Tuesday 8 May 2012

Ashavari Majumdar’s Surpanakha - an experiment in Kathak - Dr. Sunil Kothari

When I received a call from Kolkata from Kathak dancer Ashavari Majumdar requesting me to save the date 20th April 2012 for an evening at Habitat Centre, I could not place her. She sent me an e-invite in advance and it simply stated ‘Surpanakha- an experiment in Kathak.’ She followed it up with a few phone calls, knowing that dance calendar in Delhi gets full with simultaneous performances and critics may not turn up, and audiences also get divided.

I am glad I attended her performance. It was an interesting experiment. With projection of visuals, four live musicians - vocalist, sarangi player, a tabla player and a pakhavaj player - a team of light designer and projectionists for visuals. A screen on the stage was placed before a white backdrop. With the strains of melodious sarangi and playing of tabla, the mood was set. Ashavari entered dressed in a cut size silver blouse, revealing right shoulder and attired in a flared ghaghara (skirt) in off white colour, taking pirouettes like a whirlwind, covering the stage and after a while, stood near the mike. Collecting her breath, she introduced the topic. Taking full advantage of talking to the audience as Kathak dance form allows, she started telling the story of Surpanakha, who had her nose cut off by Lakshmana when she made advances to him after Rama sent her to him. With nose covered, taking a symbolic posture, Ashavari with projection on the screen creating environmental ambience, forest, stone walls, let loose a storm. The mood of Surpanakha was enhanced further by the flaring whirling ghaghara. With a commanding stage presence, she looked like a royal princess, sister of King Ravana.

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