail, beautifully choreographed by both the artistes in their own styles.  The highly synchronized movements of both Mantap Prabhakar and Vyjayanthi Kashi aggrandized the overall effect of the evening’s performance. 

Probal Gupta trained in Kathakali under two legends Late Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty and Guru Fact Padmanabhan under whom he is presently continuing his specialization in Stree Vesham genre of Kathakali. He has also been a student of Bharati Shivaji. His active performance career has taken him to prestigious dance festivals. He is an empanelled artist of Doordarshan and has established a Solo Margam for Stree Vesham Kathakali under the able guidance of his Guru Fact Padmanabhan. Probal is a graduate in English Hons from the University of Kolkata.