A classic retold

Dance drama
Last Updated 20 July 2015, 18:50 IST

The story of Shankuntala and Dushyanta is one that is well-known. Romanticised by Kalidasa, the love story of the ‘asura’ princess and the king of Hastinapura finds its way into our literature, theatre, dance and even thoughts. In yet another such retelling, renowned kathak dancers Hari and Chethana performed a dance drama called ‘Shakunthalam’ recently at Chowdiah Memorial Hall.

It narrated the whole story from the epic and was detailed by the two dancers and 20 of their students. With intricate facial gestures and leg movements, they displayed a visual treat. It began with Shakuntala, the adopted daughter of sage Kanva, playing with the forest and animals, along with her close friends, Anasuya and Priyamvada. They eventually run into Dushyanta, who is lost in the forest. It doesn’t take long for the two to fall in love — Hari and Chethana were the perfect pairing to tell their love story.
With gentle music and the occasional narration in English, they explained the story to even those who are not well-versed in the classical dances.

After that, the four move to the hermitage and Shakuntala and Dushyanta spend some time together, before he leaves for his kingdom (on promising to send for her). Her grief and anxiety are portrayed with ease by Chethana.

Chethana, dressed as the lovely princess, is left brooding over her thoughts when sage Durvasa visits the hermitage. Enraged by her lack of etiquette, he curses her — that the one she is thinking of will forget her. Distraught on her behalf, Anasuya and Priyamvada beg for forgiveness. But the curse can only be modified.

Throughout the dance drama, the students of Noopur Performing Art Centre find themselves on the stage, as animals, trees, the wind, friends and more. They put in their all to make the performance a success.

When Kanva returns to the hermitage, he is informed of what all has happened and he sympathises with Shakuntala. He sends her off to Dushyanta’s palace, with a ring that will help him recognise her. But she drops the ring in river Ganga and becomes a stranger to the king.

With trained leg movements and facial expressions, the two cast a spell over the audience. The retelling was made unique with custom-made sets and costumes.


(Published 20 July 2015, 15:17 IST)

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