'Magic Bow' turns Lalgudi Jayaraman's compositions into a narrative 

After a hiatus of three years, JustUs Repertory is back with a new show that blends music, dance and theatre

author_img Rupam Jain Published :  13th January 2023 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  13th January 2023 12:00 AM


Ever wondered what a composer has in mind when he creates his music? That’s exactly what Dr Gowri Ramnarayan, playwright, theatre director, and former journalist, now freelance writer and translator, seeks to delve into with her latest work, Magic Bow. Ahead of the premiere, we spoke to Gowri to know more about this unique amalgamation.

“My script and directorial design grew out of listening to Lalgudi Jayaraman, the master bowman’s music from childhood. My understanding acquired more dimensions when I interviewed him as a journalist and reviewed his concerts as a critic. Now JustUs Repertory combines dance, music and storytelling to recreate the visual scenarios for the music as imagined by the composer. There is also a special segment depicting his childhood experiences in his native village, the source of his inspiration in life and music,” she begins.

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Lalgudi Jayaraman was a violin maestro, much sought after soloist. “Then, he became a composer, for a strange reason. Dancer Kumari Kamala, later known as Kamala Lakshman asked him to compose something, and he came up with a varnam. He then went on to compose tillanas. He decided to compose varnams and tillanas because there were few takers, but they were major dance numbers and dancers were requesting him to compose,” Gowri informs us.

Two years ago, while Gowri was going through some old papers, she found some reference notes from the interviews she had done with the violinist. “I knew Lalgudi Jayaraman from my childhood, and later when I interviewed him, he spoke at length about his composition. I didn’t write any of it in the articles because his answers were mostly about music. But when I read those notes again, I realised that for every single composition of his, he had a complete scenario worked out!” she exclaims.

All the varnams and tillanas that Lalgudi Jayraman composed have been choreographed by leading dancers, and Gowri says she had asked him what he feels about those creations, to which he said they were all brilliant. “But then I asked him if he had imagined the same, to which he replied ‘no’, and then shared his visualisation with me, which I recalled and wrote down as well as I could remember, in a script,” she shares. Gowri remembers the violist sharing with her this idea he had, while he composed, of two people going on a journey, taking their boat to the sea and a storm coming up. That is how his jatiswaram in raga rasikapriya depicts a shipwrecked couple exploring an uninhabited island. “I thought it was fascinating, and I have chosen a few of his compositions to recreate his narrative on stage,” she says.

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While the concept, script, direction, and storytelling is by Gowri, the choreography is helmed by Sheejith Krishna, who will be sharing the stage with fellow bharatanatyam dancer Anjana Anand. “They are going to use bharatanatyam to express certain things which are a little different from what you expect.”

Ask her why it is titled Magic Bow, and Gowri explains, “Lalgudi Jayraman developed a unique style of his own that had a spellbinding effect on his audiences. Moreover, he always thought of the voice and the bow going together when he composed.”

January 21, 6.30 pm. 
At Rukmini Ranagam,