Muvva-Nritya Raaga Nigamam established by Kuchipudi dancer, Dr. Hima Bindu Kanoj, in 2003, is geared up to celebrate its 20th Birthday, with a ballet depicting the Navarasas of Dance through the classic epic literature of Goswami Tulsidas, Shri Ram Charitmanas, on 9 November 2023, at Shilpakala Vedika, titled ‘Navarasa Ramacharitam’.
Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, Kuchipudi dancer and founder of Muvva-Nritya Raaga Nigamam, Dr. Hima Bindu Kanoj says: “It all began when I was working with Sri Arun Govil’s ‘Sanatan Paramapara aur Vichara Dhaara’ group by writing articles on the epics and puranas for their blog, during the Covid pandemic. While writing articles on Ramayana, and having watched Ramayana again on TV, the idea of doing a dance feature based on Shri Rama Charitmanas of Goswami Tulsidas propped in our mind.” Dr. Hima Bindu says that as they were planning for their 20 years’ foundation day celebration, they thought a ballet on Shri Rama Charitmanas would be the perfect presentation.
First Performance: She recalls that the first performance of their institute when it started was ‘Bhavayami Raghuramam’, a composition by Maharaj Swathi Thirunal, also on Lord Ram. “I thought this would complete the circle wherein after 20 years we present the entire Ramayana once again and offer our thanks to the Almighty through this presentation,” she says and adds that when she put this idea in front of her team, all of them totally supported her. “My first thanks go to my team, Dr. Hari Krishna, Srivalli, Sriranjani, Sona, Meghana, Ujwala and my daughter Laasya for being my greatest support in the entire journey,” Dr. Hima Bindu says.
The Kuchipudi dancer confesses that having choreographed dance for quite a few Carnatic music compositions, they were sceptical first whether they could really do a dance number on this or not, as this was in Avadhi language. “We then started reading Shri Ram Charitmanas (with the Devanagari script along with the translations) and listened to the music from the internet audios of AIR. Having listened to the melodious music, and understanding the meaning of the lyrics (from the translations), the thought of doing a dance number grew,” she says. But the challenge according to Dr. Hima Bindu was composing a dance number for the entire epic, which would take much larger resources, time, understanding, and finances, which were way beyond their capacity.
Deciding The Presentation: The Kuchipudi dancer says the next step was to decide on how much should they do? “Should we start from Sri Rama’s birth, and end with the marriage of Sri Rama and Devi Sita? Or should we work on any other kanda (segment)? Pondering over these questions for many days, and many discussions later, the concept of Navarasas came up. Navarasas are an important aspect of dance, and it would be wonderful if we can pick up the incidents in Shri Ram Charitamanas which depict the Navarasas and compose dance numbers for the same,” she says.
The Muvva founder says after a decision on how to present was taken, “The daunting task of identifying and editing the scenes for the Navarasas began. My student, Meghana, helped me in the work of identifying the scenes. Once this task was over, we went on to work on editing the lyrics and completing the script.” The Muvva team then sent the completed script to Kuchi Srivardhani garu, (renowned South Indian singer), who rendered the female voice for the compositions, and Sarath Santosh garu, her colleague and eminent singer for Telugu Cinema, lent the male voice. “Srivardhani garu completed the recording in her studio in Chennai and sent the recorded version to us. With this song recording in hand, we then approached Dattatreya garu, who composed the music in his studio (Joshi Digitals) in Hyderabad, and gave us the finished product. The music accompanists were Thatikonda Mohan on the tabla, J. Dattatreya on the flute, Nandakumar on the sitar, Guru Prasad on the keyboard, and Phani on the Rhythm pads,” the dancer says.
Challenge Of Choreography: Dr. Hima Bindu states with the final music and recording in hand, they were ready to start the choreography. “Playing the recording, enacting and dancing to the scenes over and over again, the choreography was finally complete. After this, roles were assigned to our students and practice began. A point to mention in this is that students from all batches since the first batch in 2003, till the latest students from the Domakonda village are a part of this ballet,” she says.
With everything in place and practice continuing, they began a search for sponsors for the mega project. “We approached Sri S.S. Thaman, film music director, South Indian cinema, who has been a very strong support to us in this endeavour, and he put in a word with Shreyas Media. We went to Sheyas Media with our concept, which they liked, and are sponsoring the event, as conducting a classical program was also a first for them,” Dr. Hima Bindu says.
All Women: Sharing little more details, Dr. Hima Bindu says that Sri Ram Charitamanas, for the first time is being presented in Kuchipudi format. “The dancers in the performance are all women and young girls, thus being a production where all characters of Ramayana are portrayed by women,” she says.
The distinguished guests for the evening include Sivamani, Indian percussionist, S.S. Thaman, Music director of South Indian Cinema, Murali Mohan, Politician, Film Actor, and Producer; Bhanuchander, Film Actor, Director and Producer; Suman, Film Actor, Politician; Anil Ravipudi, Film director – Telugu cinema; Prof. Anuradha Tadakamalla, HOD, Dept. of Dance, University of Hyderabad and Honourable Guest for the evening, Guru Deepika Reddy, Chairperson, Telangana Sangeeta Nataka Akademi.
Over the last two years, Team Muvva has been working on Sri Ram Charitmanas, on the auspicious occasion of Sri Ram Navami, on 10 April 2022 presented a bhajan, ‘Shree Ramchandra Kripalu Bhajaman’, in a beautiful Kuchipudi Dance. On Laughing Colours channel on 12 August 2021, Team Muvva presented ‘Vibhishan Geeta’ on the factors needed for success in life. On the Republic Day in 2021, immediately after the COVID pandemic, Team Muvva presented ‘Ramayan Chaupai’ in dance and in obeisance to Lord Ram. It’s Lord Rama All The Way!