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Dance > Review
Maathru Devo Bhava
11 November, 2013

Maathru Devo Bhavaa, a dance production by the Parashah group comprising well known artistes Priya Murle, Roja Kannan, Aswathy and Srikanth, was an offering to express their reverence to universal motherhood. It aimed to explore the bond between a mother and her child which transcends all other relationships. To express the trials and tribulations as well as the joys that every mother undergoes they had chosen the legends ofKrishnaand Yashoda, Prahlada and Leelavathy and Shankuntala and Bharatha. The idea obviously was to showcase three types of mothers – foster mother, biological mother and a single mother. 

The programme commenced with all the four dancers presenting a lively pure Nrithya segment. The next item was by Srikanth was pure Abhinaya for a contemporary poem by Aniruddha describing what a mother goes through from pregnancy to bringing up a child till his/her adulthood.  Srikanth was on the left of the stage while on the right was seated singer Nandini Sharma Anand rendering the poem in Ragamalika. This could have been shorter. 

Aswathy was Yashoda, delighting in the pranks of baby Krishna and lovingly taking care of him; one day, while she is half asleep she hears other women ridiculing her for being so fond of an adopted child; but the moment she hears the baby calling her “Amma” everything else is forgotten.  While she was seen dozing on the right side of the stage, on the left was enacted Dedvaki and Vausdeva suffering in prison wondering about the next child which was on the way and Lord Vishnu appearing to assure them of his Avatar. Though Aswathy’s Abhinaya was quite good, the whole segment was rather lengthy and was becoming tiresome. 

Next came Priya as Leelavathy who is happy to learn about the birth of Prahlada, who would be a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, as her son from sage Narada. She is shocked, upset and helpless in the face of her husband’s attempts to kill her son, as  the demon king wants to be worshipped as the lord of the world. This ended in Priya herself enacting the killing of the demon (Srikanth) by Narasimha. Srikanth’s movements/gestures earlier  as he ordered his servants reminded one of the movements of a stringed puppet. 

The last one was Shakuntala, portrayed by Roja. Here too there was sancharis of the story of Shakuntala meeting Dushyanta, going through Gandarva Vivaha, eventually his forgetting and abandoning her and her bringing up of baby Bharatha alone. Here at least there was some lively movements using the space effectively. But on the whole in all the episodes the emotional content just did not come through; it did not touch one’s heart. 

The concept of motherly love is an abstract one and it need not be just between a woman and her child; it can be even the love of a woman who takes care of orphans and sharing her affection and love with all her wards equally without expecting anything in return. It could be someone like Mother Theresa, who offered motherly love to the unwanted, sick, abandoned and uncared for people, irrespective of their caste, creed, age or sex. Why was no contemporary example taken up? The three stories taken up have been danced any number of times by artistes be it in Bharatanatyam or any other classical style. It was obvious from a whole lot of people walking out half way through the programme or even earlier that the conceptualizing of the theme did not quite appeal to many in the gathering. 

In spite of being the disciples of different teachers the four dancers of Parashah (Alchemists stone) have been able to produce and perform in a unified manner for the last few years. Experienced artistes in their own right and winners of awards and accolades, why could they not think in a more contemporary way, while still adopting the classical style, in presenting a concept? 

The backdrop was simple and elegant as were the costumes of the dancers. Music and vocal support by Nandini Sharma Anand was appealing with interesting selection of Ragas. Her voice sounded better when she sang live than in the recorded version.  Nattuvangam was by Srikanth, Mridangam by Guru Bharadwaj, Violin by Easwar Ramakrishnan, flute by Shruthi Sagar and special effects by K.R. Venkatasubramaniam. 

Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant was the chief guest and Mr. Rajiv Menon  the guest of honour; they addressed the gathering on their idea of motherhood and motherly love before the commencement of the propgramme.


- Lakshmi Venkatraman

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