Dancer Indu G, during her 'Nangiar Koothu' recital. Photo courtesy ~ Vinay Kumar

Dancer Indu G, during her ‘Nangiar Koothu’ recital. Photo courtesy ~ Vinay Kumar

I HAVE A DEEPLY HIDDEN AND INARTICULATE DESIRE FOR SOMETHING BEYOND THE DAILY LIFE – Virginia Woolf

On the night of 7th January, 2015, I saw an intense and moving, ‘Nangiar Koothu’ performance by Dr. Indu G. Seated close to the oil lamp that framed her face, I entered the grief of separation and longing, through this abstract narrative enacted by one woman, supported by four percussionists. She transformed to become a mystical channel for both the masculine and feminine energy.

This classical recital was an experience of sensuality and passion through theatre, music and dance, that made me go pale, as well as blush with delight. I saw her, the beautiful Indu G, transform herself into a celestial being, and create before these plain eyes, from a portal of gaping, dark void ~ an elephant couple flaming their love with delicious bites of choicest tender leaves, with a range of provocative, body nudges; The lustful love turned tender and compassionate, when a fragile and hungry fawn, nestled at the breast of a fierce She-Leopard; Butterflies magnetised towards the light of a flaming fire only to meet their death, but later miraculously reborn; I rejoiced at the sight of a dancing, cautious yet magnificent peacock, lured by scattering grains, at the hands of a playful, dancing maiden; Then alarmingly, the moments of heightening sensuality, were jarred open with a crescendo of maddening drums. The dancer’s body took form of Musth elephant, gone mad with the heat of sexual desire. The earth flung open as he ripped everything apart on his path with his sharp tuskers! Destroying and uprooting trees with his heavy, steaming, and muscular body. Two sparring elephants raged into battle to win their lady love.

Washing over this entire narrative was the love and longing between Rama and Sita, both separated from each other’s physical presence, now torn with grief as they witnessed in wilderness of nature and in the animal kingdom, an ebb and flow of cyclical sensuality, compassion, heat and desire. This unbearable solitude created mirages of hope, making the other’s physical presence so real throughout the performance. At the end, the spirit of love wins despite the absence of the physical presence of the one you love. Three hours had passed when I awakened from this celestial dream. The dancer left the proscenium, her yellow-hued face hidden behind a blazing gold hand fan, and the music returned into expanse of a silent, dark, black void.

This Nangiar Koothu recital, was curated by dramaturge and writer, Rustom Barucha, in collaboration with the American author, Professor Paula Richman. This performance was a beautiful ode to the passing of Theatre veteran, Veenapani Chawla, founder of Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts and Research, and her eternal presence in the world of theatre.