Gandhi brought alive in vibrant Kathak: Shivani Varma’s Champaran Se Bapu
The coming of Bapu was seen as a good omen by the people of Champaran, and so was heralded by a shehnai in the presentation. Shivani showed the train and the throng at his arrival, people calling out to each other, using footwork and uppaj. The idea of truth was woven into the composition ‘Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye…’, written in the 15th century by Gujarati bhakta poet Narsingh Mehta. It was a part of Bapu’s daily prayers. The abhinaya portrayed the puja by the upper castes, which the lower castes are forbidden to attend. Their ‘impurities’ and their touch are washed off. The three monkeys, whose sculpture Gandhiji possessed, were depicted through dance – ‘bura mat suno, bura mat kaho, bura mat dekho (hear no evil, say no evil, see no evil)’. Here, she depicted violence, abuse of women as in the Nirbhaya case, and Gandhiji’s principles of honesty.
Finally, the two songs – ‘Saare Jahan Se Achha’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ – were enacted and danced. ‘Hindi hain hum’ was used as a chant. The final stance brought in Gandhiji with his charkha.
The music was given by Shri Jwala Prasad ji, who put me totally at ease while talking to him. He said, “Shivani gave me the idea. A long piece or theme is easier to compose for, but short pieces with changeovers – change of raag, change of instrument, the pitch between the male and female voices – are difficult to compose. Suppose one has to leave at dehvat – dha – and the other one has to pick at sa – we have to make a bridge. So we make a little change in the colour of the music. My guru helped me in these difficulties.” He had highlighted one instrument in some piece, and another in others. About that, he said, ‘This is what orchestration is about, because you decide the swaras according to the mood of the piece. Israj par kuch pieces bahut achhe lagte hain. Sitar par jhala bahut achha lagta hai. And there are many other moods like bhakti, deshbhakti, sadness, elation – har piece ki ek maryada hoti hai, aur hume uss maryada ka dhyaan rakhna padta hai.” Talking about the many crests and troughs in the music, he said, “Vaishnav Jan jaise ek composition hai, uski maryada ko hum change nahin kar sakte, badal nahin sakte. Uski dhun ko hume wahi rakhna hoga. But still we have to create music to which she can dance.”
About his music, Shivani said, “I gave the outlines and asked them to work on them. Like I tell him, this is my emotion, and he says Madhuvanti play karo, which appeals to me immediately. He has to choose the raga, I can just tell him my emotion or outline for the piece. When he sings the alaap, it touches me so much, I tell him to go on and on since it really moves me.” Jwalaji replied, “Jab hume kisi ka sangat karna hai toh hume usko follow karna hai. Solo nahin karna hai. If she is like Radha, hume bhi Radha mein hi dhalna padta hai.”
Shivani was approached by Sukanya Bharat Ram, Gandhuji’s great-granddaughter, to do the production, and provided the idea and guidance for it. Shivani gave special thanks to IHC’s Vidyun Singh and to A. Annamalai, the director of the National Gandhi Museum, from which the images were sourced. The technical direction was by Nitin Jain. In the musical credits, tabla was by Yogesh Gangani, pakhawaj by Mahaveer Gangani, sitar by Khaled Mustafa, israj by Arshad Khan, shehnai and flute by Vikas Babu and vocals by Jwalaji and Ranjani Sanyal. The narration and compering were by the excellent-as-always Sadhana Shrivastav.
Pics: Anoop Arora