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Geeta Chandran has a standing ovation for sookshma abhinaya in Anekanta
- Dr. S.D. Desai
Photos: Harsh Dharaiya

November 15, 2022

Noted dancer-choreographer Geeta Chandran's name reminds dance lovers of her productions on Gandhian values, non-violence and Indian constitution, themes that seem unlikely for a classical dance! Her Bharatanatyam performances become intellectually rather than mere emotionally engaging. Her Anekanta on the third and concluding day (Nov 6) at Natarani's Karaanaa Dance Festival was on the theme of multiple perspectives of what is seen as Absolute Truth, a core principle of Jainism. Her engagement with the audience, though slightly smaller today, was so good in terms of the content and expression that they gave a spontaneous standing ovation to the performance.

At the philosophical level, there have been fierce debates on this metaphysical theory of many interpretations of Reality ever since it was propounded. Debates continue even today and for an average person, irrespective of their religion, raised on the perceptions of dharma and adharma, it is bewildering to accept two contradictory views as Truth. A standing ovation to the performance was in appreciation of the sookshma abhinaya Geeta Chandran demonstrated so well in its five segments partly in collaboration with Sudha Raghuraman. Significantly, the segments relate to Hinduism.

Anekanta by Geeta Chandran

The dancer takes off with Adi Shankaracharya's Shiva Panchakshara Stotra, "Om namah Sivaaya", which has five significant syllables: Na Ma Si Va Ya. According to the Tamil text, as it was explained (by Rajiv Chandran in a well-modulated voice in his announcement), the syllables refer to the feet, nabhi, shoulder, face and hair of the human body. From the initial Nagendrahaaraaya trilochnaaya to tasmai yakaaraaya namah Sivaaya in the fifth stanza, the popular shloka pithily shows how Lord Shiva embodies all elements of the Universe. With basic steps (adavus) characteristic of the form, her Jatiswaram in the segment that followed, exuding infinite joy of the seeker, explores the connection of the dancer to the infiniteness of the Universe.

The Hindu way of life accepts and celebrates diversity. At the same time, it asserts ekam sat stressed in the initial Vedic shloka. A sense of ekam draws in and absorbs manifestations of aneka as seen in the first two segments of the delightfully expressive work Anekanta. It is the remaining three of the five segments - the famous song on Krishna in Kannada, an episode from Valmiki Ramayana in Hindi and a Kabir bhajan in Hindi with connotatively rich dialectical touches - forming the whole of the significant production that come close to the Jain perspective.

Anekanta by Geeta Chandran

Mother Yashoda's vatsalya bhava is generally expressed by the dancer in Krishna nee Begane. In Anekanta, Geeta has two more interpretations. Besides fondly showering affection as a mother on child Krishna, she portrays a lovelorn Nayika expressing her love for Krishna, the lover, and also as a devotee yearning for deliverance. In the Ramayana episode her Ravana without any trace of haughtiness emerges as a refined individual with the garima of his own in keeping with his reputation as a Shiva bhakta scholar. He looks at Sita fully face downwards with an admiring eye and refrains from even touching her, admitting though to his heart having been swooped on and captured.

The concluding Kabir pada celebrates the infinity within every human body, which is like a ghata (pot). Yah ghata antar anahada garaje, he sings, with dashavidha naada like shankha-nada, venu-nada, ghanta-nada, veena-naada and so on. ‘Why seek God outside?' he asks.

Dr. S.D. Desai
Dr. S.D. Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts Critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti, Nartanam and Attendance. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer.

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