The Modern Radha

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An arts festival examines how the story of Krishna’s consort fits into today’s urban context

The saga of Radha has been told and retold in various ways. This time—in a collaborative arts festival titled Raadha 2010—it’s being placed in a modern urban context to highlight our lives of discontent. 

Bangalore-based Bharatanatyam dancer Rukmini Vijaykumar, who conceptualised it, confesses to being so enamoured of this character that she has even named her dance company Raadha Kalpa. “To me, she is a person in search of Krishna or the aatman, which is essentially her true self. I have placed this idea in a contemporary setting to show that our busy schedules leave us no time for introspection and spiritual thought,” she says.  

On for a fortnight in Bangalore, from 29 October to 15 November, the festival brings together singers, poets, actors, mime artists, filmmakers, designers and craftsmen, who will collaborate to present their own interpretation of the Raadha story. One of the highlights will be a modern contact improvisation titled Raadha on Paper. Dancers will improvise movements to the harmony of a live musical ensemble, while a painter will simultaneously interpret the same on canvas. Yet another performance to watch out for is Trouvaille, a contemporary dance piece inspired by French poetry, choreographed in collaboration with Alliance Française. Then, as part of a storytelling session, an ensemble of 13 people will use mime, song and dance to create a stylised narrative. Besides the performances, there will also be various lecture series and workshops on various art and craft forms. 

While most participating artists are from Bangalore, some have come from as far as Germany. Alice Bordoloi, who is part Indian and part German, first met Rukmini in 2002, and since then, has touched base with her each time she visited Bangalore for a yoga or dance class. “This time round, my guru, Nirupama Rajendra, was away on a dance tour. So I asked Rukmini if she would teach me. She is one of the few people proficient in both Western contemporary dance as well as Indian classical dance,” says Alice. After 12 days of training, Alice was hooked to the concept of Raadha. 

The aim of the festival, says Rukmini, is to show that traditional art forms can be interpreted in a unique contemporary manner, without destroying their rich cultural context. “Performing arts have always had to compete with commercial media. This is my humble attempt to make the classical arts appealing to everyone,” she says.