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Hamsa Venkat’s latest stage production is based on Greek as well as Hindu mythology
Be it purely aesthetic, profoundly reflective or laden with didactic overtones, art fulfils many roles.
Thathastu (So Be It), a Bharatanatyam ballet by Samskriti School of Dance took us on a journey through time, borrowing extensively from ancient mythology as it explored the power of positive thinking in the contemporary context.
Unlocking the positive and negative vibrations of the universe, like a mystical river meandering through the hills and plains, Thathasthu traversed myriad landscapes far and near, delighting, stimulating and nourishing as it held up a mirror to life.
Conceived and choreographed by Hamsa Venkat, the thought provoking production offered a rich insight into the artist’s heart and mind, not only presenting us with her profound vision but also the freedom to interpret it subjectively, thereby enabling us to imbibe its core values as our own.
“For art to grow, for it to be a flowing river and not a stagnant pool, one needs to experiment with ideas without compromising on style,” Venkat told Indian Link.
“Thathastu is one such idea that came from observing life around me and how our thoughts have deep impact on the vibrations around us, positive or negative. Sometimes big problems have small easy solutions, if we train our mind to think in that direction.
The obvious solution then is to think positive but having said that, controlling the mind and the direction it takes, is one of the most difficult aspects of human existence. Thathastu thus portrays the idea of how our thoughts transform into reality.”
For Hamsa, Bharathanatyam is a language, a medium of expression that can be crafted exquisitely to narrate a magnificent opus.
Deeply philosophical in its outlook, creative storytelling within the traditional framework, combined with soul stirring music and stunning backdrops allowed the audience to relive the lavish tapestry of our cultural heritage.
Presented in seven acts, Thathastu examined the role of optimism and pessimism in shaping our destiny, through a selection of timeless tales and creative storytelling techniques with young Vishaka serving as both the narrator and divine voice breathing life into each persona’s deepest thoughts and turning them into reality.
Hamsa’s creative compass extended well beyond Hindu mythology, adapting from wisdom of Greek seers as well.
Besides accentuating the tempo of the narrative, brilliant use of lighting reflected the changing moods of each composition. Thathastu was indeed a sight to behold.
In life’s thulabaram (weighing scale), Shakti’s impulsiveness (‘Brahma Shakti’), Garuda’s cynicism (‘Dukha Shakti’), Midas’ greed for gold (‘Moha Shakti’), Basmasura’s lust for power (‘Mada Shakti’) and modern man’s overwhelming consumerism (‘Dushta Shakti’) were pitted against ‘Atma Shakti’ – Hanuman’s irrepressible enthusiasm and ‘Bhakti Shakti’ – Rukmini’s unstinting devotion.
Beautiful adavus and exquisite footwork demonstrated the technical prowess of Samskriti students, while they also displayed great sensitivity to thematic demands with their emotive grace and supple movements.
Standout performances by Vidya and Priya as Shakti and Shiva in Yaaraukkum adangaadha Nee, the opening act from Shakthi Kautuvam, supported by Smitha, Nithya, Nallini, Malarini, Lalitha and Vidhya set the scene for the evening’s performance at UNSW Science Theatre.
Besides relying on ever-popular classics from great masters like Tyagaraja’s Nagumomu (tale of Yama and Garuda) and Purandaradasa’s Jagan mohaanane Krishna and Bharatiyar’s Bhooloka Kumari, Thathastu also drew from Samskriti’s extensive talent pool, experimenting with musical parameters to create unique scores.
Particularly mesmerising was the finale composed by Namrata Pulapaka for the Krishna Thulabaram with excellent performances by Rakhi and Swetha as Rukmini and Satyabama.
Delineated in sumptuous detail was the centrepiece of the evening – a Varnam dedicated to Hanuman, the epitome of positive energy and the ideal role model for any aspiring individual.
Always ready to undertake ventures, Atma Shakti outlined the importance of self-belief and enthusiasm for positive outcomes as it revisited Hanuman’s joie de vivre.
Madurai Muralidharan’s Adiyaarkellam Adiyen lent itself beautifully to the elaborate and sophisticated portrayal with Govind Pillai as always demonstrating both Anga and Adava Shuddi.
If Atma Shakti was deeply uplifting, Dushta Shakti warned us of the perils of rampant consumerism. It provoked the audience to contemplate on the eternal rhythm of existence and the urgent need to live in harmony with nature.
Shruthi’s powerful portrayal of Mother Earth in strife certainly stirred our collective social conscience.
Amidst sacred chants of Shanthi Mantra, Thathastu came to a logical conclusion, leaving the audience empowered to make better decisions.
Transporting us to realms beyond imagination, it was an autotelic experience.