Jordan is a freelance writer and teacher whose first novel was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, and the winning entry in the ACT Young and Emerging Writer Mentorship. His blog is here: www.hapax-legoman.livejournal.com
"There are two acts to a melodrama. In Act One, my daughter and I danced. Now, in Act Two, you and your son will dance."
In Hindu mythology, a young Krishna left his village to study at vedic school, also leaving behind the love of a young cow-herd girl called Radha. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 1917 novel Devdas took this legend as a starting point, and paralleled the lives of Krishna and Radha with the eponymous Devdas and his devoted Paro. Over the past century, Devdas has been adapted into film more than a dozen times, but never more lavishly than Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 2002 Bollywood production. A decade later, on the third of November, Bollywood Dimensions Studio provided a unique experience for its Canberra audiences, to watch a showing of Bhansali's Devdas, interspersed with live performances of every dance scene from the film.
From the moment the crowd bustled from the foyer of the Belconnen Community Centre and into the theatre, the atmosphere was suddenly more Bengal than Belco. The chandeliers, draped fabric and wafting fog of intermingled dry ice and incense were evocative symbols of what we could expect from the next two hours. On the screen offset to the left of the stage, we watched the actors, and read their subtitled excitement that "Devdas is returning from London." We then got to experience Shrujna Patel's live interpretation of that anticipation in her dance as Canberra's very own Paro. The reference to England is telling - this is a tale of a colonial society, and the star-crossed class issues are redolent of those from Austen, Bronte, Collins and Dickens. Paro is from a lower caste than Devdas - her genes are those "of the dancing girls."
The third side of the inevitable love-triangle is Chandramukhi, the modern incarnation of the mystical Meera. She is a courtesan who falls for chaste bad-boy Devdas, and here begins the irony of a film in which there's overt prostitution, but kissing is prohibited. Bollywood Dimensions' Chandramuki is played by Niru Verma, who dances like an inferno and spins like a dervish. The Belconnen Community Theatre's sound system is surprisingly fantastic, and faithfully reproduces the film's soundtrack.
Artistic Director Carla Marks's dedication to her dance production is manifest in her every move as Paro's mother Sumitra, and her flawless lip-synch singing is no doubt the instinctive result of countless listenings to get her choreography just right.
Devdas was one of the most expensive Bollywood films of all time and it hasn't dated visually over the past decade - the sets and film stock still stand up to 2012 cinematic productions. The story is not necessarily a happy one - it crosses the full range of emotional 'rasas' - love, laughter, fury, disgust, wonder, terror, heroism, tragedy and peace. Such was our matinee showing - the ultimate 3D movie experience in which the performers truly looked like we could reach out and touch them.
To keep up to date with Bollywood Dimensions Studio and have the opportunity to check out future shows, keep an eye on: www.bollywooddimensions.com and like them here on Facebook.