Sahradya Foundation tackles Don Quixote’s universality via Bharatnatyam
In the early 1600s, a Spanish gentleman and his squire set out to revive chivalry, undo wrongs and bring justice to the world. The story of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza taking on windmills (mistaken to be giants) is now hailed as one of the best satirical novels of all time. “Cervantes’ Don Quixote has long been a favourite of mine. While it says a lot about the times he lived in, it’s relevant today as we have the same social inequities, rampant greed and destitution,” begins Akhila Ramnarayan, a theatre artiste and literary scholar, explaining why she and choreographer-director Sheejith Krishna decided to tackle the epic in their latest dance production.
To be premiered next week in the city by the Sahrdaya Foundation (an arts organisation co-founded by the duo and three others), the challenge was not only to adapt the book for the stage, but also to do so through the medium of Bharatnatyam. “I was not trying to do a fusion, but rather explore how music, dance and stories gel with each other. I believe there is a vocabulary in dance that gives it the capacity to tell any story from anywhere in the world,” says Krishna, an expert Bharatnatyam performer who did something similar in the production Masquerade (based on The Man in the Iron Mask), for the Kalakshetra Foundation in 2007.
The script developed from months of pouring over translations. One of the biggest challenges, admits Ramnarayan, was to tell a story truthful to two idioms—the written word and the weight and tradition of dance. “There is an experimentative element, blending poetry, music, theatre and dance, which I thought was in sync with the novel,” she explains, adding that while it is set in the 17th century, the 20-member cast will weave in and out of roles—to ask and answer all the questions the audience will ask.
To Krishna, however, the challenge was to depict the story without the help of a spoken language. “There are dialogues to set the scene, but the rest is conveyed through the body. While the dance is rooted in the traditional, it is used in a contemporary way—moving away from just mudras and making the body more emotive,” says the director.
Of sets and tours
With animated projections and elaborate sets—featuring life size books, besides Rocinante the horse and Panza’s donkey—the two-hour production will also see a lot of experimentation with music. “We’ve used a variety, from Carnatic and Hindusatni to western. Traditional instruments have also been used innovatively, like using the ghatam to highlight an English dialogue,” says Krishna, whose wife, Jyothishmathi, composed the music while sound engineer Sai Shravanam handled the arrangement. And with such an innovative concept, costumes couldn’t be ignored. “You will see a combination of contemporary and classic, using both European and Indian elements,” says Ramnarayan, signing off stating that after the premiere, the team is take Don Quixote on a US tour, in August.
March 28, from 6.30 pm, at The Music Academy. `200 – `2,000. Details: eventjini.com
—Surya Praphulla Kumar