The non-profit organization Vision-Aid has been making noteworthy efforts in rehabilitating the visually impaired in India and the US. For the past six years, they have been working with Chennai based veteran dance-Guru, choreographer, musician and composer, Shri. Madurai R. Muralidaran to organize dance-dramas for annual fund-raising events. This year, the sold-out event was held on the afternoon of Sunday, July 16 at Littleton High School’s auditorium packed with 750 attendees.
The order of the afternoon’s events began with a welcome speech, introduction of guests of honor, mention of thanks to event sponsors and a short film about Vision-Aid’s most recent initiatives in India. The key-note speaker Shri. Vivek Sharma, CEO of Piramal Pharma Solutions spoke about how 4% of the global population had vision related problems and congratulated Vision-Aid on setting up resources to help them. The President, Syed Ali Rizvi and board members Shri Ramakrishna Raju and Revathy Ramakrishna announced the establishment of a new centre in Agra under the sponsorship of the chief guest and spoke about other initiatives such as establishing partnerships with Nethra Vidyalaya and Shankara Netralaya in India. Smt. Vandana, wife of Shri Vivek Sharma who is an accomplished artist donated one of her paintings for a live auction along with two other artists Gopika Narula and Lakshmi Sarma to help raise funds for Vision-Aid’s initiatives.
The story of the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna has been told many many times through the medium of art, music, dance, theatre and literature. What made the 2017 Vision-Aid presentation of “Charmer, Warrior, Guide” endearing was the idea of the unfolding of the epic to 3 young grand-children by their intelligent grand-mother (paati) who (supposedly) designs a mobile phone based app to enable time-travel. The digital app magically transports the children to the lands of Mathura and Gokulam and creates an immersive experience where they along with the audience can watch Krishna’s birth and subsequent maturation into a charmer, warrior and guide.
Despite technology glitches revolving around video projection and sound, the 3 hour long Broadway style musical engaged the audience from start to finish. From the opening scene of dozens of young dancers in vibrant, eye-catching costumes dancing to rich musical compositions to the ending scene of the enactment of the Mahabharata war, stunning video backdrops, enigmatic stage-presence of actors, spirited dancing, creative lighting and imaginative props consistently held the audience’s interest.
Ranjani Saigal playing the role of the tech-savvy grandmother along with her American born grandchildren introduced each of the nine episodes through mime and voice-narration in English. In the brisk paced dance-drama, the wedding prophecy with the dramatic arrival of King Kamsa to wed his sister Devaki to the Yadava king Vasudeva in Mathura, the birth and merciless slaying of seven children from their marriage by King Kamsa, the miraculous birth of the eighth child Krishna, Krishna’s mischievous pranks as a child in Gokulam, his charisma and legendary seductive powers with gopikas and mystic love with Radha in his adult-life, his brave feat in destructing the Kalinga demon-snake and his compassionate act of lifting mountain Govardhan to protect villagers, his timely rescue of the wife of the Pandavas, Queen Draupadi while she was disgraced in the court of evil Kaurava kings and finally his role as a guide in the Mahabharata war were enacted through high-calibre dancing to melodious recorded music. The dance-drama ended on Lord Krishna’s wise counsel “Every person’s actions come back to them. If you give love, love comes back to you. Sincere love is the only way to victory.”
Shri Muralidaran’s experimentation with musical genres such as classical, contemporary fusion, folk and rap textures, his dexterity with blending elements of Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kuchupudi, folk dance and drama, his choice of visual backdrops to integrate with the dance movements to communicate the story of Krishna showed his exceptional mettle as a creative artist. Excellent use of stage space with group formations in diagonal, circular, semi-circular formations, expert direction of quick entry and exit of over 50 dancers over the course of the ballet showed his prowess as a choreographer and director. His powerful stage-presence was matched equally by his nimble-footed, beautiful child-prodigy daughter, Kavyalakshmi Muralidaran who played the role of adult Krishna with grace and exuberance.
The roles of little Krishna played by Boston’s own talented Bharatanatyam students and the expert dancing of their teachers Anandini Shekhar, Neha Parikh, Thenu Raajan, Vaijayanthi Gopalakrishnan, Hema Iyengar, Suja Meyyappan, Sripriya Natarajan, Ranjani Saigal, Jeyanthi Ghatraju deserve special mention. For dance teachers and their students and families to come together and learn as well as rehearse for a professional production for weeks under the able guidance of an expert choreographer is proof of incredible team work that yields excellent results year after year and helps fund Vision-Aid’s programs.
The event came to an emotional close with remarks from Shri Muralidaran who acknowledged the efforts of local dance teachers in training local students to the caliber of world class dancers. Jeyanthi Ghatraju, Sripriya Natarajan and Suja Meyyappan who co-produced the event thanked Shri Muralidaran for his vision and guidance. “I will continue to support Vision-Aid’s noble efforts in helping the visually impaired through my work as an artist until the day I die” said Shri Muralidaran.
Ranga Geetha, one of the thirteen diamond sponsors for the event said “The mission of Vision-Aid is very close to my heart as I saw my mother cope with vision problems and the subsequent damage to her confidence in the last twenty years of her life. I therefore whole-heartedly support this non-profit organization’s efforts at providing support to the visually impaired. I donate 10% of my earnings to charity and hope that Indians who have the highest median-income in this country will also follow my example.” Platinum sponsors Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Turkish Airlines, Anuradha and Prashanth Palakurthy, Revathy Ramakrishna and Ramakrishna Raju, Pratima and Venkat Srinivasan along with 15 gold sponsors helped fund Vision-Aid’s event this year.
Kudos to the organizers, sponsors, performers, volunteers and supporters for coming together to raise money for Vision-Aid’s noble and philanthropic efforts. Chief guest Shri Vivek Sharma’s words “The purpose of life is not to be happy but to be useful” summed the sentiment of the enjoyable evening.