REDONDO BEACH, CA - Magnificent costumes, brilliant lighting and the charm of dancer-choreographer-actress Shobana had the show ‘Krishna’ delight the SoCal audience, at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center here, on May 9. The Organization of Hindu Malayalees which presented the event as a...
In Shobana’s hands, the women around Krishna, belonging to a different era, emerged poignant and stunningly relevant. It was impossible to not think of the headlines out of today’s India, when Draupadi is abused in the Kaurava court, complete with immobile bystanders. Gandhari asking the Lord, if he couldn’t have in all his mercy, spared just one of her 100 sons, brings forth Krishna as the politician of today. Rukmini begging not to be given off by her ambitious father in a marriage she does not desire and Duroyodhana’s abused wife Bhaunumati are reminiscent of what still happens in many homes. And then there is the eternal love of Radha – complete and yet not. It was these characters that worked best in the show. The music, the voice overs by film stars Shabana Azmi, Konkona Sen, Nandita Das and the enactment by the dancers on stage came together beautifully. Their pain was yours. Then there was the music. Seemingly, every possible genre was pulled in classical, folk, pop, an English verse got an uninspired Carnatic rendition but what stood out was the generous use of Bollywood numbers. The youthful Krishna completely charmed dancing to a ‘Dhoom’ number, the use of Lagaan’s ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale,’ was a foregone conclusion and the ‘Dabangg’ composition brought pep onstage. But the need for it was questionable. Do mighty music and dance traditions which have stood the test of time really need the help of Bollywood to have a vaster reach?
There was also an over reliance on the spoken word. So much, that no dance movement stands out in the memory having barely told a tale by itself. Adding to this were the simultaneous mini narratives that were performed with multiple dancers onstage pulling audience focus to the left and right. An excellent dancer otherwise, Shobana seemed unhurried and to have sublimated her skills for the larger story. Her student-dancers stood out with their flexibility and energy. The clever use of minimal props which still created astounding chariots, Krishna flying away on Garuda, the Vishwaroopam was remarkable. The costumes and lighting made it look like the paintings of ISCKON had come alive. Shobana as Krishna was bathed in blue and when she struck poses with Radha or played the flute as a cowherd, it was quite simply, breathtaking.
The storytelling concluded with the death of Krishna. But in a master stroke, Shobana did not leave behind a despondent audience and instead cut to the Gitopadesam – the spiritual truth given by the Lord on the battlefield to Arjuna, leaving the audience with the sense that everything is well and Krishna resides amongst all. Earlier, the evening opened with the president of OHM Ramaa Nair welcoming all and inviting Swami Ishwarananda, head Acharya of Chinmaya Mission Los Angeles to light the inaugural lamp. In his brief remarks he pointed out that such shows were not just for entertainment but also indicative of where we as a culture and people are from. The OHM board was also introduced to the audience. Director of OHM, Ravi Vellatheri who spearheaded the presentation of the evening, said over $50,000 had been raised by the event.