Evoking emotion through music and storytelling

Engaging narrative

Evoking emotion through music and storytelling

Who would have thought that shringar rasa could describe the beauty and valour of Arjun while vibhatsa could draw the disgust that his valour aroused at certain times? Evoking the nine aesthetics or navarasas, the three artists – VR Devika, Sushma Somasekharan and Akshay Ananthapadmanaban retold the tales from Mahabharata, using the power of music.

As Devika’s words fell on audience’s ears, the movement of her hands and facial expressions lent support in recreating the epic hero Arjun. Devika’s storytelling found a resonance in the Carnatic recital rendered by Sushma, in various ragas - according to the rasa highlighted, even as she was ably accompanied on mridangam and kanjeera by Akshay.

The healing powers of music are known to the world but it was a splendid experience to feel the power of music which evoked emotion. Such was the performance, ‘Texts and Textures: Navarasas in the Life of Arjun’ held recently at the India International Centre. “Everybody likes to listen to stories but Carnatic music is not liked by the younger generation. So I brought the two art forms together in order to let the audience enjoy both,” shared Akhila Krishnamurthy, the brain behind the performance and founder of Aalaap, the organisation.

One witnessed the intermingling of the arts of story-telling, singing and instrumental music when the three artistes shared the stage to present an unusual creative dialogue. While Devika narrated selected stories from the Mahabharata, she took up the challenge of delineating the character of Arjun by evoking nine rasas of Shringar, Vir, Adbhut, Vibhats, Karunya, Hasya, Bhayanak, Raudra and Shanth.

Though seated only in one place on stage, Devika engaged the audience very successfully. She also completed the task of bringing the event a full circle. Thus, her performance began with the description of Arjun’s beauty (Shringar rasa); his valour (Vir) when praising Lord Shiva’s prowess (Adbhuta); skills as an archer which destroyed the Tandav forest (Vibhatsa); merciful attitude towards demon maya (Karuna); mirth when Duryodhana falls in water (Hasya); fear when he sees his relatives ahead of the war in Kurukshetra (Bhayanak); rage when he hears about his son Abhimanyu’s death (Raudra) and ends with him adopting sanyas (Shantha rasa).

Devika’s storytelling was complemented very ably by Sushma Carnatic recital. She choses different ragas to sing verses after each tale and was accompanied by Akshay. While Sushma’s music possesses the mind and forces one to feel a-typical emotion, Akshay’s beats added to the whole experience, making it surreal.

The fast notes of Sankarabharanam raag compel one to tap feet as the emotion of hasya is too overpowering. Likewise, the Revathi raag is aptly placed to evoke Raudra rasa and Desh raga to represent Shantham rasa.

One was stumped watching Akshay who makes use of the kanjeera to evoke two very different emotions – the vira rasa and raudra rasa. Also, his mridangam lent a dramatic feel to the war scenes and when Arjun invoked the blessings of Lord Shiva.

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