Panchakanya is about five different women from the Ramayana and Mahabharata — Ahilya, Tara, Draupadi, Mandodari and Sita. The women are compared to the five elements of nature. Gayatri Sriram played each of these characters and performed to the compositions of five musicians including her guru. The musicians were Balasubramanya Sharma (vocals), G Gurumurthy (mridangam), Sumarani (sitar), Mahesh Swamy (flute), Dayakar (violin) and Minal Prabhu (nattuvangam).
About this production, danseuse Gayatri Sriram said, “Panchakanya started four years ago and this is the fifth production and it is extremely special for me. I practised every day for this and my guru and the musicians have been with me every step of the way.”
The first character, Ahilya is an extremely beautiful woman who is sought after by the god Indra. To get to her, Indra acquires the image of Gautama so that he can enter her ashram. Though Ahilya is not fooled by Indra’s disguise, her curiosity gets the better of her and she succumbs to temptation. Later, when she realises her folly, Ahilya is deeply ashamed of herself and decides to live a life of meditation. Gayatri Sriram depicts this character with immense grace and shows the character’s curiosity, cleverness and eventually her grief through her actions and dance.
The second character,Tara, is strong, determined and also the protective mother who wants the best for her child. Gayatri Sriram portrays this character with ease showing the grit and determination which is an integral part of Tara.
The third character, Draupadi, symbolises fire and is immensely beautiful and courageous. Gayatri Sriram portrays this character with great panache, which is reminiscent of her powerful performance in her dance drama Trikon. The performance shows the journey from Draupadi’s birth to her swayamvar and eventually the infamous dice game and disrobing scene. Gayatri Sriram’s portrayal of Draupadi as the shy bride to the fierce scorned woman who curses the entire Kaurava clan is brilliant and kept the audience captivated.
The fourth character, Mandodari, wife of Ravana is seen as a wise, sensible woman who works hard to keep her husband and kingdom happy. When Ravana kidnaps Sita, Mandodari feels dejected, powerless and is filled with pain as she doubts her husband’s love and faithfulness to her. Gayatri Sriram here depicts Mandodari’s pain as she dances to the music.
The final character, Sita, is lissome, tiny, graceful and extremely beautiful. She captivates the attention of Rama with her skill and courage. The dance depicts her kidnapping, banishment and eventually her death in the arms of mother earth.
The chief guest and dancer Bhanumati, said, “The last scene brought tears to my eyes. Gayatri has played each character so clearly and beautifully.”
Gayatri Sriram excelled as she played all the five women and also the supporting characters of each story. The beautiful and graceful dancer set the stage on fire and left the audience mesmerised with her stunning performances.