Saturday, 03 December 2016 | Saritha Saraswathy Balan
Celebrating peace is the core of Nirvana, a performance choreographed in Odissi and Chhau by Aniruddha Das and Nibedita Mohapatra. By Saritha Saraswathy Balan
Nirvana, a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire nor sense of self, which is commonly called moksha (salvation), is what people have within them but fail to tap into. Nirvana is also about Yashodhara, the wife of Siddhartha Gautama, who did a supreme sacrifice after realising that the man she married was meant for the society and not just for her.
“People have illusions in their life. Many of them seek peace, not aware of the fact that it is there within themselves. Through Nirvana, we are trying to convey a message to look into yourself and find peace,” says dancer Aniruddha Das who along with Nibedita Mohapatra has choreographed a piece on the subject.
“Normally, choreography in classical dance forms is about Rama and Krishna. We decided to do something different. We attempted to answer the question that if Gautama, a prince, could leave earthly pleasures for propagating peace, then why couldn’t we start searching for it in ourselves,” he adds.
Nirvana was presented on the first day of the Natya Ballet Dance Festival on Thursday. About how effectively a message rooted in Buddhist philosophy, which is not followed by a majority, could be communicated to the audience, Aniruddha says that it is possible with visual art. “It is like watching a movie rather than listening to a lecture. We can create the world in visual art that will be played on stage. It could leave a lasting impact on the audience,” he adds.
Nibedita says that through their presentation, they’ve attempted to add a bit of contemporary element into classical dance. “We focussed on Yashodhara, for whom coping with the reality that her husband’s life was for the society was painful. Siddhartha left when his child, Rahul, was very young. Yashodhara didn’t give up and later became a bhikshuni, (a Buddhist nun). Discussion on Yasodhara’s life didn’t happen quite often as it did about Buddha. It’s similar to Lakshman and Urmila in Ramayana. An unknown sacrifice is there behind every great life. The balance in the society is maintained by a man-woman relationship, not solely by men,” Nibedita observes. She adds, “We searched for a poem to narrate Yashodhara’s life and finally we found Yashodhara: Six Seasons Without You by Subhash Jaireth.”
About the choreography, Nibedita says that they have blended Mayurbhanj Chhau and Odissi as the two dance forms have similarities. “When you combine other classical dance forms, it will not match with the style of Odissi. We can’t compromise its authenticity. Different classical dance forms have different influences whereas Odissi has only temple influence which is similar to Mayurbhanj Chhau,” she explains.
Nirvana, first choreographed in 2010, was performed in Sri Lanka and Bangkok. The duo’s productions also include Draupadi that explored the position of women in a modern Indian context against the backdrop of the life of Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas.
“We have rarely spoken about Draupadi’s life. In spite of her beauty, intelligence, physical prowess and inimitable spirit, she was betrothed to the victor of a competition. Draupadi’s is the supreme sacrifice behind the great Mahabharata war. The question is why Draupadi?”
Anirudhha and Nibedita, who have founded Natya Ballet Centre, have also choreographed Krishna and Samanvay. In Samanvay, they have blended seven classical dance forms together, keeping the basic tala.
The three-day Natya Ballet festival is organised by Natya Ballet Centre in association with the Sangeet Natak Akademi. It aims to devise multiple ways of exploring and experiencing varied dance forms of the Indian subcontinent.