Siva Dhanurbhangam
- B Venkat, Visakhapatnam

May 7, 2011

Siva Dhanurbhangam (written by Bhujanga Raya Sarma) was presented by Kuchipudi Kalakshetra, with original direction by Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam and conducted by Ravi Shankar Vempati, at Kalabharathi on the 11th of April 2011 as part of Sri Rama Navami celebrations. This annual feature of VMDA is awaited each year with high expectations in Visakhapatnam.

The dance drama started on time. Performed to a live orchestra, it was enacted by about 32 dancers. Nattuvangam by Ravi Shankar Vempati and Guru Vedantam Ramu set the right tempo. With about 12 scenes starting with a verse of sage Valmiki, narration by sutradhari, the story commenced with the finding of Sita by Janaka.

The momentum picked up with Rama (Vedantam Venkata Naga Chalapathy) and his brothers learning archery and the rasikas reciprocated the joy of King Dasaratha (Hari Rama Murthy), the proud father. King Janaka's (Chinta Ramamurthy) wish to get Sita (Priyanka) and daughters married prepared the ground for the theme of the dance drama - Siva Dhanurbhangam. As predestined, sage Viswamitra (Sudheer Rao in all royalty) arrives at the court of King Dasaratha. Eventually Dasaratha gives in to the rishi's demand and the stage is set for episodes involving Thataki (T Satyanarayana Sarma). The dance composition then shows the parallel developments - announcement of Swayamvaram by King Janaka. The attempts made by the aspirants fail, much to the disappointment of the King. Hasya rasa was predominant in this scene.

Lord Rama helps Ahalya (Sithalakshmi) to regain her physical form from being a stone owing to a curse. He, along with brother Lakshmana and sage Viswamitra arrive at Mithila and in a glorious moment, Siva Dhanurbhangam happens. With the final act, we get to see the marriage of Lord Rama and his brothers (Lakshmana - Jayanth, Bharatha - Chinta Murthy, Shatrughna - Vijayasekhar). Urmila (Varshita), Mandavi (Sannidha), Srutakirti (Swetha) had an opportunity to show their dancing skills with the dance drama having introductory pieces for each of them.

The cast was a highlight as it featured some senior dance exponents and had enthusiastic support from youngsters. The drama generated some special moments as when Rama meets Sita the first time in a garden, the breaking of the bow etc. Key characters lent strength to the story as it progressed and Ravi Vempati did a very good job with dedication. The following are some observations. Presence of members from original Kuchipudi families. Large cast drawn from multiple locations performed to good coordination and teamwork. Young dancers showcased their talent. Introduction of Sita and her sisters is one example. Each of the dancers introduced their roles with beauty and style. Since the Swayamvaram was an open challenge, at the time of Lord Rama enacting Siva Dhanurbhangam, there were no other kings participating. Ravi Vempati explained that the Swayamvaram took place over a period of time, not just on one particular day. Prince Shatrughna introduces himself as the brother of Prince Bharata. The grandeur of the dance drama was such that it almost matched the grandeur of a movie.

Other members of the cast included Balatripura Sundari, Geetha Nair, Nisha, Y Sampath, Mrutyunjaya Sarma, AV Ramana Rao. Supporting team consisted of DV Sastry and Sudharani - singers, Ganesh - mridangam, Balasubramanyam - violin, Murali - flute, Sudhakar - veena, Phani Kumar - pakhawaj, Rajgopal - effects, Chandra Kumar - technician, and Sudharsan Rao - art direction.