Ajith Bhaskran Dass’s Suvarna Fine Arts celebrates its 20th anniversary with “PANCHAAYATANA”

BN & WWW talked to Creative and Music Directors of the show and a few of Ajith’s students. who will perform in “PANCHAAYATANA”

BN& WWW:  “PANCHAAYATANA”??? How did you pick this theme.. What about it gives makes it attractive to you as a creative director? The research behind the concept…

 Ajith: For the past few years I have been exploring the Bharathanatya repertoire with different themes such as the river, trees and earth….were received really well. This year since we are celebrating Suvarnas 20th anniversary. I wanted to go back to a more traditional theme, an offering to the Gods. I envisioned a grand puja not only in the intent of the performance but also wanted to bring the symbolic rituals to dance. Then I came across an article on the panchayatana puja tradition of the smarthas established by Adi Shankaracharya before the Shanmatham tradition. The placement of the ishta devata in the centre and all the other deities around conjoured a beautiful visual imagery in my mind. I then decided to use that imagery for the narration. A dancer would be placed at different points on stage while the narration was read representing the Murthi. I wanted the narration not to describe the dance piece but explain the significance of the particular deity in terms of energies they exert upon and the influence they yield  over mankind.Then the difficult process of choosing the right piece for each Murthi began. I was spoilt for choice and was constantly finding new pieces . Finally I decided to narrow my choice by categorizing the composers. A composition of traditional composer Muthuswami Dikshitar,lalgudi g jayaraman,a legend of our times, madurai n muralidharan, a popular contemporary dancer composer, a local composer Achyuthan Sashidharan Nair who tuned Adi Shankaracharya’s verses and verses written by me for our final piece on Surya. Hence, I could explore different styles of compositions and resonate each dance differently. Music is always  my point of inspiration. The production is a seamless whole the music dance narration and puja vidhi flowing from beginning to end.

BN&WWW:  (To: Sri Sashidharan) This is your fourth production with Ajith?  Tell us about your collaboration…

 Achyuthan Sashidharan Nair: This is my fifth production with Ajith sir. Our collaboration has always been based on the chemistry that we have, ever since the first production back in 2009. Working with Ajith sir has always been challenging and a learning journey for me. A dancer that always looks for room to explore yet staying within the frame-work of classical boundaries, keeps us musicians on our toes and wanting to work more with him. He is always open to suggestions especially in music, which gives me gives me the room to explore more by experimenting raagas which are rarely being used for dance repertoire. Ajith sir always knows what he wants, and all I need to do is to translate it musically for him to execute

 BN&WWW:  (To: Sri Sashidharan) Panchaayatna.. How did it transcribe into your music?

Achyuthan Sashidharan Nair: : Music has always been a spiritual approach for me. The very same approach was used in Pachaayatana. To mention specially on the composition on Shiva. Using the text-scriptures of Shri Adhi Shankaracharya, it was set in ragas such as Shankarabharanam, Amrithavarshini, Bowli, Shivaranjini and Lavangi. And for the deity Lord Surya, the raga Surya itself was used to suit the lyrics written by Ajith Sir himself. This piece is incorporated with few lines of Surya-Asthakam.

BN&WWW:  (To: Sri Sashidharan: ) The orchestra???

Achyuthan Sashidharan Nair: A very experience Guruvayur Usha Dorai will be on the Nattuvangam, and Malaysia’s leading Carnatic vocalist Shirmathi Bhavani Logeswaran is on the vocals. We have Theeban Arumugam, a leading mridangist in Malaysia for bharathanatyam concerts on the mridgangam, and very young and talented flutist, Shri Raghavendra Rajashekaran from Singapore on the flute. I will be joining them on the violin.

BN&WWW: Taking a cue from Sashi (“A dancer that always looks for room to explore yet staying within the frame-work of classical boundaries”) we move to our next question. (To Ajith: ) Heard you say this in an interview for a Malaysian TV Channel “content can remain traditional but innovative packaging can take it to the youngsters”. Can you please elaborate?

 Ajith : As with all my productions, I pay a lot of attention to the stagecraft as much as the dance. I work closely with the light and set designers who bring in a very contemporary edge to the production. A new age package to an ancient art. Much like placing a rare Chola bronze in a state of the art museum . I want to draw even the lay person in the audience to my art and my aesthetic experience. This packaging appeals to the younger generation and with this I hope to draw them to classical programmes. To present a Bharathanatyam production with the detailing of a movie production starting from catchy promo and publicity material. The young audience then will start with enjoying the sheer energy of the dance with its vibrancy and eventually will begin to learn to appreciate the depth and sacredness.

BN &WWW: What about those not really into Indian Concepts???  Will Panchaayatna challenge their understanding?

Ajith : The uninitiated audience will be able to understand the production better with the narrations in English to draw to the dance with dramatic visuals on stage. the narration should not intimidate the audience with technical jargon. It has to be woven in through the dances, without breaking the flow of the production. For the enlightened rasikas, the information to whet their intellectual appetite is in the brochure.

BN &WWW: Is Ajith a task master? How does he get his students to cooperate with the intensive rehearsals for the shows? Are the students fuming? Catch what his students have to say when you check in BN&WWW later ..

 Summary : (Programme flyer)

The artistic director of SuvarnaAjith Bhaskaran Dass as choreographer and principle dancer will perform along with 11 core dancers of the Suvarna dance ensemble.

The dance will be accompanied by an orchestra of emminent musicians from Malaysia and Singapore.

PREMIER – 13th July 2013 Lim Bee Auditorium,Kompleks Tan Sri Jeffery Chia, Kuala Lumpur.

20th July 2013 University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore,50 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore. Panchaayatana in Singapore is presented by Singai Tamil Sangam, supported by

Apsara Asia  Arts Fund and  Lee Foundation

  • CONTACT for tickets
  • KUALA LUMPUR      SANTHA NANTHA     ( 60) 012 309 6369
  • SINGAPORE              KAMARIAH YUSUF       (65)  97957069
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