What happens when the spirit of bhakti in the words of great poets such as Kalidas, Tulsi Das, Lal Ded and Ammacharya is depicted through dance by India’s renowned classical dancers? The answer is NCPA’s Mudra Dance Festival of Dance and Poetry — Stark Raving Mad.
“Stark Raving Mad is a line from a Tukaram poem, translated by the poet Arun Kolatkar. I was hoping it would give a flavour of the festival. Bhakti poetry is a great radical heritage to which we are heir in this country — sacred and sensuous, all at once. I wanted this festival to celebrate it in a way that accentuates its aliveness, its diversity, its refusal to separate the erotic from the existential,” Arundhathi Subramaniam, organiser of the festival.
Speaking to us from Delhi, Vaidyanathan, whose performance is called Mad and Divine, will showcase two mystic poets of India — Janabai — A Marathi stage poet of the 13th century — and Lal Ded or Lalleshwari, a Kashmiri state poet of 1450. “Both characters are different. While Janabai, a Shudra Vaishnav, believed in the form of Pandurang, Lal Ded, a pandit Shaiite, believed in the formless. The only similarity they shared was that they were mad and divine,” explains Vaidyanathan, who wants to show modern India the spunk of the two saints.
If this one performance has created a tremor of excitement in your stomach, the line up only gets better — Sujata Mohapatra, Kapila Venu, Prerana Shrimali and Alarmel Valli. Subramaniam adds, “While Sujata has chosen Tulsidas, Alarmel Valli has choreographed an entirely new production on Annamacharya’s poetry.”
Each dance performance will be followed by a discussion with the dancer.
Meanwhile, Mohapatra has chosen three texts — one in Hindi, one in Sanskrit and one in Oriya. What I find poignant and powerful about the Bhakti poetry and philosophy is the intimacy between God and devotee in which barriers of caste, sect and sex dissolve. I hope to present the regional flavor of Bhakti in Odissi and touch upon the pan-Indian nature of the movement.
When: April 24 to 28
At: NCPA, Experimental Theatre, Nariman Point