Avikathika: A thought provoking dance production
- Vinita Radhakrishnan
November 11, 2023
I got an opportunity to watch an online show which was being streamed from the United States, of young and talented dancers staying in different parts of the country who came together to choreograph and present a wonderful thematic presentation 'Avikathika (she with an untold story)' as part of Yuva 2023 organized by Silambam Houston Programming. This production was birthed by a bunch of young dancers living in different parts of the United States, who come from different disciplines of Indian classical dance. The artistes, who conceived, structured, choreographed, and performed were Chinmayi Gudi, Deepta Sheshadri, Jothika Gorur, Pooja Ganesh, Srinija Adibhatla, Tarika Nath, Vidhya Madhubala Rajasekar and Sunil Kumar. Chinmayi, Deepta, Jothika, and Madhubala are young artistes trained in Bharatanatyam. Pooja and Tarika are Kathak dancers, Srinija has her training in Kuchipudi and Sunil is a Chenda player.
Set in the backdrop of the 'Golu festival' which forms an important part of Navaratri celebrations in South India, this production is tied together with an entertaining conversation between a very patient mother and her young and smart daughter as they are arranging the dolls on their Golu stand and reimagining their stories keeping aside the patriarchal prejudices and embracing the strength and the conviction of women in Indian mythology. While some stories were retold in a new light, others were re-imagined. The dialogue between the mother and daughter was very tightly scripted and it was an absolute delight to watch.
The narrative begins with the story of Radha and her plight after Krishna left Vrindavan. The story realistically does show the viraha of Radha and her grief but it also shows how she copes with the grief and takes charge of the people of Vrindavan in Krishna's place giving meaning to her life even after Krishna moves on.
Kaikeyi's story was retold by giving her the benefit of doubt. The story took into consideration the core character of Kaikeyi prior to her demands when she was a benevolent, generous queen to Dasaratha and the people of Ayodhya. It also shows that although what she did helped in moving the narrative of the Ramayana, she was devastated after she sent Rama to the forest. Despite her guilt, she spent her remaining life continuing to be the benevolent queen that she always was.
The narrative then moves to a very unique story of Parvati and Ganga. In the story, Parvati throws a tantrum big enough to convince Shiva to not tie Ganga in his hair. She tried all ways at her disposal to fight for Ganga's freedom. In the next story, the dancer explores the possibility of a potential friendship between Kannagi and Madhavi which could make a positive societal difference.
The narrative then takes us to a retelling of the story of Draupadi, who is often blamed for the Kurukshetra War. Her actions were for the greater good. If an empress like her could not save herself from the humiliation she was made to face, then what chance did the normal women of the country have? She did what she did for their sake.
This was followed by the story of Gandhari who although was forced to accept her fate as a wife, mother, and queen, lived a life of righteousness and ensured that the actions that were under her control were carried out as per dharma. The final segment was on Andal, who expresses her love and desire for her lord with the same passion and earnestness with which she expresses her anger and disappointment in him.
What was unique about this production apart from the refreshing concept was that it seamlessly moved from one segment to another despite the change in dance styles and forms. This was a collaborative effort of Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancers and they used their medium very tactfully to create this work. Moreover, the fact that the research, music, choreography, and performance were handled by these young artistes on their own is commendable. I personally enjoyed watching this production. It was a visual treat that also stimulated my mind.
Bangalore based Bharatanatyam dancer Vinita Radhakrishnan has a Diploma from the Attakkalari Center for Movement Art with basic training in various contemporary dance techniques, Ballet, Kalari, Chhau and Deverattom. Professionally, she is a Patent Attorney and is currently working as a Senior Partner at BananaIP Counsels.