At a time when birth and death anniversaries of great sons of India are being observed almost every other day, the death anniversary of Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharati went almost unnoticed, early this month. But for the pupils of Nritya Geethanjali Dance Academy who presented a dance-drama on the poet recently at the Tata Theatre.

For the Academy's founder-director Guru Rajee Narayan, "It was a dream come true. I had had my fill of dance-dramas based on mythology and those culled from the puranas and Ithihasas."

Poet Subramanya Bharati was a visionary far ahead of his times who left an indelible stamp on every phase of life. There was no subject, no theme or mood he had not enriched by his songs and no emotion he left unravelled. He composed songs and poems on every facet of life depicting the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs one confronted in all walks of life - socio-economic, political and cultural - and bringing in classical folk melodies in close coordination.

"To project the multi-faceted life of this versatile poet," says the Guru, "was my original idea. But reading all the books I had collected on him and the songs he had composed I found that whilst his songs are very fluent and smooth the story of his life isn't. Not a 'presentable' picture. Full of thorns, it was also not sufficient enough as a suject for a dance-drama. Grooping for a while I seized on the idea of depicting him through his songs and sought his grandaughter Lalitha Bharathi's help. Her narration of incidents which inspired him into penning songs on various subjects like awakening the men to their rights and duties, the women to their liberation and inspiring children to better life, fuelled my imagination. Each song, each incident however apparently trivial, had a message. Sugar coated and clothed in pleasant melody, the message was ideal for reaching all corners. A new depth, a new dimension dawned to turn my dream into a reality."

Continuing, the Guru explained how she tried to bring in the Bharati household, the couple and their two daughters in an introductory facet of each scene of the drama and let the personages of the songs take over the visualisation through dance. That way, a personal touch to the poet's domestic life was given. A dialogue between the Bharati couple, the wife playing quite an important role, inspiring him with ideas enlarging his vision, was the Guru's choreographic contrivance. And the actual drama in the Guru's words unfolded itself through "the manipulation of lighting". She let the life of the Mahakavi flow in dance, delivering the song's message. To encapsulate the epic proportion of the kavi's mesage in a two-hour production, called for a great deal of work.

The recital starting with a Prarthanai (prayer) weaves through ten scenes covering the poet's household and family dotted with significant events in his life, viz. awakening the masses to the greatness of Bharatmata and need for eschewing caste and religious differences, his self-imposed exile in Pondicherry (to evade arrest by the British Raj) and his subsequent return, his compositions on our epics - Kannan Paattu and Panchali Sabadam his patriotic outpourings and finally his exhortation to his countrymen to fight for freedom, as he lay dying after being attacked by a temple elephant.

The vision of the Guru visualising the messages of the Mahakavi was laudable, the selection of songs, the links provided for the storyline apt and the choreography weaving through classical and folk idioms and with suggestive links of the margam, gave the required pep. Music with original tune for introduction and popular melodies for visual enunciation, added appeal and authencity. Sartorical relevance was another plus point. Among the case, little Krishna stole the show. The dances on patriotism and national integration were well done.

Sulochana Rajendran
December 26, 1993. Indian Express, Bombay.