By Impana Kulkarni
The songs of Mirabai have touched the lives of many. Amongst them stand two great artists of the past century - M S Subbulakshmi and Smt Rukmini Devi Arundale. MS sang for the film Mira (1947) and Rukmini Devi's last production was 'Mira of Mewar' (1984). Gowri Ramnarayan becomes the connecting link between them. Grand neice of MS and vocalist for Rukmini Devi's production on Mira, she learnt and enjoyed both their renderings of Mira's songs and brought them together artistically, in the recent production on Sept 17 by JustUs repertory in collaboration with Kalakshetra - 'Miradasi'.
the evening began with a book release by the Director of Kasturi and Sons, Sri N. Ravi, on M S Subbulakshmi, containing episodes of her life through the eyes of The Hindu. The stage lights then dimmed, creating a retrospective atmosphere; with two fluorescent light columns at the back, an installation of Krishna by Smt Gowri Gopalan on the right, seven musicians and Smt Gowri Ramnarayan – the sutradhari in the centre. With a bell’s sound she sprung into a picturesque description of Rajasthan, guiding the audience through the desert sands, till a palace window overlooking a pond, Mira’s seat of reverie. The musicians then echoed her thoughts – ‘Kamala nayana, kakamala charana…’ Savita Narasimhan, Nisha Rajagopalan, Amritha Murali and Vignesh Ishwar minstrelled to instruments recorded by Sai Shravanam,Eashwar Ramakrishnan, and Vishnu Vijay, and composed by Dilipkumar Roy and Pandit Falguni Mitra.
Gowri Ramnarayan walked through Mira’s life, pausing at every milestone moment, as the musicans sang pieces relevant to that time. Little Mira fell in love with Krishna's idol and sang hugging it. Vignesh Eashwar, the only male vocalist in the group, lulled the audience into a deep meditative mood singing ‘Jaun tore charan baladhari’, a Raidas bhajan. Golden verses of Mira like ‘Prabhuji tum chandan hum paani’ and ‘Baso more nainan me nanda lala’ instantly struck a familiar chord with the audience.
To Mira, her dream was her truth. She defied clan rules, family expectations and followed her heart. The Mughal emperor Akbar himself is said to have come down to hear her. When her husband wanted her dead, she wrote to Saint Tulsidas. Here Priyadarshini Govind and Professor A. Janardhanan of Kalakshetra enacted what might have transpired between Mira and Tulsidas, to Amritha and Vignesh’s music. Mira’s plea for guidance and Tulsidas’s gentle reply was simply and beautifully performed by them.
Gowri Ramnarayan's narration drove the audience's emotions high and low with every change in Mira's situation. The choice of ragas further strengthened the mood. For instance, while a 'Mayi mhane supane me' in Raag Talaka Bhairavi made us empathise with little Mira who dreams of Krishna, a 'Chaahkar raakhoji' in Raag Bilawal immediately lifted everyone's spirits.
Mira liked to call her Lord Giridhari; and Giridhari loved holi. Two students of Kalakshetra - Amalnath and Aryamba- presented a fun-filled raas to 'Jhoolat radha' in Raag Hindol, choreographed by Sri Haripadman.
In a time of war and conquest, Mira prayed to the Lord who dropped his weapons and conquered her heart; 'Mhara mann har leenya Ranchod re'. In him she saw the saviour. 'Hari tum haro jann ki peedh'. In just twenty four songs the show summed Mira's life and love through her own writings. Mira truly was, in Gowri Ramnarayan's words, an immortal artist and a constant lover.