What if Abhimanyu knew his way out of the Chakravyuh during the epic war in Mahabharata? What if Meerabai never worshipped Krishna but was merely a poetess who sought ‘an alternate’ direction? What if Kauravas and Pandavas were not black and white characters but had shades of grey?
It’s these questions that Sriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra’s Festival of Ballets is attempting to answer over the next one week. A series of dance-dramas that redefine mythological stories, the festival, in its tenth year, aims at re-interpreting them in a contemporary context.
While the popular Karna and Meera are back this year as well, it’s the resurrection of Abhimanyu and Parikrama that was being eagerly awaited.
“Over two years, most of our productions have gone through a drastic change. After poring over research material, the story of Karna, Abhimanyu and even Meerabai has changed based on all that I have read,” says Shobha Deepak Singh, director and producer of the ballets. “For example, I began probing why the Pandavas needed to sacrifice Arjun’s son Abhimanyu during the war? Why did his mother, Subhadra fall asleep only when the way out from the Chakravyuh was being narrated to her? The answers changed the way I felt about the story and over the last two years I have tweaked the story over and over.”
While the storytelling is contemporary, the music, dance and costumes remain traditional. Fest choreographer Sashidhar Nair says Chhau and Kathak are the two main dance forms used. “But we’ve introduced Kalaripayyatu to make the war sequences dramatic.”
Both Karna (which was performed last night) and Abhimanyu (to be staged on May 13) have been dramatised in the Mayurbhanj Chhau style.
Brace up for the ballets.