Sudarshan Chakravorty’s Rituranga celebrates the six seasons of India
Gone are the days when seasons were seasonal. With deforestation and global warming increasing by the hour, the six Indian seasons, we were once so accustomed with, have gone for a toss. Now, there's hardly any feel-good interim periods before summer and winter called spring and autumn respectively. And that precisely has led renowned choreographer Sudarshan Chakraborty to revisit his production ‘Rituranga - A symphony of seasons’.
Based on the poetry and music of the Bengali bard, Rabindranath Tagore, this 50-minute piece explores the six seasons of India - grishma (summer), varsha (monsoon), sharat (post-monsoon), hemanta (autumn), sheeta (winter) and vasanta (spring). “Looking at the seasons today, I realise that people aren’t experiencing the six seasons. So, this production is also a good reference in the context of climate change and global warming. Ahead of world environment day, we are telling you, ‘Look! these were the six seasons and they are becoming historical’,” says 46-year-old Chakravorty, founder of dance academy Sapphire Creations.
Originally conceptualised back in 2005, Rituranga is a contemporary dance performance set to the western philharmonic orchestra. Sudarshan tells us that though it went to various global festivals including Nishagandhi Festival (Kerala Tourism), Uday Shankar Dance Festival (Government of Delhi), Nritya Sanrachna Festival (Sangeet Natak Academy) and North American Bengali Conference in San Francisco, such production was rare in those days.
“Rituranga is an archetypal dance representation of Tagore’s work where people already have a strong bias about how it should be... So, 15 years ago, when I presented Tagore’s music and songs in a complete avant-garde way, it came as a shock to many. But, Rituranga opens up Tagore to people who don’t know Bangla. So, in a way, Tagore was set free in the realms of a non-linguistic visual representation of seasons of India,” states Chakravorty, adding that the contemporary dance movement wasn’t as acceptable to people in 90s and early 2000s as it is now.
“There was a huge anti-lobbying against contemporary and it was difficult to get accepted because Rabindranath Tagore and Uday Shankar were and still are icons in Bengal and anything to do with their idea or content couldn't be experimented with. So, any attempt to reinterpret was considered sinful,” he rues.
But, it wasn’t just Rituranga, Chakravorty had raised eyebrows through many of his productions, including Alien Flower (1996), which he says was Asia’s first LGBTQ production. “We performed it recently, just days before the historic judgement that repealed section 377, looking at the plurality of the people who are being accepted or who are fighting to come out. Looking back, most of our productions were revolutionary since we were always trying to not just create an alternate vocabulary of dance which is now celebrated as contemporary but were also trying to bring people out of their comfort zone,” avers the choreographer, who is a gay and has worked upon subjects like relationships, sexuality, menstruation and LGBTQ among other tabooed subjects.
“Interestingly, both contemporary dance and LGBTQ community were alien for the art community and were perceived as something derogatory. While contemporary dance was rejected because it wasn’t seen as an art for the kings or Gods, the LGBTQ community wasn’t considered important since they don’t procreate. But now this dance form has now been recognised by the Sangeet Natak Academy, the Ministry of Culture and other traditional cultural centres because you cannot reject the success of reality shows that are featuring contemporary dances,” he concludes with a hint of pride.
Rituranga will be performed at GD Birla Sabhaghar on June 4, 6.30 pm