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Kathak by Uma Dogra

Artist’s Byte :
“In Kathak, it is quite rare to find Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi performances while it is rather the most celebrated subject in Odissi and various other renditions are also found in Bharatanatyam-Mohiniattam-Kuchipudi forms. However, my vision broadened to consider Gita Govinda ashtapadis after attending several workshops by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Kelubabu gave me a ‘Gita-Govinda’ book and after thoroughly going through it several times I fell in love with the beautiful verses. I believe that reading is essential to realize the layers of emotions in any lyrics in order to portray the ‘bhava’ in dance and being a student of literature I was familiar with Sanskrit language. The challenge was that in Kathak, abhinaya (expressional aspect) is way different from other dance forms as the abhinaya here is very Sahaj or Natural, with lesser usage of stubborn hastas portraying the specific meaning of words, but such hastas are necessary to portray the ashtapadis. The Depiction of Krishna is also not similar to what it is in the eastern or southern Indian classical dance forms. Kathak abhinaya repertoire primarily consists of mythological stories from the epics like other dance forms but its uniqueness is in the inclusion of thumris which are usually 5 to 8 minutes long. The ashtapadis are also lengthy presentations of 18 to 20 minutes which is rare in Kathak form of abhinaya, so engaging Kathak audience for such long pieces was a difficult task as well. Eventually I have choreographed-performed three of the renowned poems – ‘Sakhi He’, ‘Yahi Madhava’ and ‘Dhira Sameere’. Jayadeva’s Gita-Govinda portrays divine love of Radha-Krishna which has a deep meaning, as we see Radha’s momentary rage when Krishna is with other Gopis but ultimately, she yearns to unite with him as they are nothing but one body and one soul.

I imagine the sakhi in Gita-Govinda is a Guru who tries to make Radha-Krishna i.e. Prakriti-Purusha to understand each other, she helps them to be One. I choreographed ‘Sakhi He’ keeping that in mind. It was challenging to depict the bold and beautiful Radha who is vocal about her desires to her friend whom I consider to be her Guru and not just any ordinary human being. One can’t open up this way to someone who isn’t part of one’s being, and one can’t also surrender to someone this way unless the love is entirely devoted. So in one way when Radha tells her sakhi about her romantic encounter with Krishna, she actually converses with herself that how engrossed she is in love with him. Considering these aspects, I tried to present it in a different manner in my Kathak choreography!”…Vidushi Uma Dogra (Sangeet Natak Akademy Awardee Kathak Exponent)

  • Sakhi he kesi-mathanamudaram ramaya maya sahamadana-manoratha-bhavitayasa-vikaram ||dhruvapada|| “Kesi-mathana Krishna is never lacking in generosity when it comes to relieving the burning heat of Kamadeva. What’s more, his mind is also bewildered by attachment for me. My feelings are ornamented by Him; how will my desire to unite with him be fulfilled? Arrange for our meeting immediately.
  • nibruta-nikuñja-gruhamgataya, nisi rahasiniliyavasantam | chakita-vilokita-sakala-disha, rati-rabhasa-bharenahasantam ||1||Once, he went to a secluded forest bower at night in accordance with the plan we had discreetly arranged by hints and signals. In a mischievous mood, he concealed himself in the dense foliage of the forest just to observe my eagerness to meet him and my agony in his absence. I began to look around with tired,fearful eyes, immersed in anxiety and thinking ‘Oh, when will he come?’ Then he suddenly delighted me with the nectar of his amorous laughter.
  • prathama-samagama-lajjitaya, patu-chatu-shatairanukulam | mrudu-madhura-smita-bhashitaya, shithi-likruta-jaghana-dukulam ||2||“Seeing me so naive and gullible due to the natural embarrassment that occurs during one’s first amorous encounter, he employed a succession of courteous words and humble entreaties to abate my shyness. Enchanted by his flattering words, I smiled softly and sweetly and began to converse with him. Just then that cunning Hari suddenly removed the cloth from My hips. O sakhi, immediately arrange for me to meet with him!”
  • alasa-nimilita-locanaya, pulaka vali-lalita-kapolam | shrama-jala-sakala-kalevaraya, vara-madana-madadatilolam ||4||“From the sudden, unexpected surge of rapture within the pleasure of passionate love with him, my eyes became tired and closed. Krishna’s cheeks assumed an extraordinary charm and loveliness from the joy of this love-play. Although He was already intoxicated by the flavors of amorous union, seeing My attractive body exhausted and dripping with perspiration, He became even more restless to taste ananga-rasa. O sakhi, quickly arrange for Me to meet with Kesi-mathana.”
  • charana-ranita-mani-npuraya, paripurita-surata-vitanam | mukhara-vishrukhala-mekhalaya, sakachakraha-chumbana-danam ||6||“As We reached the height of passion, my jewel-studded anklebells rang out and My waistbelt fell off noisily. He caught Me by the hair and repeatedly kissed My face. O sakhi, unite me with my dearest Sri Krishna at once.”