A battle of succession, an ominous prophecy, divine intervention, dance drama Moksha gives audience a choreographed evening of elegance and intrigue
Moksha, an Indian musical dance drama, produced, directed and choreographed by Raghavan Nair and Poornima Sharma, was enacted to a full house at the Science Theatre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, on the evening of 18 February.
The cast was drawn from Raghavan Nair’s Indian Dance Centre (IDC)—known for their performances of the “Ramayana”. At IDC students are taught dance styles such as classical kuchipudi, dance drama, Bollywood, contemporary, folk, with the centre celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Before the launch of Moksha, Raghavan Nair thrilled the audience with his Shiva dance performance, followed by a stunning bharatnatyam piece by Sheila, a classic kuchipudi performance by Suhasini Sumitra, and a poetry in motion act by Ira Patkar via kathak.
Moksha transported the audience back to 490 BC, to the days of King Bimbisara when he ruled Magadha with his queen Kosala Devi and was a contemporary to Gautama Buddha and Mahavir Jain. The tale is one of tragedy. King Bimbisara goes away to fight a war, leaving his pregnant queen behind, who delivers a baby boy in his absence. The queen is troubled when a prophetic voice reveals that her new-born would one day kill his father, and so, abandons the child in the forest. Through divine intervention, the son is found by his own father, King Bimbisara. The royal couple bring up the prince, Ajaatshatru, with love and care, knowing well their destiny. As fate would have it, Ajaatshatru grows up to be an ambitious and war-mongering prince, who is impatient and cannot wait to become the king through natural succession.
He comes under the evil influence of his advisor Devdatta, with whose goading he imprisons King Bimbisara and later orders for his execution. Ajaatshatru has a change of heart when he becomes the father of a baby boy, realises his mistake and rushes off to stop his father’s execution. But it is too late. Ajaatshatru, thereafter, leads a life of remorse and becomes a Buddhist in his quest for Moksha.
The dance drama flowed smoothly from one scene to the next, ably assisted by the magnificent projected backdrops, the brilliant stage lighting, background music, the supporting actors and splendid performances from Kartik Sharma (King Bimbisara), Ravi Sharma (Ajaatshatru) and Anshul Jagota (Kosala). The colourful period costumes and dance sequences added to the flamboyancy and charm, replete with tear-jerking and joyous moments.
The drama had its own drama when it was stopped for a few minutes, due to an unexpected fault with the stage lighting. Kudos to Poornima Sharma, the co-ordinator, who quickly brought the drama back on its track.
Overall, a sublime experience and an unforgettable evening.