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C16 – November 25, 2011 – INDIA-WEST

Abhinaya Dancers Charm Audience at ‘Jwala’ Concert By MONICA LUHAR India-West Staff Reporter

SARATOGA, Calif. — The Abhinaya Dance Company delivered a sizzling performance at its latest concert entitled, “Jwala: The Immortal Flame,” at the McAfee Theater here Nov. 19. Dancers were adorned with ghungroos, dramatic makeup, and colorful attire as they gracefully entered the stage in full character mode. Every move was carefully and brilliantly executed and coordinated. The performance was choreographed by Rasika Kumar, Mythili Kumar, and Malavika Kumar. “Jwala” featured elements such as fire to symbolize life, purification, death, passion, separation, destruction and fear. “For me, it was important to be able to talk about fire in Hinduism and how it’s a source of purification. With everything you do, you start with fire. It’s an element that is so sacred and fundamental to the Hindu way of life,” Rasika Kumar told India-West. For Rasika Kumar, the performance was quite an emotional one, dedicated to her recently deceased mother-in-law who worshipped the deity Jwala Devi, a goddess whose flames continuously burn for eternity. The performance began with the embrace of Agni, the god of fire. A symmetrical line of dancers moved swiftly to the rhythms of the nattuvangam, while releasing the fury and tension of the fire with distinct facial expressions and poised hand gestures. Musicians Shanthi Narayanan, N. Narayanan, Raja Sivamani, and Ravi Gutala provided a combina-

Choreographer and dancer Rasika Kumar after the performance of “Jwala: The Immortal Flame.” (Monica Luhar photo)

tion of classical Indian music with a subtle hint of contemporary rhythms soothing to the ear. To harmonize the complex movement of the dancers, vocalist Asha Ramesh provided the right amount of control in her voice while Malavika Kumar and Mythili Kumar added crisp sounds of the nattuvangam. The next segment, Jyotirlinga at Arunachala, featured the intricate choreography and solo dance performances of Mythili Kumar and Rasika Kumar. Rasika Kumar

flawlessly carried out the role of Lord Shiva, the supreme dancer who controls life and holds fire in the palm of his hands. His third eye is responsible for releasing havoc and creating entities in the universe. During the segment, Rasika Kumar entered the stage with confidence as she gently caressed the beauty of the fire. She closed her eyes and raised her leg up high, twirling around in a ballerina-like motion while contorting her body. As the tempo reached a crescendo, Rasika Kumar transformed into an energetic and fierce Lord Shiva as she widened her eyes, expanded her diaphragm, and let the energy from the music lead the way. After the intermission, Abhinaya dancers proceeded to illustrate a colorful scene of a fearful camper making their way through the forest. The piece examined the consequences that occur when mankind meddles with nature. “Forest fire is a huge part of California. It’s interesting how a fire can be warm and comforting, but can also destroy a whole forest. So this was the duality we wanted to portray,” said Rasika Kumar. After an intense scene of the forest fire, Mythili Kumar switched gears by reciting a poem. She narrated four vignettes describing the significance of fire for those who are in love. Many of the dancers excelled in expressing sheer vulnerability during times of great separation and turmoil, especially during the segment featuring Radha and Krishna. The performance concluded with a segment featuring the god-


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Rasika Kumar in a dance pose.

dess of power, Shakti. The goddess is known for her resilience in battling demons and restoring balance by giving way to light. She is also known as Jwala Devi, for her ability to burn flames continuously. Several dancers gathered around Sindhu Natarajan to symbolize the destruction of darkness and the power of many shakthis present in the world. “It’s always a privilege to perform. Living here in America, we

are exposed to our culture and get to learn a lot about Hindi mythology. It’s an honor to perform on stage and showcase our heritage and roots,” said Natarajan. “It’s nice to always go into something else apart from the traditional. It’s been a long year of many performances and arangetrams, but everyone put their best efforts and completed them,” Mythili Kumar told India-West.

‘Desi Boyz’ My Official Debut: Chitrangada Singh

In “Desi Boyz,” Chitrangda plays an Oxford professor with a lasting crush on one of her students (Akshay Kumar).

NEW DELHI (PTI) — Chitrangada Singh, who has been a part of off-beat films so far, says her upcoming film, Rohit Dhawan’s “Desi Boyz,” is her debut into commercial cinema. The actress began her cinematic journey with a much acclaimed performance in “Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi” (2003), and has done films like “Sorry Bhai” and “Yeh Saali Zindagi.” “I was getting a bit bored of doing the same kind of cinema. I had a great time working in my first commercial film,” said Chitrangada Nov. 17. “What is different about commercial films is there are so many changes like there is so much of make-up, different hair styles, slow motion shots, etc. The exciting part was you glam-up for a role, you dance, you have those fantastic clothes, high heels and that whole girly thing,” Chitrangada told PTI in an interview. “In the end a girl is a girl, we all love these things. I had a great time doing all this,” she said.

Singh was in the national capital as part of the film’s whirlwind promotional tour with the rest of the star cast, including Deepika Padukone, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham. Chitrangada said that she is not used to fans turning out in huge numbers to have a look at their favorite stars, and is still getting used to the attention. Describing her role, she said, “I play Tanya Sharma, a professor at the Oxford University. Akshay’s character, Jerry, and Tanya have a past. “When Tanya was a student, Jerry was her senior and she had a huge crush on him. He comes back to complete his studies while Tanya has rejoined the college as a professor. Whenever Jerry is around, everything goes into slow motion,” Chitrangada said. “Desi Boyz” is just the beginning in mainstream cinema for Chitrangada, who will be next seen doing an item number in Shirish Kunder’s “Joker.”


"Jwala: The Immortal Flame" by Monica Luhar

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