When time stopped

Unravelled – created and choreographed by Janaki Rangarajan, gives new meaning to the epic mythological story of Draupadi, mingled with English script in spoken form and her unique style of Bharathanatyam.

However Draupadi was done and overdone, just a tad across four segments. If the presentation had stopped with the first two segments, the work would have maintained its fervour and potency, in my humble opinion.

Unravelled presented four imaginative scenarios showing Draupadi’s soul, then as the woman, the wife, the mother and finally exalted her to the status of a Goddess, Janaki questions why this powerful woman should not have temples in her name?  

In the first segment Janaki Rangarajan depicts Draupadi looking down upon her dead body and re-entering it to once again become the spectator, scoffingly, she asks is this the body men raged a war over? She rejoices in being free off her physical form.

The second act which is the most powerful and perhaps potent section of her work entitled ‘When time Stopped’ shows Draupadi resisting, questioning as thoughts and emotions reign whilst she is being disrobed in the Court.

Draupadi here does not cover herself with her hands, turn around in circles, calling out for Lord Krishna in desperation. She stands tall, resisting and powerful. As she is pulled, she imagines her body stone dead and lifeless, she taunts, she laughs, she pities the very men who wishfully want to lay their claim over her physical form.    

Spaced with jathis, bhavam and spoken work, this segment was powerful in its choreography and Janaki’s amazing control and form over the movements and spatial explorations of the stage was enthralling to watch.

Exploring every microscopic second sometimes through word and sometimes through dance, she powerfully depicted the inner workings of Draupadi’s turbulent thoughts and emotions.

Whilst the words ‘I choose, I choose, I choose’ and ‘I was not meant to be tied and tried‘ sum up the journey of Draupadi, and nothing more need be said, for Janaki Rangarajan, the completeness of her work stood interjected between the spoken and unspoken, between choreography and prose, between movement and rhythm, between body, form and control.

Fleetingly, there was a reference to menstrual blood, some attempt to question why women should adhere to social norms ? what would occur if Shakti were to be disrobed ? would it not be the end of civilization ? And so she says I resist.

Such words and many others repeated with the same tonal quality across the evening soon were lost to me. They appeared too verbose and unnecessary, simply because the dance exalts the work to such a level that no more words were necessary.

The third segment shows Draupadi’s body being discovered by a little tribal girl at the foot of a hill. She calls her father and asks him who is she ? A mother, sister or a friend or is she a goddess ? In this segment, Janaki sings a Tamil folk song, typical of villages in Tamil Nad which added to the feel of this segment.

In the fourth segment, Janaki Rangarajan questions the social norms of purification which occurs in Tamil Nadu even today. Janaki’s protagonist questions why she has to adhere to the norms of society and walk over fire to prove her chastity ? She prays to Draupadi and asks why should she have to do this when Draupadi did not ?

Unravelled, stands out for Dr Janaki Rangarajan’s beautiful dance style, choreography and her command of all her movements, more than for its spoken word segments. Music composition by Smt Sudha Raghuraman and script written by V Balakrishnan.

She concluded with a Tarana set to Hameer and Behag, mixing Kabir and Amir Khusro’s compositions.

Deepa Ponnappan, Dr Janaki Rangarajan and Tara Rajkumar OAM

Unravelled was presented by Chandralaya School of Dance, at Rowville Performing Arts Centre, on 24th Nov 2019, presided over by Chief Guest Tara Rajkumar OAM who said it was a befitting finale to this amazing week and celebration of dance this weekend.