Have you ever seen a dance-drama production where the storyline narrates a dialogue between two rivers? The dance feature highlights that we have lost the intrinsic, hidden, developmental, and spiritual values in the process of humanity’s progress and have misused them.
Sri Rajarajeshwari Kalaniketan, in its Samanvay Arts Festival, presents ‘Jeeva Nadhi’ based on the heated exchanges by India’s soon-drying-up rivers Tunga and Bhadra, directed and choreographed by well-known Kuchipudi dancer and guru Veena Murthy Vijay.
To be live-performed on March 13 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, 5-30pm, the production is a thematic narrative to “restore rights of the rivers for water security,” says Veena, who took nearly four months of planning and rehearsal to put-them all together.
What makes Jeeva Nadhi more enriched is that the production is based on the researched venture by environmentalist Dr. AN Yellappa Reddy, whose study of the “truly drying rivers, parched and thirsty to have their flow again” is custom-made to dance. With Arjun Bharadwaj doing the script and lyrics, this rare adaptation has a curious flow, couched in melody by Praveen D. Rao’s deft handling the composed verses.
Veena Murthy explains that Jeeva Nadhi is narrated in a way that it traces the origins from Lord Varaha, who speaks of the river’s starting point… from the dewdrops and raindrops collecting all the bio-rich minerals from the soil and tree cover to the metals from rocks… a journey of water is converted to ‘Teertha’ for the earth to be rich and fertile.
The plot unfolds with the two characters personified as Tunga and Bhadra narrating the stories of great Saints like Shankaracharya and the civilizations and kingdoms that flourished on these river banks. It is an interesting dialogue that turns into a tiff between Tunga and Bhadra, revealing the story of the rivers.
But how did the idea of having a dance-narrative on Tungabhadra come up for a dance? “Talking of Tungabhadra river would be touching on a national water security issue which we thought has to be addressed now. In Magha Maasa, one is used to seeing a dearth of water. Unless we respect and restore the rights to rivers and create awareness, it will not happen, something that our Prime Minister too appealed in his Mann Ki Baat,” explains Veena Murthy.
The Herculean task was flagged off when Veena’s mentor and guide, environmental activist Yellappa Reddy shared his study of the Tungabhadra river he had undertaken nearly 18 months ago. “Reddy has poignantly brought out the state of the shriveled river belt that would soon be extinct. Our bond with the Tungabhadra river runs much higher than its noticeable functionality. We are emotionally connected to the historic water body. Imagine if the name Tungabhadra didn’t mean anything to children, 10 years hence. When Reddy shared this, I was driven to the point of developing the idea onto the dance stage. It’s a small contribution to the world of dance from me,” says Veena.
Seeing the rehearsal, one imagined that although the challenge of translating it onto a dance-stage was huge, for the experienced danseuse, who has dealt with many productions on stage, it was yet another tale to be worked with finesse. “I come from a background of Kuchipudi-Yakshagana where in Yakshagana in it is a complete blend of dance-drama art with a striking blend of literature and music. Bringing in abstract elements like the river’s journey from its birth, its flow from the virgin hills and mountains adds to its poetic makeup. Arjun Bharadwaj has done literature in the form of certain kandapadyas (four liners) and certain darus (just like yakshagana darus) where characters introduce themselves are some of the elements that make it interesting,” says Veena.
With Shama Krishna as Tunga and Anuradha Vikranth as Bhadra, the whole drama unfolds with each boasting of their characters, and husbands Mahavishnu and Shiva who as supreme powers descend and advise “to save the man-made destruction in the name of Pragati (progress) and exhort people to relate to divinity and take a leaf out of our scriptures.”
The melody employed for the production is called the Laksha-Sangeetha, suitable for the theme and dance. “Praveen made use of classically based ragas with a blend of contemporary and classical idioms to translate the mood. One has to observe the soft instrumentation that doesn’t overwhelm you but embellishes the concept,” says Veena, adding renowned musicians as Pramath Kiran, Shruti Kamat Gurumurthy have their individual contributions that add to the effect.
20 renowned dancers depict the dance with the LED effect of the Tunga and Bhadra. The 90-minute-dance drama, ‘Jeevanadhi,’ will be performed at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall, March 13, 5.30 pm, Entry Free.