Vision 2020-Samskriti unite for a classic fund-raiser

By Neena Badhwar

What a beautiful way to tell a story – through dance and music embellished with eyes and facial expressions, hand gestures and sculpture-like composition of fingers, to a rhythm of dancing feet – all portraying varied human emotions – of love and joy, anger and sorrow, fear and frustration, fulfilment and elation!

The dance-drama is based on a Hindu literature classic, Abhijnan Shakuntalam by poet Kalidasa that everyone in the audience has read and heard, may be many times over. But it’s still refreshing as it’s told in the background before acts, following which the dances take a new meaning, the gestures make more sense as audience clap non-stop on every scene and every dance.

The spell-binding performance is by Hamsa Venkat’s students of Samskriti School of Dance, performed on October 12 at the Pacific Hills Christian School, Dural.

It is an enchanting evening as students perform exquisitely, in perfect unison, dressed in beautiful costumes. A packed house of eyes are glued to the stage. Every dance is followed by thunderous applause by the appreciative audience.

The mythological story, told in the epic Mahabharatha, of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala, the beautiful daughter of Sage Viswamitra and heavenly damsel Menaka from the court of Lord Indra who comes down to earth, has fascinated every Indian since it was written aeons ago. The sad love story has a happy end. Written beautifully by the famous poet Kalidasa in poetic form, Sydney’s Hamsa Venkat put the idea together and brought it to life on stage.

Shakuntala is lost in pangs of love for King Dushyanta, so much so that she forgets to pay obeisance to the visiting Muni Durvasa. Notorious for his anger, Durvasa curses her that who ever she is lost in thought of, will forget her.

The die is cast when she arrives at the courts, chastised to make a false claim on the king. Surely a ”˜metoo’moment when the King has lost all the memory of a Gandharva wedding he had with Shakuntala when he met her and fell madly in love. He denies all association due to the curse and is ignorant of ever having known her.

Distraught Shakuntala goes back to Sage Kanva’s ashram where she lives a life in solitude. Having borne a son, Bharata who, even though a child, is brave like the father, enough to play with a lion cub, opening its mouth to count the teeth. The boy is played by the agile Vishakha Iyer, her electric performance bringing the house down with non-stop applause.

The drama combines classical with folk dances, a show that is thoroughly enjoyed by one and all.

The musical scores are compiled by Mohan Ayyar and his team of musicians. Uma Sriram has designed the costumes. Her selection is really good as the girls look beautiful.

All the work by the Sanskriti School is contributed free of charge, the girls even saving up to pay for their own costumes. The students deliver skilfully having rehearsed for months under guidance from their Guru Hamsa Venkat, who said at the end, “There are no words to describe the feeling. Words would just spoil it.” She just wanted all to take away an experience which they witnessed on the night.

Anu Shivaram said, “Please take this Abhijnan Shakuntalam ”“ the ”˜ring of memory’ with you, Vision 2020 having brought culture and cause together.” The charity organisation which has been involved in more than 23 projects in India this year is aiming to help build a shelter for the needy women.

Sydney has raised the bar with this classical portrayal of a classic story of India. Well done Vision 2020.

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