Odissi dancer Sreyashi Dey's new productions combine dance, music, theatre and spoken word
Sreyashi Dey, a US-based Odissi dancer and Dheeman Bhattacharyya, a theatre performer and assistant professor of Comparative Literature at Vishwa Bharati, are coming together with their new productions Hidimba, Manini and Niraba Rajani at Vrityant — an evening of immersive storytelling performance which looks at the Katha tradition through dance, music, theatre and the spoken word.
Hidimba is the story of the demon princess, who was married to Bhima, in the Mahabharata. “It is a different form of a storytelling, where I will be using body movements with abhinaya. Along with some Odissi steps, I will be using some martial arts and Chau movements. Anshuman Das has written the script, Malini Mukherjee is the storyteller and the music has been recorded by Suvasis Sarkar,” says Sreyashi Dey, the founder and artistic director of Srishti Dances of India and Akshara.
“I wanted to explore the different female characters portrayed in the Mahabharata, especially the negative characters and why they are portrayed in such a way. I found myself empathising with Hidimba because she is used by the patriarchal system. There are a lot of resonances with the #Metoo movement because, although she chooses to marry Bhima, why was she given that choice and why did society put those conditions on her?” asks Sreyashi.
The second performance is a traditional solo Odissi recital, called Manini, based on the Radha-Krishna tale. “The story is about Radha which simultaneously dwells on a woman performer who enters into the character and connects with the audience as Radha,” she explains.
Niraba Rajani is an adaptation of The Hungry Stones, written by Rabindranath Tagore. The solo dance-theatre production by Dheeman interprets the short story, famous for its supernatural elements, as an artiste’s quest for meaning and significance in his art. “I was very much influenced by Heisnam Kanhailal’s production of Kshudito Pashan. For me, the entire journey of Kshudito Pashan is about how an artiste looks at his or her own work — trying to grasp the meaning but not being able to do so, through the physical agency of the body,” says the professor, who specialises in literature and other arts.
“The performance will have physical body movements, with dance, narration and three songs, accompanied by live music, with drums, cajon and violin,” he adds.
Dheeman’s adaptation is born out of an extensive research on Tagore’s works and letters created around that time, including the song Niraba Rajani, after which the production had been named. “My interpretation is an impressionistic take of Tagore’s works, as I wanted to capture how an artiste responds to the external stimuli, while creating an art form. I visited the Moti Shahi Mahal (known as the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial now) to get a look and feel of the places, so that I could recreate it on stage,” informs Dheeman.
Vrityant, featuring Hidimba, Manini and Niraba Rajani will premiere at Janus, Centre for Visual and performing Arts, Park Street on February 9, at 7 pm.