A Performance Dialogue focuses on issues faced by forest dwellers

New Delhi, 8August 22; Dance is not merely a performance, it’s a passion, dedication of an artist. It’s an act, where its rhythm and cadence presents a complete story to the audience layer by layer. Dancer (Padmashri) Geeta Chandran presented her latest work SIMHIKA: DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, a Performance-Dialogue here on Saturday evening at the Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The protagonist SIMHIKA, is a fictional character created for a Kathakali dance-theater performance written by Kottayam Thampuran. In the original play Kimira Vadham, the Kathakali narrative explores SIMHIKA’s story vividly painting her as a rakshasi/demoness.
In her presentation, Dancer Geeta Chandran invests SIMHIKA with voice and agency, unveiling the thoughts and conflicts in the protagonist through the process of anavarna, a technique in Bharatanatyam abhinaya, where layer after layer is unpeeled to reveal subtle truths. Geeta casts her as a woman, a wife, a nurturer, daughter of the forest who becomes a victim of circumstance.
The Forest also takes on multiple roles: sakhi/confidant, sakshi/witness; both nurturer and betrayer. And – like the audience — the forest becomes a mute spectator to injustice and patriarchy! Simhika’s transformation through the technique of rupantara is also a commentary on our contemporary times where we judge people based only on their outward physical appearance!
SIMHIKA’s is a tale of vengeance and revenge situated in treta yuga in which the Mahabharata is situated. Simhika, a forest maiden completely in sync with her environment, is cruelly widowed when the Pandavas, during their exile in the forest, kill her husband, Shardula. Her sorrow soon morphs to revenge and Simhika transforms herself into a beautiful maiden – but with poison in her heart – and tries to trick Draupadi (wife of the Pandavas) into the forest with the aim of killing her. But here, the forest that has nurtured her, gives her away, and Draupadi cries for help. Her husband Sahadeva arrives and brutally defaces Simhika’s body by chopping off her breasts. Simhika laments the injustices heaped on her, and this forms the theatrical focus of Geeta’s powerful performance-dialogue.
The hour-long performance dialogue was set in a theatrical set that resonates the forest setting, crafted by Jugal Kishore Sharma and his team of traditional flower decorators from Vrindavan, they also used traditional leaf plates (pattal) to create the background, making it a unique and special attraction along with performance-dialogue. The script has been adapted from Thampuran’s original by Geeta Chandran and has been rendered in Sanskrit by A.R. Sreekrishnan. The music scape for SIMHIKA has been developed as a combined effort of the dancer working in close communion with vocalist K. Venkateshwaran and percussionist Manohar Balatchandirane. Simhika’s costume has been created by Sandhya Raman.Talking about her latest work, Geeta Chandran said, “My new work SIMHIKA: DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST focuses on issues faced by forest dwellers, their struggle with urban expansion, their vulnerability and their quest for justice.