It's hard to go wrong with Gandhi-ji. Just published in the November issue of India Currents!
|Photo by Ramani Aravindhan|
“Violence and religious intolerance is continually in the news. It is important to reiterate Gandhi’s message, particularly among the next generation for whom this non-violent approach may seem completely untenable,” explains Mythili Kumar, Artistic Director of Abhinaya Dance Company. Sixty-four years after Gandhi’s death, the Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose is presenting “Gandhi: The Mahatma,” a dance-theater production presenting Gandhi’s life events and inspirational encounters that transformed him into a world figure. Although the original performance in 1995 toured both the west and east coasts of the United States, the current program has been expanded and re-choreographed through collaboration between Mythili Kumar and her daughter, Rasika Kumar, Abhinaya’s Associate Artistic Director. With both mother and daughter winners of Isadora Duncan Awards, and backed by a talented corps of dancers and musicians, the performance promises an exemplary and innovative take on an Indian icon.
“We are keeping this as a crisp, no-intermission 100 minute production so the story line does not get disrupted and the audience leaves with the messages of religious tolerance and equality of all mankind fresh in their minds,” Mythili Kumar says. The title of role of Gandhi is played by Mythili Kumar, but the performance uses the voice of Gandhi’s grandniece, Manubhen, to approach the legend that is Gandhi through reminiscences. Manubhen is played by Malavika Kumar. “I did not think it would make sense to have Gandhi dance Bharatanatyam. It is more theatre and dancing done by others as required for the scenes,” reflects Kumar. Drawing from a diverse set of source materials, Kumar’s genius is bringing an otherworldly yet traditionally static figure to the stage. “In 1995 I only had tons of books and his autobiography to conceive the show and also include episodes from [other] world leaders’ lives, Mandela, King Jr., Chavez for depicting his legacy.” Kumar has since filled in her creative vision with original footage and documentaries to create an entirely new view of Gandhi’s life. “I wanted it to be different from the film Gandhi,” stresses Kumar.
Photo by Ramani Aravindhan
“Next, to show his story, we present through the reminiscences of Manubhen a fear episode, a school episode, and his South African humiliations which led him to his first satyagraha resistance,” narrates Kumar. Kumar tackles the trick of tracing Gandhi from the vulnerability of a young boy tormented by nightmares after eating goat meat to a young lawyer unconsciously crafting his core philosophy out of his experiences on the South African soil. As Gandhi writes, “The principle called Satyagraha came into being before that name was invented. Indeed when it was born, I myself could not say what it was.”
|Photo by Ramani Aravindhan|
Kumar concludes, “Gandhi lived an exemplary life as a compassionate and selfless human being who was devoted to the cause of the poor, the neglected, and the oppressed. His spirit inspired the people and enriched the lives of millions throughout the world.” It is exactly this goal, and this spirit, that will be evoked in her upcoming performance.
Gandhi: The Mahatma
Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose
Mythili Kumar, title role of Gandhi
Saturday, November 17th at 8pm
Sunday, November 18th at 4pm
Mexican Heritage Theater
1700 Alum Rock Ave.
San Jose, CA 95116
Tickets start at $20