Dance company Ragamala is presenting a Bharatnatyam recital, titled Sthree, based on the famous epic Silapathikaram which celebrates the strength of women
The ancient Tamil epic Silapathikaram narrates the story of Kovalan and Kannagi, a couple who were living happily in Kaveripoompattinam in Tamil Nadu. Things take a turn for the worse when Kovalan falls in love with a dancer named Madhavi and loses his wealth to her.
He comes back to Kannagi and they decide to move to Madurai where Kovalan can start anew by selling Kannagi's anklet (referred to as Silambu in Tamil). The queen of Madurai had a similar anklet, which was stolen by the court jeweller.
When the jeweller spots Kovalan with the anklet, he takes him to the king and falsely accuses him of being a thief. Without a second thought, the king orders his men to behead Kovalan.
On hearing this, Kannagi marches into the court in rage and proves to the king that the anklet is indeed hers as they contain rubies while the queen's anklet had pearls in them.
Ashamed of their decision, the king and the queen die on the spot. To avenge her husband's death, Kannagi curses that the city of Madurai to burn to ashes and owing to her chastity, the city is engulfed with flames causing major death and destruction.
Performers presenting the adaptation of Silapathikaram
The epic, which was written by Ilango Adigal between 200 and 300 AD, is considered on par with the Ramayana and Mahabharata as the most important epic in the South.
It has also inspired several art forms in the past. Bharatnatyam dancer Ranee Ramaswamy decided to translate this inspirational story into a mesmerising dance recital titled, Sthree: A contemporary adaptation of the Silapathikaram, which will be showcased at the NCPA, today.
"This is the tale of a woman who avenged her husband's death. She suffered a lot but she stood up for her right when injustice was done," says Ranee, who has been successfully running the Ragamala dance company in Minnesota, USA, for the last two decades. "Silapathikaram explores the tension between the karma and dharma," she adds.
Having started her journey in dance at the age of 7, she followed her passion even after she got married and shifted base to America.
She started coming frequently to India to learn dance and soon established the dance company. Along with her daughter, she had the privilege of becoming the student of Alarmel Valli, considered to be one of the greatest Bharatnatyam dancers alive.
The performance on Silapathikaram, which has been choreographed by Ranee and her daughter Aparna Ramaswamy, features seven dancers.
"Each dancer moves in and out of a role. For example, a dancer will be Kannagi and Kovalan and this would hold true for another dancer as well," explains Ranee.
There will be English translations throughout the performance so that the audience can understand the story. Set to classical music, Ranee promises that it will be a memorable classical Bharatnatyam performance, which can be appreciated by everyone.
ON Today, 7 pm
At Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
CALl 22824567 / 66223724