Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stree (1962): a dance drama

The most wondrous thing in this classic is Rajshree's Bharat Natyam dance. Her body gyrates across the marble floor like a devouring flame as her limbs  spread in expanding circles with  orgiastic energy. The drums beat out a frenzied rhythm as the jangle of the anklets keep the accelerating pace. Arms, neck, waist, legs respond to each other in a perfect  inspiration of divinely coordinated movement. It's a union of youth, beauty of the human female figure, talent which flows in he blood, and life force fuelled by success. We are in an ancient time..

All of Shantaram's films bear the stamp of his  generation and personality,  this more than any other. Both his second wife Sandhya and daughter Rajshree were outstanding dancers and dance occupies a central place in many of his films. His films have elements of folk theatre ( like the Ramlila ), perhaps a touch of Kathakali or the Japanese Noh. The elaborate and stylised mannerisms of his films should not be compared disadvantageously with the naturalism which we find in the later films.

This one is a transcreation of the ancient Kalidas play Shakuntala. King Dushyant is out hunting and falls in love with Shakuntala, daughter of a sage. They get married, with the sun as witness. Called back to the capital, he leaves her a ring as a sign of recognition. Due to the operation of a certain curse, Dushyant forgets he had married and simultaneously Shakuntala loses the precious ring. Thence ensues a drama in which the king fails to recognise his wife.

V Shantaram (1901-90 )

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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