Bharatanatyam with a flight of imagination and confluence of mediums
By Siddhi Jain
"Antariksha Sanchar" is a unique fantasy production with six classical Bharatanatyam performers, led by veteran danseuse Jayalakshmi Eshwar, dancing to the beat of electronic music. It's a riveting tale of airplane flights and the "irrational world of dreams and rational world of (Indian maths genius) Ramanujan", its creator says.
Its title translating to "transmissions in space", the multimedia dance production was conceptualised in 2010 by Eshwar -- who is married to an Indian Air Force pilot -- as a tale of ‘vimaanas' or airplanes.
"The 2010 version was purely dance, no animation or DJ music. It was based on what mythology said could fly -- Hanumaan, ‘Pushpaka Vimana' and ‘Vaimanika Shastra', a Sanskrit text on aerospace technology," the Bharatnatyam exponent, who has been performing since 1970, told IANS.
"Then my son Avinash came in with the animation," she added.
What started then was nothing short of an "experiment in transmedia cultural experience", as design strategist and Eshwar's son Avinash Kumar put it.
"The production is a combination of music, dance, visuals and video games," explained Kumar, who also designed a video game titled "Antariksha Sanchar" to popularise south Indian culture.
A visual spectacle on stage, the production features seven trained classical dancers, who, through poised ‘abhinaya', demonstrate the story of young Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), whose contribution to mathematics is profound.
"Ramanujan said he saw his mathematics pursuits in dreams," Kumar said, adding that the production combines the irrational world of dreams and the rational world of maths and Ramanujan.
The production, which is a mix of many mediums, also has a gripping storyline.
The 90-minute staging has the characters of Ramanujan and a classical dancer, Sita, as its protagonists. As it evolves, the storyline shows the math prodigy meeting mendicants and priests, who tell him that he is destined to build a ‘vimaana'.
With the almost-psychedelic digital animation taking the viewers through a soujourn of south Indian aesthetic culture, the dancers show Ramanujan entering his ‘swapna lok' (world of dreams), to retrieve the formula to build a ‘vimaana'.
The production, complete with music and animations, took about a year-and-a-half to complete, Eshwar said.
The novel additions, however, did not bother the exponent, who comes from an "orthodox" dancing background.
"I had performed "Awakening" and "Akhanda Laya", which were productions with similar music. I realised fusing electronic music with our own Sanskrit lyrics does wonders for a young audience," she said.
A 35-minute preview of "Antariksha Sanchar" was recently staged at the Triveni Kala Sangam, and was presented by Red Bull music. It will be staged at Mumbai's Royal Opera House on November 22, and Delhi's Kamani Auditorium on December 5.-IANS