The story of an Eternal Wife

June 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

This is the story of an eternal wife…
The performance opens with a projected image of a village somewhere in ancient India. The backdrop falls to reveal a 6th century temple where a group of young brides and the temple caretakers go about with their daily routine. It is just another day in the temple, where the priests offer ‘pujas’ to the residing deity Shiva and the young brides maintain the temple grounds.

Whose name is called Kalyani…
It is an auspicious day for her , as her parents have decided to marry her off to an eternal ‘husband’, one who would continue to shower blessings upon her and her family for as long as they live. She was about to be betrothed to Lord Shiva, the residing deity of this temple, and would then lead the life of a devadasi. A devadasi is a person who would serve the temple for the rest of her life.

Though being a devadasi may seem privileged, all is not what it seems…
As she gracefully danced her way to the hearts of the other young brides, she unwittingly stepped on the tail of the leader of the group. It may have been her youthful looks, or the ease that Kalyani displayed when socialising with the rest that sparked this profound feelings of jealousy within the leader. She soon learns that there is more to her role than just being a servant to the temple. To her dismay, she finds that one of her other duty as a devadasi is to ‘serve’ the temple’s caretakers carnal desires, just like the other girls in the group. Though disappointed at this revelation, she is unable to break free from this situation that life has handed to her.

Nitya Sumangali - The Eternal Wife

Hazra Ghazaly plays the role of a devadasi that becomes jealous of Kalyani's presence

In time, she met and fell in love with a young man…
The young lovers would meet as often as they could and it would have been a blissful life for pair of lovers if their secret relationship had remained that way. Unfortunately, the leader of the group caught them together one day and decided to inform the temple about their relationship.

Alas… it was relationship that was not meant to be…
As it was forbidden for the devadasis to have human lovers, she was shamefully stripped of her privileges and adornments. Her lover was also taken away, presumably to have some sort of penalty imposed on him. She only learns of his death when she saw his body being carried away by the temple caretakers. Too distraught and deeply disappointed with god and life, she went back to the temple and laid at the feet of Lord Shiva, where her soul was finally turned into a statue.

Nitya Sumangali - The Eternal Wife

The lovers are surrounded by the temple caretakers and the other brides after their relationship was discovered

The dance drama known as ‘Nitya Sumangali – The Eternal Wife‘ was performed at klpac by twelve talented dancers, mostly from Aswara (National Arts, Culture and Heritage Academy). The cast list is made up of the following members – Hazra Ghazaly, who is the first female Malay student who graduated in Bharatanatyam from Aswara, Muhammad Akmal Ayob, Noor Azlin Hamzah, who played the leading role, Gloria Patie, Prahsanna Raja Ratnam, Norle Eddysham Ahmad, Ayu Azril Ali, Mohd Hazri Hazmi, Izzazly Fikri Kamri, Mohamad Nooraniq Osman and Siti Farrah Abdullah. The jealous leader of the group, whose role was carried out wonderfully by Hazra Ghazaly, sparkled as she executed her dance moves gracefully and perfectly.

The star of the show was, of course, Noor Azlin Hamzah who portrayed as Kalyani. The emotions that she exhibits when she first enters the temple as a devadasi, her shock when she learns that she is expected to fulfill the caretakers’ carnal pleasures and especially when her secret relationship was discovered by everyone at the temple is so genuine that as an audience, I could not help but to feel her pain and sadness. She has managed to convey the subtle feelings that the character goes through without the hint of exaggeration, like in other cases of performances.

The man behind the creation of this moving dance drama is Lakshman Balakrishnan, the choreographer-in-residence for klpac. Lex, as is he also fondly known, was inspired to direct a dance drama after reading a book on the life of devadasis. As a Malaysian Indian, he feels that most people fall back by default to tradition when it comes to important matters such as weddings or birth of a newborn without really knowing why they do so. It is something reassuring, yet if they are not careful, it will become something that will bind them and hold them back.

In this case, Lex as a choreographer and a Malaysian Indian, he decided to fall back on something that he is accustomed to, that is classical Indian dance. He manages to take this form of dance that he knows very well and give it a new direction to create a strong message. He manages to apply it but he is not held back by ‘tradition’ or traditional factors. In this case, it is obvious that his strong foundation in Indian traditions allowed him to explore and develop his ideas to create something vibrant and new.

Nitya Sumangali - The Eternal Wife

L-R (Front) - Hazra Ghazaly & Gloria Patie

Where other choreographers may place more emphasis on dance, Lex manages to strike a lovely balance between the use of dance and the telling of the story. Instead of detracting from the story, the dance forms an integral part of it, with each dance routine being at the very heart of every scene. One very good example is when the dancers use suggestive poses to convey the message that they are required to ‘serve’ the caretakers to the audience.

When asked about his future projects, he mentions that he is keen to explore and create more dance dramas. He is already thinking about doing another dance drama piece in the near future, but for now, Lex is just happy relishing the success of his first dance drama project. Expect more from this talented choreographer and director in the near future.

‘Nitya Sumangali – The Eternal Wife’ will still be going on at Pentas 2, klpac from today till the 26th June 2011. Tickets are sold at RM 25 and RM 15 (for students and disabled only). Please call 03 4047 9000 or visit www.klpac.org for more details.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. Valerie Tan says:

    thanks christine & mike!!

Leave a Reply