Gokula Nirgamana
A trip to Brindavana for the Bay area rasikas 
- Poornima Ramaprasad
e-mail: poornima@sbcglobal.net 
Photographs: Sheshagiri Shenoy

March 27, 2010 

“Forget your baby in the cradle…..Quit on your husband….Let's all go to Brindavana to listen to the bamboo flute of our beloved Krishna…..”  So goes an immortal song in the wonderful musical 'Gokula Nirgamana' written by Dr. Pu.Ti. Narasimhachar, a Kannada poet who has carved a niche for himself in the minds of all kannadigas by his literary works of which this one is the epitome. This was staged on January 20, 2010 at the Foothill College Auditorium of Los Altos by his daughter and a famous dramatist of the bay area, Alamelu Iyengar, as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of South India Fine Arts, a premium organization promoting classical music and dance in the bay area. The music direction was by the talented music couple Subhapriya and HV Srivatsan. The dance choreography and direction was by the gifted dancer Gargi Panchangam. Gargi is a versatile dancer, predominantly in the Kalakshetra style, and is the foremost student of the famous dance couple Anuradha and Sridhar of Bengaluru.

When the dancers entered the stage with the lively 'baa sakhi Brindavanake, aananda niketanake' (come to Brindavana, the land of happiness) which was set in Bagesri, the audience was totally mesmerized. 

Who can ignore the sweet sound of Krishna's bamboo flute? The cowherds and the gopikas would set aside their chores just to be with Krishna. Radha, always eager to see Krishna, is in the gardens talking to her friend and telling her how she is longing to be with her beloved. When he does arrive, they enjoy each other's company while their friends dance and sing in merriment. All the Gopikas are in love with Krishna, but never for a moment are they jealous of their friend Radha, who gets all the attention from Him. All the folks of Brindavana, the young and the old alike, are so happy for the young couple, who, they think, are the driving forces of their happy lives. One fine day, Akrura, a messenger from Mathura, arrives with an invitation to Krishna and Balarama to go to Mathura. Although Krishna is reluctant, Balarama, who knows that Krishna has the giant task of 'Loka Kalyana' to destroy evil, convinces him to leave. Krishna then gives his bamboo flute to the people of Brindavana as a sign of his presence there and leaves for Mathura with a promise that he would return after his work there was over. Radha is shocked at this and sobs to no end. The drama ends with her friends consoling her and giving her the memorabilia that Krishna left. 

Gargi Panchangam as Radha, was a treat to watch.  Was she a celestial damsel or Krishna's Radha? Was she real or a mirage? She brought out all the rasas so well. While enjoying all the nuances of the romantic moments with her beloved, the sringara rasa in her was overflowing. When she heard the shocking news of Krishna's departure from Brindavana, her sadness knew no bounds. The shoka rasa that flowed from her abhinaya touched the audience too. 

Another fine dancer of the bay area, Pushpa Ramanuja, aptly accompanied Gargi as Krishna. The merriment of the residents of Brindavana came out colorfully in many dances like the kolata, the raasakreede, the deepaarati, etc. There was a unique jatisvara, which was a ragamalika, set to adi tala, to which the nritta was fast and challenging. There was wonderful co-ordination between all the accompanying dancers. The costumes were colorful and the stage setting was apt. All in all, there was not a dull moment in the way this musical was staged. 

The musicians were talented instrumentalists of the bay area, with Mohan Rangan on flute, Mahidhar Tirumala on the veena, Anil Narasimha on the violin, Narayanan Natarajan on the mridangam and Ravi Gutala on the tabla. The nattuvangam was provided by Chandana Krishnamurthy. The live music added a special glow to the dance and drama.

Finally, all the contributors to the fantastic performance, on stage and off stage were introduced. It took the efforts of some seventy people to stage this giant production and that too on such a grand scale. Kudos to the Iyengars, Alamelu and ThiruNarayan for producing this. The late poet Dr. Pu.Ti.Na is believed to have had a dream about he being a golla (cowherd) and having listened to the bamboo flute and having lived himself in Brindavana. Had he seen this performance, he would surely have agreed that this was the scene he saw in his dreams.

Poornima Ramaprasad follows Indian classical music and dance forms. She reviews Indian dance and drama events in the San Francisco bay area from time to time.