Desh Parva
- Sai Venkatesh
Photos: Courtesy SNA

October 5, 2010

Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, celebrates the Commonwealth Games with Desh Parva, a festival of performing arts. The festival started on 4th October and will go on till 13th October. It takes place in the Akademi premises at Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi. Beautiful ambience is created with three theatres called Meghdoot 1, 2, and 3. The festival is fragmented into 5 segments: Kuk Varnik showcases the Commonwealth literature in performance.

Jayant Kastuar and Yamini Krishnamurti

On 4th October, the inaugural dance was presented at Meghdoot III by Anita Ratnam from Chennai. The solo performance had a very interesting theme based on works of Nigerian poets Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Niyi Osundare, Christopher Igbo and the poetess Ifi Amadiume. Her presentation included dance sections, and storytelling with use of theatrical props. Multiple rhythms formed the musical spine of the presentation. Directed by Parasuram Ramamoorthi, it was choreographed and performed by Anita Ratnam, with percussions by Darbuka Siva, nattuvangam, singing, acting by L Subhasri, and costumes by Sandhya Raman. The narrator-actor on stage was Ratna Raman.

The dance was divided into six sections. As 'Mallie' is a word in Nigerian for mother, birth of civilization is suggested. Mother births a child, the early sounds of nature, the elements - galactic chaos moving into the order of cosmos is suggested. Women in a developing country are thrice removed towards margins, owing to their colour, gender and position. This section reflects a woman's bent back, arched in many ways as she carries her culture on her body, finding moments of joy and celebrations within the conscripted arc. An ancient oral story of mother and daughter, and life's lessons of earth, of conquest and reclaiming self were presented, where one noticed Anita's brilliant acting, bringing forth the theatre aspect.

Built on the idea of Mahapralaya, the great flood that consumes all known life, to encapsulate the rituals of birth and death in the minimal space that women occupy, this production with Commonwealth countries' literature was a challenge, well presented with utmost concern for movements and rhythm. The costume changes were most appropriate, leading to the sequences.

Anita Ratnam
Maya Krishna Rao
Maya Krishna Rao of New Delhi based her performance on a short story 'Quality Street,' a look at the funny side of the mother - daughter tension ridden relationship, by the award winning Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Directed and performed by Maya Krishna Rao, the Vismayah production had costumes by Sabaina Jurschewsky, sound by Samar Grewal, and lights by Goutam Majumdar. Maya Rao is a contemporary dancer/actor, who uses strong Kathakali expressions, reflecting her initial training. She is a visiting faculty of National School of Drama with many commissioned performances abroad. Her acting is superb, and the character display is marvelous.

Desaj - Diverse Expressions of the Nation, at Meghdoot I open air theatre after lunch was full of energy. The Teratali from Rajasthan, Rikampada from Arunachal Pradesh, Narasingha from Himachal Pradesh, Pandavani from Chhattisgrah, Dhol cholom from Manipur, Dalkhai from Orissa, Bihu from Assam, and Mashak Been from Rajasthan were presented.

Prasanna Gogoi of Assam Cultural Academy, Guwahati, and his group performed the Bihu dance. It is associated with the spring festival of that name, widely celebrated in Assam. Young men and women perform the dance with brisk steps, rapid hand movements, and a rhythmic swaying of the hips to the accompaniment of the dhol (drum), taal (cymbals), mohar singar pepa (a pipe made from buffalo horn), gagana (a wind instrument made from reed and bamboo), and taka (bamboo clapper). The Bihu songs tell of youthful love and the pangs of separation. Celebrated before and after the harvest, Bihu has fertility as its central theme.

Bihu dancers of Assam
Pandavani from Chhattisgarh
Prabha Yadav from Chhattisgarh and her group performed Pandavani from Chhattisgarh (Central India). It is a form of narration of the epic Mahabharata, focusing on particular episodes for elaboration. The narrator sings the story and enters into religious discourse addressed to the audience, using mime and dance movements. Two or three musicians accompany the main performer. They sing the refrain of the songs, comment on the narration, and ask questions to emphasize focal parts of the discourse, enhancing the dramatic character of the performance. A Pandavani artist can improvise on a theme or episode for hours. The musical instruments accompanying the artist are the tabla, and cymbals called manjira. Traditionally, Pandavani was performed only by men. Since the 1980s, women also present Pandavani.

In the evening, Charan Das Chor directed by the great theater director Habib Tanvir was presented at the Shri Ram Centre Auditorium by Naya Theatre from Bhopal. The jam packed auditorium was filled with theatre enthusiasts, clapping and laughing, because it is a comedy play.

The music of Rajasthan was presented by the Langas and Manganiyars groups at Meghdoot 1, the well lit and well decorated outdoor theatre, filling the cool air of Delhi with the wonderful sounds of the Rajasthani musicians, consisting of a jumbo team of 21 members on stage. The music of Rajasthan has a rich historical tradition. The cultural richness of Rajasthan is in contrast with the physical condition as colourful costumes, melodious folk instruments, a variety of dances, and folk theatre styles enrich the rural life of this otherwise arid land. The Langas and Manganiars are folk singers of western Rajasthan, hailing mainly from the districts of Jaisalmer and Barmer in western Rajasthan. Though Muslims by birth, they are closely linked since many generations to both Muslim and Hindu families of their patrons called jajmans. Most of their songs are in praise of the Hindu gods, passed on to them from generation to generation by oral tradition. During annual festivals, and festivities like engagements, marriages, births, etc., these professional artists are called upon to sing and play in homes and temples, and are remunerated for their services by their patrons in different ways. The music of this community borders on the classical, as much in their mastery in singing, as in their virtuosity in playing various instruments like the kamaycha, sarangi, murli, surnai, algoza, khartaal, dholak, and the harmonium.

This fest for the delegates and participants of the Commonwealth Games has been well structured and portray our culture, our arts, and our traditions marking the glory of our art forms.