A dance-drama that marries modern and mythological stories of the celestial nymph
Mythology and modern-day themes of women empowerment come together in a big-ticket dance-drama on the celestial nymph
Mandeera Manish in the performance
As pink and purple lights envelop the stage in an ethereal glow, Urvashi makes an entry. Decked in jewellery from head to toe, the celestial nymph has been bestowed with the gift of immortality. However, she is bound to four vows - to never fall in love, keep emotions in check, never marry and dedicate her life to Indra.
The dancers use masks to symbolise rakshasas
Her curiosity about earthly pleasures leads her to descend on the planet. Here, she witnesses different scenes - a pair of swans swimming together, a mother crying to save her kidnapped son - that reveal the beauty of love. She also meets Raja Pururava, who evokes a gamut of emotions in her, and she faces the dilemma of choosing between pursuing her true love and upholding her vows.
This forms the premise of Urvashi, a dance-drama presentation that celebrates womanhood by retelling the story of the mythological maiden. Premiering this weekend, the Mantra Vision production has been choreographed and directed by acclaimed theatre artistes Sushant Jadhav and Vaibhav Arekar.
A modern context
"Urvashi's story is relevant in today's times. She questioned her lack of freedom of choice, something modern women struggle with too. The theme is women empowerment," says Jadhav, who read books on Urvashi for research. "We also added fictional elements to turn it into a dance-drama presentation." Arekar adds, "In recent times, dance-dramas have dwindled as solo performances are taking precedence. The idea is to revive the genre."
With a musical score by Alap Desai, the performance features live Hindi narration and dialogue. The cast comprises 25 members, including dancers from the duo's academy, Sankhya Dance Creations. To make it a visual treat, they use a variety of props, including masks, to symbolise the rakshasa (devil) characters.
Meanwhile, the lead character is essayed by Mandeera Manish, trained in the Thanjavur style of Bharatanatyam. "The movements in this particular style helped me express the essence of Urvashi better because they are more graceful and flowy. The Thanjavur style is less prominent now as compared to the Pandanallur or Kalakshetra styles of Bharata-natyam," shares the artiste, who learnt it under the tutelage of Dr Sandhya Purecha, and has performed in ballets like Parvati Parinay and Dashavtar. Though replete with glamorous costumes and ornate set design, Manish assures, "We've maintained the authenticity. The theme is also relatable to the younger audiences."
On: December 29, 7.30 pm
At: Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi
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