Meera—A Magical Theatrical Experience
Photos & Review by Girish Modi
Every one of us has heard the story of legendary Meerabai who
was a Rajput princess, poetess and devotee of Lord Krishna in
the 15th Century. We may have even seen Gulzar’s movie “Meera”
starring Hema Malini and certainly we all have heard devotional
songs (bhajans) of Meerabai sung by countless singers. But we
have not seen a dance drama in Gujarati depicting life story of
this great saint until now.
Featuring a cast of over 60 performers of all ages, the dance
drama “Meera” is a production of U.K based Subrang Arts. They
came to the USA for a few days by special invitation and
performed only two shows – one in Atlanta and the other in
Greenville. Some of the artists came for the first time and this
was like a mini vacation for them. The Atlanta show was
organized by Gujarati Cultural Association of North America (GCANA),
a newly formed organization of zealous Gujaratis in the Atlanta
area and it was performed in presence of packed audience at
Gwinnett Performing Arts Center on the eve of July 22, 2011.
Although Meera's life seems simple, she is an enigmatic
character. She never preached, nor established any cult.
Nonetheless her life is an unwritten statement against age-old
traditions. These qualities have attracted artistes from
different disciplines to recreate her life, sometimes through
her songs, and at other times through dance drama and in films
and have resurrected Meera's utmost devotion to Lord Krishna.
An extravagant array of glittering costumes, the colorful acts
and melodious music, the drama in folk and kathak style dances
brought endearing characters from the mythological archives
alive and cast a spell of rare classical charm on the audience
nearly two hours. There was no live orchestra and no
elaborate sets. The scenes were created by the visual effects on
the big screen with slides as backdrops hat complimented each
act. Even the dialogs were pre-recorded and the artists
lip-synced them without being noticed. Each scene was carefully
crafted that took the audience through various episodes of Meerabai’s life. Some scenes took them on a roller coaster ride
of laughter at times but mostly they were filled with emotions
and high drama.
Lata Desai (Chairperson) along with Harsha Amin who
choreographed and directed the play to very minute details was
overwhelming. The music was composed by well known music
director-singer Ashit Desai and the singers included Suresh
Wadkar, Sadhana Sargam, Ashit Desai, Hema Desai, Alaap Desai,
Bela Shinde and Devki Pandit and they sang garba, raas and
bhajans very professionally. Even CDs of these were made
available to the public at cost. Harish Bhimani’s voiceover was
used to narrate each scene.
Meera’s character as a child, as a teenager and as an adult was
depicted by two actors – Sarika shah and Shimona Phakhey. Sarika
in the role of adult Meera filled the stage with aesthetic
brilliance and her movements,
dialogue and dances were
enchanting as well as emotional. Shyam Patel’s role as Krishna
was out of this world.
Two miracles of Meera – one in which she drinks poison and
survives and the other in which the poisonous snake delivered in
a basket become a garland – were also included. Each act was
building the life-story of Meera that kept audience spellbound.
In the final act Meera goes to Dwarika and meets with Krishna
and disappears in the infinity was the highlight, while “Hari
Hari bol” bhajan was played in the background in the voice of
Suresh Wadker and chorus. Artists then started to came on the
stage in small groups and took the bow amidst thunderous
applause and standing ovation from the audience.
Mahesh Patel gave vote of thanks to the artists, volunteers, the
sponsors and the audience. He said that this drama is an
inspiration to the younger generation who is born and raised in
America and helps preserve our cultural heritage. Mahesh then
presented gifts to Lata Desai and Harsha Amin as tokens of
appreciation. Lata introduced the artists, hairstylists, makeup
artists and backstage crew and said that she is so much
encouraged by the response received that she will bring back the
show next year.
This magnificent musical dance drama depicting the story of
Meerabai displayed the rich Hindu heritage to the world. It was
a refreshing and thought provoking experience that left many in
spiritual ecstasy. If you want to enjoy something serene without
the melodrama or the frivolity, then this MEERA has something
good to give.