By Bidisha Roy
Apart from the typical bio-geographical aspects of the monsoon, several poignant, humane feelings and emotions entwined with the rain are universal in nature. The wife-husband duo from India, Bharatanatyam exponent Indira Kadambi and Carnatic musician T.V. Ramprasadh, brought a taste of such sublimity with their production Varsha Rithu on 24 September at the Pim Off Theatre in Milan. The event was organised by the Accademia Sangam led by Lucrezia Maniscotti.
Vishnu R. (son of Indira and Ramprasadh) opened the evening with a musical introduction on his guitar. He was effortlessly impressive with his explorations of Indian ragas such as Charukesi (around the composition Shoodoorey by Neil Mukherjee), followed by his own composition Moksha which created a frictionless bridge between Western jazz and Indian classical sounds. He wove an ambience that touched the audience and it sustained into a beautiful pacific preparation for what was to follow.
Varsha Rithu was segmented into exploring through three core aspects taken from the ocean of quintessential emotions that are invigorated by the monsoon. The first segment Varsha Aagaman was themed upon the advent of the monsoon. The parched earth and its living beings yearning desperately towards the monsoon sky, thirsty nature pining for drops of life from the pregnant clouds, earthly beings pleading to the Gods to shoot the 'varsha baan' and save their restless souls—such intense sufferings and prayers were painted alive by T.V. Ramprasadh's surreal and heartening voice (composition based on Andal's Tiruppavai) and were taken to an absolutely picturesque visualisation by Indira Kadambi in her abhinaya portraying the peculiarities of the characters, the contexts and the emotions. The invocation was followed by the joyful arrival of the monsoon where one of the many striking ingredients was that the jatis were composed in the syllables of the sound of rain. Beautiful personalisation of the first rain drops touching the body, mind and soul—the joy and mad excitement—was brought to life by Indira as she played with the rain water like an innocent child inside a youthful heroine. The crude and earthly joy was so infectious that it felt as if it had indeed started raining inside the theatre. It was pouring heavily with her artistic mastery in this act. T.V. Ramprasadh's composition and heart piercing vocals around Tandalai mayilgalaada made it all breathtaking. The dancing peacock, the buzzing bees, the deer, birds, the drumming thunders from the clouds, the flourishing flora and fauna—in oneness Mother Nature celebrated the arrival of the monsoon.
The second segment was Rati-Varsha with texts spanning the power and influence of monsoon on love. Monsoon magnifies the pain in lovers who are separated and are longing for union just like the atma or soul longs to be united with the paramatma or truth of its divine. Such highlighted desire of oneness, the severity in the restlessness and the spiritual loneliness were touched upon by Ramprasadh's soulful rendition of Hari awan ki awaz in Miyan ki Malhar. The rain of passion, love and devotion of Meerabai towards her beloved Krishna was paralleled to the earth’s everlasting desire to be united with the sky. The beauty and power of Indira’s performance in this segment reached a certain kind of oneness which shall remain etched in many minds as an unforgettable piece.
The denouement was about Aatma-Varsha or monsoon and the soul—the universal concept of redemption, where rain symbolises the cleansing and pacification of the soul to reach the ultimate truth and peace. Different living beings with different karmas go through the same cycle of life and seasons (from being born to evolving through different stages of childhood, adulthood and old age to death) to be reunited with the same universal, supreme origin. Powerful composition around Tiruvalluvar's Tirukkural was rendered by Ramprasadh's soul stirring singing and the concept was illuminated through Indira Kadambi's mature nritta and abhinaya. Atma-Varsha took the audience a step closer to re-appreciating monsoon as a season to reflect upon self.
A special mention is worth for the unique costumes of Indira Kadambi designed by V.V. Ramani, which enhanced the visual essence of the acts in each of the three segments.
It was a coming together of three individualistic and powerful artists—Indira, Vishnu and Ramprasadh—who drenched the canvas with layers of strongly impassioned colours and feelings of the monsoon. It poured the beauty, artistry and power of Indian classical art and music in Milan.
(Photos by Bidisha Roy)