Religion / Krishna Janmashtami 2019: A ballet that brings the Leela alive

Hindustan Times : Aug 24, 2019, 01:25 PM

The mischievous butter lover, the adorable prankster, melodious flute player, the captivating cowherd — how can the birth of such a one not call for a befittingly colourful celebration? At this time of the year, the Capital usually buzzes with the Krishna cheer. But if there’s one place people are making a beeline for, this Janmashtami, is the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra. For the past 42 years, for a week every year, the institute has been organising a dance drama on Lord Krishna, and this year is no different.

The ballet, which has the final show of the year today, conjures up the magic of Krishna’s leela. What sets this ballet apart? Quite a lot.

Modern and meaningful

The director of the institute and the show, Shobha Deepak Singh, in her 70s, tells us with much enthusiasm about the changes the show has seen, over the years. “The ballet started in 1977 because a competitive organisation who used to hold a similar show, stopped doing so. When we started it, the duration of the show was around one hour and in the popular game of dice in the Mahabharata, girls would be the dice. Many people raised an objection to it. From then to now, we have changed a lot of it. The whole show has a message now, every scene of it,” says Singh.

Adapting with the times has lent the dance drama, which depicts Krishna as a diplomat, thinker and a man of action, increased viewership over the years. “Now many more young children and people want to come to it because there is a message they can go back with. Even former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji loved the show,” says Singh, who was honoured with the Padma Shri for her contributions in the arts and culture.

Simple language, engaging sequences

To ensure everyone understood the message and the dialogue, the language has been simplified, and changes such as adapting the Sanskrit shlokas to Hindi, have been introduced. “People love it because of the simplification. For the first time, LED screens are being used in the ballet this year. It’s used in the effects required for Govardhan Leela, Krishna’s dance on Kaliya Naag and others. To me, its been a growing and learning journey, as a director,” adds Singh, who is also a passionate photographer and has written three books about the subject.

No actors plays the same role for than five years

Rajkumar Sharma, 35, has been part of the dance drama for over a decade-and-a-half. “I joined the institution as a student. I’ve literally grown up here. I have played Bharat, Lakshman and others for many years to prepare myself for the role of Krishna. Krishna’s role has impacted me so much that I have even started talking his way — slowly, calmly and softly. I even remind myself the shlokas which I recite during the show to be mindful sometimes. I am honoured to be a part of this,” says Sharma, who also plays Lord Rama in a production of the Ramayana.

Sharma has had the role to himself for the longest now. However, no actor is given a role for more than four or five years now. Singh explains the rather interesting reason for the same. “If we keep an actor for one particular character for longer duration, viewers get used to the actor and it would be difficult to change it then,” she says.

Why Delhiites flock to the ballet is also because of the attention to details, the sublime sequences, regional dances and authentic costumes of the production. Singh looks into most things herself, from the actors’ costume and makeup to their hairstyling. As Sharma says, “Ma’am humein haircut khud hi deti hain. She is very particular about all the details.