A bold and contemporary theatre and dance presentation

Danseuse, director and dramatist, Sowgandhika Krishnan, and her entire crew enthralled the audience with a brilliant production at the Kulturraum Thalwil. ‘Baithak ‘comes from the French word ‘salon’ – which symbolises a gathering of people coming together to watch and discuss art. Sangeetha Bala and Manasa Mukka attended the performance when it played to audiences in Zurich on the 24th March 2019.

Sowgandhika aims to present a series of ‘Baithaks’ with a different playwright and a different story each time. The first Baithak in the series presented the works of Rabindranath Tagore in the production titled ‘Three Stories’. It focused on current societal issues such as inclusiveness, diversity, self-worth, women empowerment, systemic exploitation and corruption.

The three stories included; Chandalika a dance drama from 1938, in which the female protagonist’s yearning to be accepted and loved, her mental agony, and a mother’s blind-folded love for her daughter, had been depicted with method-acting by Sowgandhika and Suparna Acharya. Chitrangada, from 1892, is inspirational and thought-provoking to any modern-day woman watching it. The representation of Chitrangada’s inner and outer self has been depicted through masking and mirroring in a very artistic way. Tota Kahani from 1918, points towards criticism towards the Indian education system introduced by the British Government in India. This plot has been well articulated and mapped to the 21st-century corporate world by the narrator. The tinge of corporate language and jargon had the audience in agreement and laughter. Tripti Abhijatha played a dual role of the victimised parrot and of the curious and intrusive whistleblower – two very contrasting characters with strong conviction and stage presence.

Photo of Baithak of three stories

The wardrobe and props for each character in this production have been well thought-through, amplifying the role play with seamless transitions between scenes. The sound and lighting effects add to the overall impact especially during the dark scenes of Chandalika. Of special mention is an overlapping music piece used intelligently to intertwine the three stories and the protagonists. The choreography for this music piece is an expression of identity and self-assertion and, though used subtly, is a liberating force.

Photo of voice artistes of A Baithak of 3 storiesThe artists have used the “Lokadharmi” style of ‘abhinayas’ or expression keeping the representation realistic and relatable to any audience as opposed to theatrical, larger-than-life representation. The three voice-over artists need special mention, for bringing the characters to life through their impeccable live performance. The voice modulation and expression, by a monologue, dialogue, or announcement was professional and breathed freshness into each character.

The entire repertoire has been choreographed with great care preserving the originality of the works, simultaneously combining it with humour, wit, and modernity through its narration. It was also a reminder of Rabindranath Tagore’s visionary works, and how eerily relevant it stands in today’s millennial age.

About the Author

Photo of Sangeetha BalaSangeetha Bala is a finance professional @ General Electric.

Passionate about Indian arts and culture, she is a Bharatanatyam dancer herself, who’s performed in several prestigious events in both India and Switzerland.

She hails from Chennai, India and loves Carnatic music and her filter coffee! She is also passionate about western music and finds some of the recent Indo-western fusion works inspiring.

In her spare time, you’ll catch her spending quality time with her family, playing a new instrument or in some kind of creative pursuit.

She believes in staying true to oneself and giving the best in everything one does. She also believes in giving back what she’s learnt and aspires to teach children through dance and music in future.

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