Dance drama in theory and practice written by Dr S. Ramaratnam, vice chancellor of Jagadguru Kripalu University, Odisha, is a documentation of nearly a 100 years of growth and development of a precious art form, that developed in the South more particularly in Tamil Nadu. We are aware, the beauty of Indian culture, originates from the fact, that it does not require us to divide the life into secular and religious partitions. Since ancient times, its people have viewed all life as sacred and believed God to be present in every aspect of creation. This vision has enabled us to see the possibility of performing every activity in a spirit of devotions and consecrating every aspect of life at the altar of the supreme. The culture of India, thus celebrates in the splendour of life imbued with the divinity of God. This culture, continuing from ancient and medieval times, has acquired the incredible richness and diversity and formed a heritage that is one of the finest treasurer’s of humankind.
Dr Ramaratnam’s book traces the history and evolution of dance. He provides us with everything, we would like to know about dance-drama. This book traces the origin of dance from dancing figures, found in the pre-historic site in Mizapur. Uttar Pradesh as the Indus Valley, to Vedic age, followed by the epic period from 600 BC - 200 AD, ending with the first written texts of dramaturgy and dance.
Bharatha’s Natya Sastra about 200 BC - 200 AD and Nandikeswaras Abhinaya Darpana in 200 AD. Next, the origin of Sanskrit drama from the Vedic age and epic ages is presented, with a note on the type of Sanskrit drama (Dasarupakas), followed by the RASA theory, as propounded in the Natya Sastra, along with critical interpretations and finally a discussion of the Navarasas.
Despite the pan-India overview, the book is really about Bharatanatyam performed in Chennai. Besides, Kalashetra Foundation, whose dance-drama conceptualised and choreographed by Rukmani Devi, has gained a ‘classics’ tag. The author rightly includes, thematic solos, such a ‘Vyjayanthimala’s Sri Krishna Jananam set in a ragam, thanam pallavi style, Dr Padma Subramaniam’s Bhagavad Gita and Dhananjayam’s Deiva Karunyam, about a pregnant deer, as they are dramatic presentations.
He concludes “watching all the new trends, that are taking place in the evolution of dance-drama. It is difficult to conclude, whether it is good or bad. In fact, I wish that the trend should not become directionless, and it should remain static.”
What is really amazing is the depth of Dr Ramaratnam’s knowledge and the wide spectrum of his interests and we really appreciate, that the pen of a person, with such an intellectual refinement, makes the fine nuances of the rich cultural forms of dance-drama, a divine pleasure to read.