Scent of a woman

The pleasure of attending an Indian classical dance performance lies is the fact that it is always based on a mythologicalstory from ancient texts. This week, Kathakali dancer, Prabal Gupta, will perform Stree Vesham, where the male dancer dons the role of a woman.

The 37-year-old disciple of Guru Sri Sadanan Balakrishnan, a Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee and research scholar, will perform a pure dance Padam, enacting episodes from two kathas, the Mahabharata and the Hanumat Puran. “The characters in both the items differ,” says Gupta, who has been performing for the past 25 years.

With this performance, he will experiment with a solo form. “Kathakali performances are dance dramas performed in groups. It is not always possible to put up a large show. It is my attempt to evolve a solo form, while the choreography and costumes will remain traditional.”

Kathakali dancer Prabal Gupta
Kathakali dancer Prabal Gupta dons the costume of a woman

Before the performance, Gupta will interact with the audience, speaking about the mythological stories on which the drama is based, and explain a few concepts of Kathakali. “It is a dancers responsibility to make the audience comfortable with the subject,” says Gupta.

The performance
Gupta’s main feat is the piece from Bhagvat Puran, where Vishnu takes the form of a boar and saves the earth. It goes on to narrate the story of their son Narkasura, who is sent to capture heaven. While returning, his sister, Nakrathundi, meets Jayanthan -- the seductvive son of Indra. “Nakrathundi transforms into Lalita and tries to seduce Jayanthan.

Lalita tells him how lucky she is to receive him as her husband, but the latter says he must ask her father, whether he can marry her. Dejected, Lalitha transforms into a Rakshasi,” explains Gupta, who will end the performance with the famous song Vaishnav Jana by Narasimha Mehta. “But there is a twist. The song is a sopanam, a Kerala style of singing by Mohan Krishnan Poduval,” says Gupta, concluding that he will perform the recorded beats of three percussions called edakkya, maddalam and chenda, along with the kirtalan.

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