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Conceiving this idea from the actual Meghadootam was very interesting as well as very challenging. Shijith Nambiar
Meghadootham (The cloud messenger) found expressive articulation as a set of talented dancers and musicians took to stage at the famed Music Academy to present this classical work of Kalidasa. It was premiered at the Academy for two days i.e July 26 and 27. Oscar nominee Bombay Jayashri scored music for the work. Choreography and script adaptation were done by Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon. Late Professor Revathy played a huge role in explaining each verse and its importance in the Kavya. This awesome combination was ably assisted by a talented group of young dancers and musicians to make this recreation of a master piece a `fantabulous experience’ for the presenters as well as the audience. Cleveland Cultural Alliance produced this show to raise funds for AIM for SEVA to further its cause in educating poor kids in rural India. Choreographer and Dancer Shijith Nambiar talks to www.carnaticdarbar.com on the joy and challenges involved in recreating such a classical work. Excerpts:”

Meghadootham of Kalidasa - What it takes for you as the choreographer to re-create such a piece in a dance-ballet format? What were the challenges involved, and how did you manage to avoid pitfall if any in the way?
As a choreographer and a performer, we always take up challenges and risks while creating and re-creating something which will appeal to our rasikas. That challenge was the most interesting part of Meghadootham. Meghadootham is a poem and not a play. Compared to Kalidasa's other works, it is lyrical, and one could see a lot of imagination. An exiled man pining for his beloved sees a cloud and he wants to send a message to his beloved through the cloud. Kalidasa's Meghadootam has two chapters - Utharamegha and Poorvamegha. In the first chapter, the Yaksha describes the route to Alaka, and in the second chapter, he gives his messages that are to be delivered to the Yakshi. Throughout Meghadootham, it is the Yaksha alone who is narrating or speaking to the cloud. This is the gist of the Meghadootham. Who could have imagined a non-living object like a cloud as a messenger? Kalidasa’s imagination flows so beautifully in this literary work. Some say it is Kalidasa's own story. When we approach Meghadootham, we can see a deep sadness within the Yaksha. Sometimes he is a child. And, sometimes he becomes a great poetic lover.

In our childhood, we all had many ambitions. When we see an airplane or a bird flying high, we, many a time, wish that if we could fly like that bird or airplane, we could have reached somewhere easily. Our take on the Meghadootham is also very similar. When the Yaksha sees the cloud he wishes that if he were a cloud, he could fly like a cloud and easily reach his beloved Yakshi in Alaka.

Throughout Meghadootham we have tried to portray the relationship between prakruthi and purusha. In our interpretation, nature plays a very important part in the first few scenes where we have the creepers, rivers, squirrels and butterflies trying to cheer up the pining Yaksha and later when a group of clouds gather and decides to take the Yaksha’s tears as a message to the Yakshi in Alaka.

Conceiving this idea from the actual Meghadootam was very interesting as well as very challenging. We all know how many of Kalidasa's works have been portrayed traditionally in the form of a ballet. Without breaking away from the foundation and aesthetic values, we have taken the liberty to come up with a fine script to interpret the Meghadootham on stage.

It is a Sanskrit work. How difficult is it to imbibe it internally, and reflect it in an expressive format?
It is a Sanskrit poetry, which is not in a dance-ballet format. As I mentioned above, it is an imagination and it is a dream. We had all the rights to imbibe our own imagination without breaking the barrier. Meghadootham has a story, and we feel it is the most beautiful poem of Kalidasa. We had spent many months to conceive a script before we started the choreography. That was the difficult part. Once we had a script, we had to find ways to execute it. In some places, we would get stuck. It is very easy to tell a story, but executing it is kind of challenging.

It is about love, the lost love and the yearning to regain the love. Does this make it a lot simpler for a dancer to give it an expressive articulation?
Though Meghadootam is the story of the Yaksha pining for his beloved, the major portion of the text contains the description of the beautiful landscape of Northern India. Hence, it was not very easy to depict it like a regular love story.

Which is the difficult part of the whole episode, and how did you overcame it?
In our interpretation, we wanted to depict the cloud as the mind of the Yaksha or a cloud that was formed by the tears of the Yaksha. Bringing this aptly on stage was bit difficult. After many thoughts and by working on it a number of times, we finally succeeded in portraying it. We wanted to depict that the cloud is nothing but the yaksha’s very soul that yearns to be with the Yakshi.

When you do a creation of this kind, what is the underlying message - for you the creator, the co-artistes, and the audience?
An artiste should not compromise on any creativity. When he starts compromising on the art form, there is no artiste. We always try to experience the divine through our art and try to share this divine experience with the audience.

The role of music in illuminating the entire creation. How much has it helped you in making it a wholesome presentation?
As I have mentioned above, it is a poem and the language itself is musical. In every creation, when we visualize a scene or an emotion, we also visualize the kind of music we want. And, when you have somebody like Bombay Jayashri who understands the emotion we want to portray, everything just falls into place.

Late Prof. Revathy was an acclaimed Sanskrit scholar. What kind of perfection she introduced into the dance. What had been her role?
Before we finalised the script she helped us to understand the beauty of Sanskrit language and made us realize that it is a not a dead language. She has inspired us a lot. She used to explain each verse and its importance in the Kavya. She was very particular that we didn't miss out on any important verses.

The co-artistes - singers as well as dancers - have done an excellent job. Generally, dance is a team work. How much training have they undergone for this specific work?
It is a team work. They all have worked so hard to make this a grand success. We worked almost 4 months to put everything together. We are fortunate to have had such wonderful dancers with us. Especially in Meghadootam, we have worked with dancers from different schools. When you have like-minded artistes and those who are willing to give their best, you can come up with a fantabulous creation. Unity of dancers was shown in this production, and, hence, we succeeded. At the same time, the unconditional support from AIM for SEVA made a huge difference. They have worked really hard to bring this work alive. We were just an instrument.

What is the high point of this work according to you?
Kalidasa and his poetry and, of course, the music by Bombay Jayashri.

How much Bombay Jayashri proved an inspiration for this program me?
Without her support, guidance and the music she created, Meghadootam would have been a difficult task. It was very easy to work with her as she understood every nuance of the emotion we visualised, choreography became easier when her music flowed.
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