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Snakes and ladders
- G Ulaganathan

June 25, 2022

'Parama Padam', a one-man dance feature presented in Bengaluru by the Singapore based Apsaras Arts ensemble was an interesting and insightful analysis of human life. The presentation was by Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, the principal dancer and resident choreographer who has been with the company since 2012. 'Parama Padam - Life's Game of Snakes and Ladders' uses the rich movement vocabulary of Bharatanatyam, and explores the narrative of the game's moral values with references from Indian epics, communicated through abhinaya.

Parama Padam by Mohanapriyan Thavarajah

The show, presented at Bengaluru International Centre early this month, was part of the three-city tour in India by Apsaras Arts. The first two shows were in the last week of May in Mumbai and Chennai. Says Aravinth Kumarasamy, the Artistic Director of Apsaras Arts Dance Company, "Parama Padam is my humble attempt to create an awareness and appreciation of Indian heritage and culture which I proudly value. As our world moves towards globalisation and modernity, we need to create opportunities to look back at our roots, and to promote good morals and ethical way of living. The board game Parama Padam is one good example where the game while entertaining the players, aims to teach life's values. While many of us around the globe have played Snakes and Ladders, not many in our generation know it has its origins in India and has been designed as a thought provoking tool. The age-old art form of Bharatanatyam provides the platform to explore novel and abstract works."

Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, who has specialised in sculpted geometry lines of dance, was able to brilliantly exhibit a mixture of rhythmic athleticism and sensitively nuanced expressive elements of the story. He was on stage for one hour continuously without a break and with excellent bhavas and free movement on stage, portrayed many roles - as a common man playing snakes and ladders, the soul yearning to reach the ultimate truth travelling through the seven doors to reach heaven, Chitragupta, the gatekeeper to heaven, three saints Thyagaraja, Periyalvar and Thukaram who have managed to reach the ultimate goal, Ravana, and the mystic poet Meera.

Parama Padam by Mohanapriyan Thavarajah

The hundred squares on the game board were beautifully visualised on stage with some excellent lighting by Gyandev Singh and Mohanapriyan succeeded in taking along the audience not as mere spectators but as partners along the journey. The soul's journey—going up the ladder and sliding down the snakes -depending upon the choice of good deeds or falling for vices was described vividly through the sancharis and finally the soul realises that Parama Padam is not destination but a way of life that is guided by moral values.

The whole piece was choreographed by Mohanapriyan and has excellent musical score by Dr Rajkumar Bharathi. G Srikanth provided vocal support and the orchestra included V Vedakrishnan (mridangam), Embar Kannan (veena), Ganapathy Venkatasubramaniam (violin), Bhavani Prasad (flute). Audrey Pereira was the narrator.

G Ulaganathan
G Ulaganathan was a senior dance critic based in Bangalore. This is the last review he sent for Narthaki before his sudden demise on June 23, 2022.

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