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Mahabharata comes to life this weekend

Published: 
Friday, October 26, 2012
The young Pandavas from left Ishtika Tota-Maharaj, Summer Boopsingh, Ariane Quash, Dwithi Hariharan and Amritha Maharaj) with their Guru Dronacharya (Rohini Sankar)

 

Popular films have been getting musical makeovers in recent years—Stephen King’s Carrie, Disney’s The Lion King, Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, Stephen Spielberg’s The Color Purple, to name a few. Some failed to impress, others have won critical acclaim. 
 
This weekend, Nrityanjali Theatre, a non-profit organisation tackles this reinvention trend with its Indian classical dance (Odissi) style ballet version of an ancient Indian story titled, The Path to Righteousness—Episodes from the Mahabharata at Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain.
 
Mandira Balkaransingh, artistic director of the group said she had the project in mind for many years but faced the challenge of condensing the epic into a shorter form—previously made into a lengthy 94-episode television series during the 1990s. “For more than three months the dancers rehearsed all weekend and weekday evenings. It came to life as a special way to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of T&T’s independence,” Balkaransingh said.
 
“Narration will help the audience to follow the storyline. Dancers’ movements and body language will assist understanding the story. The number of characters have been reduced also to the more relevant ones. Each scene ends with a lesson to be learned from the act.”
 
Balkaransingh credits the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation for their artistic support to the 90-minute ballet. Dancer Roshni Saith, 28, group member since the age of eight, is part of the cast of many young professionals.
 
An attorney with Ernst and Young, Saith said: “The ballet features live musicians together with dancers from the Caribbean School of Dance, including Valini Nagessar, a civil engineer. Everything joins together seamlessly to give the audience a well-rounded theatre experience.
 
Tabla, Pakhawaj drums, guitar and the harmonium (organ) are just a few of the instruments which will be played live. “Apart from the struggle between the Pandavas and Kauravas (two feuding families), Lord Krishna and Arjuna, the underlying message is one that reinforces living right, giving more of yourself.
 
“This is the first time the story will be staged live in the Caribbean. It was done in France previously and took about five years to put together,” Saith added. Benny Gomes will help bring the dramatic aspects of the Mahabharata to life with his enormous experience in lighting design.
 
Kevin Bachan assisted in executing scenes, having recently attained “Manch Pravesh” status. Manch Pravesh is of great importance in the study of Indian classical dance. It is a public performance put on by a student after the Guru (teacher) feels that the necessary skills have been acquired.
 
• For more information, call 640-4107, 640-8912 or 640-6836. Showtime is 6pm on October 27th and 28th.
 

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