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. You may have even seen Gulzar’s movie Meera starring Hema Malini, and certainly we all have heard devotional songs (bhajans) about Meerabai sung by countless singers. But we have not seen a dance drama in Gujarati depicting the 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. The Atlanta show was organized by Gujarati Cultural Association of North America (GCANA), a newly formed organization of zealous Gujaratis in the Atlanta area. The dance drama was performed in the presence of a packed audience at the 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 artists from different disciplines to recreate her life, sometimes through her songs, and at other times through dance dramas and films. Each has tried to resurrect Meera’s utmost devotion to Lord Krishna.
An extravagant array of glittering costumes, colorful acts and melodious music, the drama in folk and kathak style dances brought endearing characters from mythological archives alive and cast a spell of rare classical charm on the audience for nearly two hours. There was no live orchestra and no elaborate sets. Visual effects on the big screen created the scenes with slides as backdrops that complimented each act. Even the dialogs were pre-recorded and the artists lip-synced them without being noticed. Each scene was carefully crafted to take the audience through various episodes of Meerabai’s life. Some scenes took them on a roller coaster ride of laughter, but mostly they were filled with emotions and high drama.
Harsha Amin choreographed and directed the play to very minute details. Well-known music director-singer Ashit Desai composed the music, and singers included Suresh Wadkar, Sadhana Sargam, Ashit Desai, Hema Desai, Alaap Desai, Bela Shinde and Devki Pandit. They sang garba, raas and bhajans very professionally. Harish Bhimani’s voiceover was used to narrate each scene.
Two actors – Sarika Shah and Shimona Phakhey, depicted Meera’s character as a child, as a teenager and as an adult. 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.
The 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 built the life-story of Meera that kept the audience spellbound. The highlight of the drama was the in the final act, Meera goes to Dwarika and meets with Krishna and disappears in the infinity while “Hari Hari bol” bhajan was played in the background in the voice of Suresh Wadker and chorus. Artists then started to come on the stage in small groups and took a bow amidst thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the audience.
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.