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Finding Krishna through dance

To mark Women's Day, 'Anamika', which merges classical dance forms with theatre, will be staged in Mumbai for the first time next week

(From left) Preethi Bharadwaj, Meghna Das, and Lekha Naidu  practicing dance fusion. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint<br />
(From left) Preethi Bharadwaj, Meghna Das, and Lekha Naidu practicing dance fusion. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

“Anamika is a woman’s search for passion, for strength, for meaning. At its crux is the Bhakti philosophy that believes that there is a personal relationship between you and your passion, whatever that passion is," says director Meghna Das, whose production, Anamika—Searching For Krishna, will be staged at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai, on 2 March, to mark Women’s Day, which falls on 8 March.

The collaborative project merges three distinct classical dance forms—Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak—with contemporary theatre. “It came out of the desire to take classical arts in a way that was more accessible and reached a new audience," says Das, explaining that though the performances tell the stories of women from Indian mythology —Devaki, Radha and Draupadi—whose lives were shaped by Lord Krishna, “the emotions evoked are universal and timeless. Anamika in Sanskrit means one who has no name, so in short she represents just anybody. I wanted people who watched it to think, ‘Hey that could have been me’," she says.

This is the fourth run of the show, and the first outside Bengaluru where it was first staged in February 2015. The play is being staged in Mumbai for the first time.

Actor Lekha Naidu, who plays the role of the universal woman, sets the context of this production through a monologue during which she morphs from one role to the next. From a career woman who is forced to leave behind her baby with a capable, new nanny, to a young woman who sneaks out of home to meet a new lover, and last but not least, a woman who is a victim of a sexual crime.

As Naidu acts, a parallel performance, executed by the three dancers, takes place behind her. As she delves into the lament of the career woman, another mother’s lament is related through Preethi Bharadwaj’s Bharatanatyam performance. Devaki, the biological mother of Lord Krishna, is forced to hand over her child to Yashoda and Nanda in Gokul. And while she knows that this saves him from a sure death at the hands of the tyrant Kamsa, her brother, she cannot help but yearn for the child she has lost. “Motherhood is almost always linked to Yashoda but I wanted to do Devaki because it was still unexplored," says Bharadwaj, adding that the performance was choreographed to a poem composed by Kulashekhara Alwar, the seventh of the 12 alwar saints of south India.

Freshly minted love, full of cutesy instances, shy glances and memories that warm your heart is the next theme that Naidu explores in this production. And Radha, errant wife and reckless lover of the young Krishna, embodies it. “As an Odissi dancer, I was introduced to Jaydeva’s poetry very early. We do a lot of work with the Geet Govinda and I have performed pieces from there for many years," says the director.

The final piece deals with a woman being violated, humiliated and let down. Like Draupadi. Pooja Pant, whose Kathak performance tells the story of the common wife of the five Pandava brothers, explains that she will be performing in the Baithaki style—seated, she will use hand movements and facial expressions to convey the different emotions.

Anamika—Searching For Krishna will be staged on 2 March, 6pm/8pm at the Experimental Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai. Tickets, 250, 500, available at

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