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Unique blend of Odissi and Yakshagana
- G Ulaganathan
Photos: Apurvananda K

January 24, 2021

It was a unique jugalbandhi, created by two young dancers in Bangalore. Sahana Raghavendra Maiya, a popular Odissi dancer, a disciple of Madhulita Mohapatra and Shwetha Srinivas, a Yakshagana dancer came together to present an interesting dance drama, Shakti, directed by Aasif Kshathriya at the small Vyoma amphitheatre this week.

Shakti deals with life, karma, and moksha. With the audience seated in a circle, the two performers were dancing enabling a 360 degree view. There were two clearly marked circles in the centre, an inner circle and an outer circle and both the dancers were inside the circles. According to the director, the space outside the outer circle depicts the body, material world while the space inside the outer circle depicts the mind (karma or deeds) and the space inside the inner circle depicts the soul (consciousness or conscience).

The 60-minute presentation comprised two lovely items, an Ardhanareeshwara piece originally choreographed by Kelucharan Mohapatra, which brought out the essence of pure Odissi and the other one, 'Atma Linga' a story of Ravana presented through both Odissi and Yakshagana together.

Sahana was completely at ease in rendering the difficult Ardhanareeshwara Stotram in pure Odissi style. The original music was by Raghunath Panigrahi and the exquisite movements choreographed by Kelubabu. She was able to convincingly portray the vigour and fast motions of Shiva as well as the grace and charm of Parvati and the ultimate union.

Then came the piece de resistance, Athma Linga, about the man, Ravana and his greed. Shwetha as Ravana was able to bring to our eyes the ten headed king and with excellent voice modulation she was able to roar, beg, and swear in anger. In his effort to procure Lord Shiva's Athma Linga, Ravana almost succeeds but when greed drives him crazy he asks for Parvati to be taken to Lanka. In this one of the many variations of the story 'Athma Linga' in Yakshagana style, there was a beautiful jugalbandi between Ravana in Yakshhagana style and Shiva in Odissi style.

The story is interesting. When he reaches Mount Kailash, Ravana is bewildered by the beauty of the mountain. And he decides to uproot and take it to Lanka to facilitate his mother to offer pooja to the Athma linga. When he tries to uproot Kailash, Shiva appears and teaches him a lesson. All his strength and arrogance fails and he is unable to lift even an inch. When he realises that he can only get what he wanted with devotion and not his might, Shiva gives him the same. And the twists in the tale come when Ravana wants Parvati too. To his surprise Shiva agrees but plays a trick to teach him a lesson second time.

Shwetha and Sahana did well to act out their parts and the touch of mystery at the climax kept the drama alive till the very end. Direction is by Aasif Kshathriya, who is a well-known theatre and film personality and associated with films and theatre since past 30 years. Aasif has worked with veterans like B.V. Karanth, M.S. Sathyu, Irshad Panjatan, Dr.Chandrashekhar Kambara, Baba Azmi, B. Jayashree, Peter Brook, Mohan Agashe, Meera Nair, among others. Shakti was an imaginative production connecting a south Indian dance style with the north Indian Odissi and both the dancers did full justice.

Shwetha is basically a theatre artiste and has graduated from NINASAM, and has performed in lead roles in more than 60 plays. She has also acted in a few Kannada movies. Sahana started dancing Bharatanatyam at the age of 4 under Keshav Kumar Shimoga and is today an accomplished Odissi dancer in Bangalore.

Ulaganathan is a senior dance critic based in Bangalore.

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