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'Kandein Swapnam' by Gopika Varma
- SK Venugopal
Photo credit: Priyanka B

October 24, 2022

On the 19th of October, Dasyam Gopika Varma and her disciples performed at the 111 days long Soorya festival at 'Ganesham' in Trivandrum, Kerala. The presentation was part of a segment of the ongoing festival conceived by Soorya as 'Dreams unlimited' wherein the artiste of the day presents an original choreography in the form of a dance drama. Gopika Varma chose to present an exclusive choreography for the occasion and named it 'Kandein Swapnam'.

Gopika Varma is one of the leading Mohiniattam exponents in the country with several awards and recognitions to her credit. She is a disciple of the legendary Kalamandalam Kalyanikkutty Amma. She perfected her skills with continued tutelage of Sreedevi Rajan, and Dr. Kalamandalam Sugandhi. She runs her own dance school in Chennai and Bangalore by name 'Dasyam' with students from all over India and abroad with online and offline coaching schemes.

Kandein Swapnam by Gopika Varma

'Kandein Swapnam' was a beautifully conceived dance drama, imaginatively created, depicting 4 different scenarios of dreams, in a story telling mode backed up by crystal clear narration, mellifluous music and delightful dance movements well choreographed. Scenario 1 is that of a dream that get realized exactly as it was dreamt of. Gopika uses story from Srimad Bhagavatam of a 'daitya' princess Usha, daughter of Banasura falling in love with Aniruddha, grandson of Lord Krishna and son of Pradyumna, after seeing him in a dream. Usha tells Chithralekha, her companion, about the experience and with her artistic skills Chithralekha draws pictures based on description of the person in the dream and finally identifies Aniruddha. Chithralekha with her supernatural powers gets the sleeping Aniruddha from Krishna's palace and brings him to Usha.

The second scenario is that of a dream that gets shattered in real. Here Gopika takes the story from Sakuntalam where Sakuntala loses the man in her dream with the curse from Sage Durvasa, when he gets infuriated at Sakuntala not acknowledging his presence as she was dreaming of her love. The third scenario is that of a dream that gets fulfilled by becoming one with the man in her dreams. Here she takes story of Andal. Andal was the only female Alvar among the 12 Hindu poet saints of south India. She is said to have disappeared in the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam by merging with the Lord himself who she considered as her spouse.

The fourth scenario Gopika presents is that of a dream becoming disastrous for the dreamer. Here she uses the story of Sage Narada pleading to Lord Krishna to provide him opportunity to marry. When Krishna advises him against it, Narada goes on to ask why if Krishna can have so many wives, why not he at least have 3. Krishna tells him to have this experience first in the format of a dream and decide whether to marry or not. Eventually seeing the dream where he gets harassed by the 3 women, Narada runs to Krishna saying he doesn't want to try that life in real. Gopika plays the lead as Usha, Sakuntala and Andal and her inimitable skills in abhinaya and graceful movements make each character so lively and real. She was ably supported by her disciples in each of these 4 beautifully woven episodes.

The interludes of traditional Mohiniattam with the dancers moving in perfect rhythm, showcasing the beautiful adavaus and chuzhippus happening in between the presentation of story line, was remarkable. These students with continued training surely will make not only their Guru Gopika Varma proud, but also the Parama Guru Kalyanikkutty Amma.

The Mohiniattam costumes designed for the show looked exclusive and grand, moving slightly away from usual tradition. However, it helped enhance the theme of the day. The change of costumes for Sakuntala, Anasooya and Priyamvada looked apt and nice as also Andal. I would compliment Gopika for the painstaking efforts in the costuming with no lag in between for change over.

The innovative idea of the dream sequences is another aspect I found quite interesting. Using one part of the stage for the dream to get enacted while the Nayika is on the other side had good visual impact. The idea of Sutradhar doing the introduction was again something that bound the storyline together providing smooth transition from one scenario to the other. Not surprisingly the light and sound at 'Ganesham' did complement the performers a lot.

Being a dance drama, the audio was pre-recorded. The music was composed and sung by KalamandalamVishnu, supported by Kalamandalam Kiran Gopinath on mridangam, Nandakumar on edakka, Reghunandan on flute, and Biju Annamanada on veena. The voice over given by Gopika Varma was crystal clear and to the point. Overall, it was an overwhelming experience watching the show in the ambience of a fully packed auditorium with an appreciative and knowledgeable crowd. Princess Gauri Lakshmi Bhai graced the occasion.

S.K. Venugopal
S.K. Venugopal is a businessman in the field of Engineering projects, and also a singer, composer, accredited artist in Light Music at All India Radio, auditioned and graded member of panel of speakers in Films Division of India, associated with Mohiniattam as accompanying musician and music composer. 

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