S hivA has fuelled imaginations for centuries. For Gowri Ramnarayan, he is more than just a deity with dreadlocks. “He’s gone through so many transformations through the generations. He’s a destroyer and yet, as a dancer and creator, he affirms life. He is the god for today because he represents the austerity and restraint that we need in our times of excess and greed,” explains the director. A JustUs Repertory production, Fire and Ash explores our historical and literary past in an attempt to give it a connect to our lives now. According to Ramnarayan, the one-and-a-half-hour performance was inspired by the painting of the dancing god in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhimbetka caves and French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s piece on Shiva, The Dance of Shiva.
Creation and destruction
“I am using Shiva as a metaphor. He represents so many things that we require—the quelling of negative forces both within and without, and a re-emphasis on arts, which are getting sidelined. If we lose the arts, we lose our creativity. And without creativity, what are we?” she asks. While she dons the role of the sutradar (storyteller), Carnatic singer Savita Narasimhan and Bharatanatyam dancer Anjana Anand will bring the richly-layered production to life.
“We have chosen works by iconic Indian poets in six different languages—from Rabindranath Tagore and Surdas to Kalidasa and Akka Mahadevi—and popular songs like Theruvil varano (a composition by Muthu Thandavar) to see how they’ve looked at Shiva,” says Narasimhan, who has also done a series of paintings—reflecting Shiva and the five elements—to serve as the backdrop.
Following the rhythm
Describing the dance as theatrical, Anand says it took nearly a year to finish the project. Though the rendition is classical, she explains that the fusion comes through the concepts that are reflected in the choreography. “Subtle costume changes help reflect the different themes. And sometimes we’ve done away with song completely—like a portion where Gowri recites (poet-mystic) Mahadeviyakka’s verses and we have just movement, highlighted by ragas,” she adds. Next, Ramnarayan hopes to take Fire and Ash to other cities, but says she hasn’t planned anything yet. “People need to see these images because we need them. They will stay in our memories and make us think—just like images of Modi cleaning the streets or Gandhi cleaning toilets,” she emphasises, adding that for her next project she will get away from music and dance and concentrate on a play instead.
Today, at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium, from 6 pm. Details: 9840089030
—Surya Praphulla Kumar