Lending voice to a mute river

Story of Ganges

Lending voice to  a mute river

Visuals of raindrops falling in a river soothed one’s soul as a woman holding an earthen lamp stepped out on a darkened stage. As if to welcome her, an array of earthen lamps lit up and thus began the performance of Ganga, a choreographic piece by Brigitte Chataignier, which is a part of the ongoing Bonjour India.

The choreographed dance piece was staged alongwith live poetic verses - narrated by Nivedita Bhattacharjee and mesmerising notes of santoor played by Sandip Chatterjee.

Nivedita’s commanding voice and Sandip’s flirtatious notes provided meaning to the dancers contemporary moves that flowed as does the river Ganga. The performance which the artists claimed was extempore appeared to be structured and well-rehearsed.

A mix of pre-recorded voices of commoners on the ghats of Ganga gave a lively feel to the piece and what added to the charm was Sandip’s experiment with a Japanese gong (a percussion instrument consisting of a metal plate struck with a drumstick) and Mandira (a tiny bell) which helped the audience visualise chiming of bells and hustle-bustle at the ghats.

While Nivedita and Sandip formed one core of the performance, the dancers on stage - retold the story of Ganga from its source at Gaumukh to when it winds it way down to Bay of Bengal. The dancers explored the intensity of Ganga through voice, gestures and body language conveying the river’s joy, melancholy, angst and contemplative self by turns.

Inspired by the pious river’s journey, the verse often refers to Prayag, Haridwar and Kashi even as movements by dancers narrate the tale of a river that is mighty but miserable. A tale symbolic of the pain that a woman goes through.

“I travelled to places where Ganga flows and saw Ganges-Water, a documentary by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Both inspired me,” shares Brigitte, the brain behind the performance who sought to draw parallels between the life of a river and a woman - both stripped of their strength and joy, making it relevant to modern thought. A French choreographer and Mohiniattam dancer, Brigitte has performed this piece many times in France.


While composer Alain Kremski has played the piano for her performances abroad, Brigitte decided to collaborate with Sandip for the India tour. Brigitte’s performance was definitely a notch above that of the other dancers. The beginning and conclusion of the piece was well presented but somewhere in between, the recital seemed to slow down. The music however, ensured the audience’s attention throughout. “It was challenging to experiment (with instruments like Mandira and the gong) since I am a santoor player. But what I played was what I felt. There were no notes in front of me but the poem, which I rendered through my music,” said Sandip.

Infact, each one - dancers, narrator and musician delivered their interpretation of the verse which made the performance seamless.

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