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Pioneering Digital Compilation of Entire Gita Govinda in Kathak

In Arts
September 05, 2023

A pioneering choreographic presentation of the entire Gita Govinda has enriched the country’s classical dance, with Natyasutra and Kathak guru Dr Pali Chandra bringing out a digitized version of the 12th-century Sanskrit poem that celebrates the famed Radha-Krishna love.

Shri Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa of India, formally launched the new-age artistic creation which features Kathak-style portrayal of the full text of the 24-prabandh masterpiece by Jayadeva. With this, ‘Gita Govinda: The Eternal Story of Keli Viraha and Kaivalya’ will be available in www.natyasutraonline.com for worldwide distribution to the benefit of dancers, students and culture enthusiasts.

A heritage-preserving Flagship project of Natyasutra, which can be subscribed for different periods ranging from one to five years, has been produced by Invis Pvt. Ltd, leading content developer. Done by a 200-member team in 1,000 days, the presentational drills were carried out by Dr Chandra and her disciples at the dancer’s Gurukul which has units in India and abroad.

Shri Kant, while inaugurating the ceremony in the national capital, lauded the “immense creativity” that has gone into the project, highlighting its prospects for a global appeal in the cultural circles. “The dance to the lyrics is also backed by subtitles in English, enabling it to travel across the world,” he noted at the function in India International Centre on Sunday.

Pointing out that the scenes had been shot outdoor in a plot of Miyawaki forests in Kerala, the top bureaucrat praised Switzerland-based Dr Chandra’s “foresight and mission” for its “unique contribution” to heritage, considering its potential for a “massive impact” on civilizational values. The endeavour by the Lucknow-born Kathak exponent, as a frontline disciple of the illustrious Vikrama Singhe and Kapila Raj, is a major stride towards adding to the transcontinental appeal of India’s culture, he added.

With its mythological theme around the romance between Lord Krishna and Radha besides the sakhis along the banks of the Yamuna, the project required five years of meticulous research based on ancient treatises such as the Natya Shastra and Abhinaya Darpana.

Dr Chandra, in her speech, recalled how the project sought to explore the essence of the relationship between man and nature, hinting at poet Jayadeva’s tacit emphasis on conservation of ecology. “We had to re-shoot some of the episodes on noting that visual effects were not wholly up to our expectations,” she added, recalling instances where the team showed its pursuit for perfection.

Sunday’s ceremony was also addressed, among others, by Principal Commissioner of Income Tax Smt Surabhi Ahluwalia and Bhatkhande Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya Vice-Chancellor Dr Mandavi Singh. These were followed by Gita Govinda performances by dancers Maithili Patel and Swarashri Shridhar, besides an open discussion on the masterpiece by Jayadeva (1170-1245).

Thiruvananthapuram-based Natyasutra is also planning to soon bring a set of collaterals related to the Gita Govinda. These include an e-book in coffee-table format, mural paintings, wall decors and curios with indigenous crafts, Natyasutra Managing Director Anitha Jayakumar said.

Natyasutra’s digital presentation, while enabling the learner to comprehend every aspect of the original poem, features Dr Chandra’s 21st-century interpretation of the lyrics. As Jayadeva used the Ashtapadi or set of eight couplets to make a song, the class follows the same blueprint in teaching, featuring Explanations and Choreography tips, Teaching and Demonstrations, Poem in Action and Performances.

Besides guiding the students on performing the items on stage and for the new media, the teacher explains the meaning and nuances of the choreography alongside the details of the music compositions and dance vocabularies.

As the composition was originally written in Sanskrit, subtitles are provided in the performance for a holistic understanding of the text. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit verse is also provided as a separate ‘Poem in Action’ segment so as to help the student understand the core text further. In this section, Dr Chandra presents the essence of the Gita Govinda through abhinaya with the support of an audio version of the English translation of the classical text. While all performances have English subtitles, this global language is used for the explanations, teaching and demonstrations. The meanings of the Sanskrit verses, too, are provided as English texts.