Love in a time of war

Art August 29, 2013 00:00

By JENNIFER PARK
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Rama and Ravan face off on stage as Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra brings the Ramayana to Bangkok's festival



NO CLASSIC WORK of literature has enjoyed so much influence in South and Southeast Asia as the Ramayana. It has inspired the name of cities such as Ayutthaya, countries like Sri Lanka, and Thailand’s Rama dynasties of kings.

Many of the epic poem’s most famous episodes are still studied by children across the region. Supported by the Embassy of India, these dramatic escapades form the core of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra’s performance on September 23 at Bangkok’s 15th International Festival of Dance and Music.

Lauded both at home and abroad, the New Delhi company brings the magical tale back to its roots while also imbuing it with contemporary significance. As this famous chapter unfolds, depicting how Rama wins the hand of Sita, while the demon king Ravan waits in the wings to

 wreak havoc and revenge, these immaculately garbed dancers show why the Ramayana is an age-old tale for all ages and eras.

This is an action-packed story of adventure, especially after Hanuman, the commander of the monkey army, is sent out in search of Sita. Planet of the Apes has nothing on Hanuman and his warriors who leap and pivot, scratch and move in such chimp-like ways that the crowd is often in hysterics or sitting on the edge of their seats with suspense.

Fight scenes run rampant in this production. After Rama’s forces invade Lanka, it’s time for a showdown between the good king and his evil nemesis, Ravan, the overlord of the demon armies.

Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra is the perfect troupe to bring such a mythological work to life Ever since its inception in 1952, the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage and the promotion of India’s performing arts has been at the forefront of its agenda. Beginning in that same year, the Kendra College of Music and Dance has also played a paramount part in training and inspiring a new generation of performing artists.

The company maintains a permanent dance-drama group. Through its various programmes and stage performances, the group has tried to capture and highlight the most important elements of the country’s religion, mythology and folklore. Performed over some 2,000 nights in India and abroad, the Ram Lila has been one of its major achievements.

The company’s director is Shobha Deepak Singh. She has enjoyed a remarkable 45-year career in the fields of costume design, directing, choreography and arts management. In recognition of her contribution to the performing arts, the president of India awarded her the highly coveted Padmashri prize in 1999. More recently she was awarded the Woman of Excellence Award from Miranda House.

A master of many different dance styles, Shashidharan Nair is the choreographer. For the past two decades, he has worked on all their major productions, staged his work at the country’s biggest festivals, and toured throughout Canada, the US, the UK and different parts of Asia.

The festival is sponsored by Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Hospital, B Grimm, DusitThani Bangkok, Indorama Venture, The Nation Group, Beiersdorf, SCG, Singha, Thai Airways International, Tourism Authority of Thailand, and Toyota Motor Thailand.

WHERE THE ACTION IS

The Ramayana will be performed at 7.30pm on September 23 at the Thailand Cultural Centre.

Tickets cost Bt500 to Bt1,500 at ThaiTicketMajor.

For details, visit www.BangkokFestivals.com.