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    Hanumana��s Lanka adventure gets some martial arts and new compositions

    Ita��s a story thata��s never lost any of its freshness, no matter its many re-tellings. The a�?superheroa�� whoA� crossed an ocean with a single bound and single-handedly defeated hundreds of asuras (demons), captured our imaginations much before radioactive spiders and iron men came into the picture.

    So in 2011, when dancer-teacher Anita Guha was asked to create a Bharatnatyam dance drama for the annual Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana (a week-long festival held in Ohio, USA), she looked no further than her favourite god, Hanuman. Now, ahead of a US toura��a two-month, 20-city extravaganzaa��she is debuting a tighter, crisper version of her epic, Sundara Kandam, in the city. a�?It is a very challenging subject. I knew I could explore many varieties of dance and emotion through it,a�? explains Guha, the founder of city-based dance school, Bharathanjali.

    New dimension
    The 80-minute production begins with Rama and Lakshmana coming to Kishkindha in search of Sita and meeting the vanaras (monkeys), Sugriva and Vali, before moving to Hanumana��s adventures in Lanka. Guha admits she read the entire Valmiki Ramayana before embarking on the project. a�?His version brings out the charactera��s earthinessa��a Rama who laments the loss of his wife, a Hanuman who is plagued by despair when he cana��t find Sita. These emotions are in stark contrast to the calm, stoic figures we are familiar with,a�? she says.

    Known for mixing forms, the 54-year-old has incorporated mime and martial arts, besides bringing in influences from Kathakali and Mohiniyattama��especially for the expressions of the vanaras and the asuras. a�?One of my favourite sequences is the fight between Sugriva and Vali. Though I scripted it, it is choreographed by dancer Thiruchelvam TK of Kalakshetra, who has brought in various martial art forms, like kalari, into it,a�? she says, adding that many of the a�?effectsa��a��like the vanarasa�� grunts and screamsa��are provided by her.

    Experiments
    While the production does not use setsa��it relies on cyclorama and lighting to project colour, to create the effects for fire, water and the likea��music and dialogue are integral. Composed by Carnatic vocalist Neyveli Santhanagopalan, Guha says that many of the compositions are unique. a�?To describe Lanka, I employed the technique of an asura mannari (procession), where they talk about the city using 108 shlokas. And Neyveli set it to music with the rasikapriya ragam, which gives it a creepy feeling,a�? she says. And if the Tamil dialogues are too high-brow, an initial 10-minute English introduction has been added to ensure that even the uninitiated is clued in.
    August 1, at the Music Academy, from 7 pm. Rs 250-Rs 5,000. Details: in.bookmyshow.com

    Surya Praphulla Kumar

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