Russian ballet 'Swan Lake' adapted to fit an Indian 'odyssey'
New Delhi : Clad beautifully in a white Odissi saree, exponent Sharmila Mukherjees "Hansika" may resemble Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovskys ballerina of one of the most popular ballets of all time "Swan Lake",, but the Indian elements added by Mukherjee make it a visual spectacle tailored to the Indian audience.
"Hansika", the Indian adaptation of "Swan Lake" was premiered in Delhi on Thursday.
The 70-minute mega-production saw a packed house at the Kamani Auditorium, and had a 25-artiste ensemble present the narrative of a swan-woman under the spell of a curse, with an Indian twist.
Mukherjee, a disciple of Odissi legend and Padma Vibhushan recipient Kelucharan Mohapatra, has conceptualised and choreographed the piece. She herself played Odile, the evil magician who curses her sister and protagonist Odette to be a "swan by day and woman by night", after she loses a dance duet from her.
The curse, as the story goes, can only be salvaged when Odette finds true love. "Through the touch of true love alone."
"I've always been very fascinated by the story of ‘Swan Lake', it's a very visually beautiful ballet. When I had the courage, I decided to go for a mega-production," Mukherjee, who in 2004 founded the Bengaluru-based Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance, told IANS.
The visually captivating act began with a semi-circular formation of danseuses -- swan-women -- gracefully utilising hand movements in a fluttering motion and presenting a dance of swans. The tale progressed to the prince encountering Odette by the lakeside, and both of them falling in love, meaning the curse can finally be salvaged.
Complete with a wedding sequence with "mehendi" and "haldi" ceremonies, the production enraptured the Indian audience, while maintaining the fluidity of the original.
"There was a lot of thought that had to go into it, since we had to suit it to the Indian context. I kept the basic essence of the ballet. In the western ballet, there are ballroom scenes, which cannot be in an Indian story so we had a wedding ceremony, with the ‘kumkum', ‘haldi' and the ‘mehendi'," she added.
The dance-drama, however, does not give its spectators a happy ending, but what it does highlight is a subtle message about pollution of water-bodies.
Mukherjee, who believes that "artists must contribute to society through their art" and has done a previous dance production "Sookshma" on cutting of trees, shared: "In very subtle ways, I have shown the pollution of the lake, for example, through swans suffering."
The Odissi performance, through the use of lighting, sound and set, was an experiment in how "ballet and libretto" could be adapted to the "Indian world of raga, taal, laya and rasa", the organisers said.
It also aimed to expose the national audience to internationally reputed art, "with as finesse, class and depth".
"Hansika" was performed in Delhi on November 22.