To commemorate Bollywood’s 100th birthday, the Indian embassy holds a week of Bollywood films screening with Amitabh Bachchan to Aamir Khan decorating the screen. But aside from the screening, the embassy also invited Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra dance company straight from New Delhi to perform excerpts from the Ramayana. The performance was held in Sapta Pesona building, also known as the Ministry of Tourism.
It was a very interesting choice to use the Ramayana to celebrate Bollywood’s birthday, since those two things seemed to be so far away from each other. Ambassador Gurjit Singh then explained on his speech that the reason he chose the performance was because the Ramayana is the foundation and origin of modern Bollywood cinema. It has everything from action, drama, romance, tragedy, and comedy. The topics consisted in Ramayana are vast and thorough, making it the perfect base for any story. Besides live performances have been going on for thousands of years, long before camera was invented, and is still going strong.
Before the performance started, the guests were treated with some Indian specialties such as cholay, samosas, and masala chai. What really funny and interesting was since the samosas must be served warm and crispy and Sapta Pesona building did not have a proper kitchen, there were people frying the samosas on a not-so-hidden corner of the lobby. Temporary gas stoves, waiters squatting and picking up fried samosas seemed to be out of the place, they were slightly covered by a row of potted plants dividing the “emergency” kitchen from the guests. This was a casual event, but I think this phenomenon is indigenous to Indonesia.
Watching the performance I couldn’t help but compared the Indian performance with the Javanese version of Ramayana that I’ve watched in Prambanan temple. The Javanese version seemed to be much more elaborate than the Indian one. When a culture diffuses and assimilates into another culture, elaboration always happens. Same thing with the Javanese version. Different from the gentle Javanese version, the Indian version was very expressive as the dancers skilfully portrayed even the subtlest emotion through their facial expressions. Nevertheless both performances are beautiful in each of its own way, and it proves that culture is something that is born from giving, taking, and accepting. Globalization have already happened since thousands of years ago, we are much more connected than we ever knew, which is sad because in this modern era plenty of people still don’t realize that.
Ambassador Singh giving speech addressing the event
What unique about this performance by Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra was it combined 3 different versions of Ramayana. It could be seen from the types of dances from the North Indian style, the central style, and the kata dance from South India. It would take hours, even days, to tell the entire story of Ramayana. The dance company basically only shown us the chronicles of the important events which covered 2 hours.
The stage was left to the minimum, with only a stool to sit down and a huge screen behind. The music and the dialogues were pre-recorded, sometimes you could see Microsoft Windows logo on screen between scenes. There were also moving vector images played on screen to elaborate the emotions of the scenes. It may sound that there were some loose ends, but I do have to explain that the stage used for the performance was built for speech purposes, not for theatrical purposes. Thus I dare say that for such simple venue the dance troupe did an excellent job.
Below are some photographs that I took. Pardon the hazyness, things were moving fast and using flash was not allowed.
opening number, symbolizing prosperity & happiness in the kingdom of Ayodhyaone of the princes (I’m not sure if he was Bharata or Shatrugana) during the training sessionRama & his teacher, Resi Wasistathe princes & their bowsResi Wiswamitra, Resi Wasista & King Dasarata discussing about sending the princes to Dandaka forest to fight against the giants (Dasarata looks like he’s riding a black bear, but it actually is someone’s head :p)Shinta’s first appearanceShinta finally meets Rama & it was love at first sightShinta’s father, King Janaka overlooks the competition to seek a suitor for the princess. Rama wins definitelyRama’s stepmother, Queen Kekayi (green shirt), banishes Rama & Shinta to Pancawati forest because she wants her son, Bharata, to be king. King Dasarata is looking helplessly. He is unable to help Rama as he promised long time ago to Kakeyi, who saved his life during a battle, that he’d do anything she asked. She’s claiming the promise now. Dasarata dies soon after Rama is banishedRahwana’s troop Rahwana of AlengkaJatayu the bird tries to defend Shinta from getting kidnapped by Rahwana. Rahwana slains him eventuallyShinta reluctantly follows RahwanaSugriwa, king of the wanara (monkey people) & uncle to Hanuman
There were so many scenes I couldn’t capture including Sugriwa’s battle with his twin bother, Subali; Laksmana’s fight with Kumbakarna; Hanuman leading the wanaras against Rahwana’s troop; and Rahwana’s eventual defeat by Rama.
celebratory dance for the reunion of Rama & ShintaRama with his wife, Shinta; his brothers Laksmana, Bharata & Shatrugana. Along with Hanuman & Resi Wasista whom is blessing the couplegroup photosKumbakarna(Rahwana’s brother) in bluethe 3 main stars