Shakuntala – The Love Saga

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By: SK Priyanka

The stage is set and the audience is glued to it in awe as the curtains draw up, with bated breath to witness the classic piece of mythology come alive. There is the mystic abode of sage Kanva, amidst the splendour of blossoms. There is peace and harmony everywhere. And then, a sudden wail of a newborn, engulfs the quietness. Some vultures are trying to save the child from the scorching rays of the sun. Sage Kanva comes to the girl child’s rescue and names her Shakuntala. Eventually, Shakuntala grows up to be a beautiful damsel.

The focus then shifts to sudden entry of Raja Dushantya, the king of Hastinapur, who steps into the Ashram chasing a deer one day. And an inevitable happens; the royalty encounters the damsel and is blown away by her beauty. There is love in the air as the encounter soon turns into ‘love at first sight.’ Sooner, they are bounded to each other in Gandharva Vivah. Events of romance unfold on one side while there is rage of a sage on the other. Tragic strikes the lovers and they are separated. The love doesn’t go well with sage Durbasha, who pronounces a curse on the pregnant Shakuntala and king Dushyanta forgets his wife. But who can change the destiny? King Dushantya finally reunites with his loving wife Shakuntala and his son Bharat, in the end.

These alluring scenes from the everlasting Sanskrit drama ‘Abhigyana Shakuntalam’, created by the renowned Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, came alive in a Sattriya dance form, at the stage of the Sri Sri Madhabdev International Auditorium, situated at Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra on February 16, much to the applause of the awe-struck enlightened audience. The dance drama ‘Shakuntala – The Love Saga’ in its entirety – concept, design, direction and choreography – was the art work of Sattriya danseurs Dipjyoti Das and Dipankar Arandhara. Bhaskarjyoti Ojah worked on the script and the music of the dance drama, which was produced as a part of the 3rd Manikanchan Nritya Mahotsav.

While retaining the original theme and the main characters, the drama left out minor characters. Instead of the original Sanskrit language, Brajawali and the ancient Assamese languages were used in consonance with the lyrics to make the dance drama more appealing. The dance drama was crafted in tune with Sattriya music and dance and blended with various folk musical elements of Assam. The story was narrated through the dance moves and lesser dialogues were used.

A Purabi Saikia Choudhury production, many creative minds were behind the successful staging of the dance drama. The mesmerizing lighting show was designed by Kaushik Borbora. Bhaskarjyoti Ojah, Kallol Borthakur, Pranita Baishya Medhi, Bhupen Nath, Bishnu Sharma, Meghadeep Deori, Minakshi Kalita, Barnali Sharma, Dolly Talukdar and Sampriti Kashyap lent their voices in the musical parts of the art piece. While Bishnu Sharma designed the sound, Beby Bhuyan and Dipankar Arandhara contributed towards recitation. Dipjyoti Das as Raja Dushantya, Dipankar Arandhara, who played both sages Kanva and Durbasha and beautiful Sanskriti Choudhury as Shakuntala were flawless in their acts. Khirod Bora, Hriday Parash Kalita, Harshita Baruah, Dipandita Talukdar, Tina Medhi, Pritima Kashyap, Pritimoni Das, Himashree Sharma, Bhabana Sharma, Himabrita Devi, Simashree Baruah, Minakshi Paul, Khushi Bharadwaj and Hiru Moni Bhuyan played other characters. Mintu Saan designed the sets.

The musical score created by Bhaskarjyoti Ojah with his Khol, Mridanga and percussions, Dwipendra Sharma at violin; Ananda Dikshit at sitar and Pradip Deka with his flute, set the mood for the theme and vibe of the play.

‘Shakuntala – The Love Saga’ was produced by Manikanchan Kala Manjari, situated at Beltola in Guwahati, a registered institute of Sattriya, Borgeet, Khol and Kathak. Established in 2008, by the Sattriya danseurs Dipjyoti Das and Dipankar Arandhara (paired and known as Dipjyoti–Dipankar), the institutes promotes Sattriya dance and music creates awareness on the benefits of this classical dance form on mind, soul and health, through its various programmes and workshops among the young generation across the state. Started with only two students initially, Manikanchan Kala Manjari has transcended to foreign countries through online digital classes. The institute organizes Manikanchan Nritya Mahotsav annually and confers Manikanchan Nritya Jyoti Award to young and promising classical dancers. ‘Narasimha – The Half Man Half Lion Incarnation’ is another successful art work of the institute.

Dipjyoti and Dipankar started their Sattriya lessons at the very tender age under Gurus Bobbyrani Talukdar and Dollyrani Talukdar and presently are being trained under Guru Ramkrishna Talukdar. They scripted success when they took the Sattriya dance form to a national reality show “Bharat Ki Shaan Rum Jhum”, for the first time and received accolades from the Padmabibhushan Dr Sonal Mansingh. Graduates in Sattriya from the Luit Konwar Rudra Baruah State College of Music of Assam, Dipjyoti–Dipankar achieved Visharads in Kathak, under the guidance of Guru Marami Medhi, M.A. in Performing Arts from the Dibrugarh University. While Dipjyoti is Gold Medalist in Sattriya dance, conferred to him in the Youth Festival 2012, organized by the Gauhati University, Dipankar is a 1st Class in B.Music from the Luit Konwar Rudra Baruah State College of Music. Among their awards, ‘Uddyogik Bota’ from the All Assam Nibanuwa Sanstha and the ‘Yuvakalaratna Award’ from the Kuchipudi Art Academy, Andhra Pradesh, recently are worth mentioning. Approved A Graded artists of Doordarshan, Dipjyoti–Dipankar are also empanelled artists of ICCR in the duet category.

As promising artists of the young generation, Dipjyoti and Dipankar have participated extensively in several prestigious dance festivals in India, including the ‘Octave Festival 2009’ in Goa, ‘Samprada Festival’ in Bhopal, ‘Nritya Prava’, ‘Basant Utsav’, ‘Saptaparni Orissa Festival’, Assam Day at the India International Trade Fare at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, ‘Leichel Festival’ in Chennai, organized by the Chennai Kalakshetra, National Tribal Dance Festival at Bhubaneswar, Elephant Festival in Kaziranga, World Dance Day at Rabindra Bhawan and District Library in Guwahati, ‘Khajuraho Dance Festival’, ‘Kalaghoda Art Festival’, ‘Mahakumbh Utsav’, ‘Raindrops Festival’ a few to name. Recently they made their mark in performance at the Port Blair, Havelock Island at Andaman and Nicobar Island under the Sangeet Natak Academy.

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