REVIEW & PHOTOS BY GIRISH MODI
Atlanta, GA: Every one of us has heard the story of the legendary Meerabai who was a Rajput princess, poetess and devotee of Lord Krishna in the 15th century. Many have even seen Gulzar’s movie “Meera” starring Hema Malini and certainly we all have heard devotional songs (bhajans) of Meerabai sung by countless singers. But we have not seen a captivating drama depicting the life story of this great saint until now.
Featuring a cast of over 75 performers, the drama “Krishna & Meera” was a huge undertaking by Kiran Chhibber who has given us dramas like Ram-Leela and Krishna-Leela in the past that were videotaped by this writer and inspired Chhibber to make this drama. My videos of these dramas can be viewed on the YouTube, which are testament to their big success. “Krishna & Meera” was performed at the capacity filled prestigious Gwinnett Center for Performing Arts on September 14 as the auspicious occasion for Shiv Mandir of Atlanta, which has just laid the foundation stone for its new temple.
Although Meera’s life seems simple, she was an enigmatic character. She never preached, nor established any cult. Meera was one of the foremost exponents of the Prema Bhakti (Divine Love) and an inspired poetess. Her odes and hymns are so rich, sweet and inspiring, not because of any high rhetoric or dexterity of language, but because they are characterized by a tenderness and simplicity of feeling as genuine outpourings of a heart completely dedicated to God.
Nonetheless her life is an unwritten statement against age-old traditions. These qualities have attracted artistes from different disciplines to recreate her life, sometimes through her songs, and at other times through dance drama and in films and have resurrected Meera’s utmost devotion to Lord Krishna. Meera is regarded as an incarnation of Radha.
An extravagant array of glittering costumes, colorful acts and melodious music, the drama- infused with folk and Kathak style dances- brought endearing characters from the 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. The scenes were created by the visual effects on the big screen with slides as backdrops that complimented each act. The dialogs were pre-recorded and the artists lip-synced them without being noticed. Each scene was carefully crafted that took the audience through various episodes of Meerabai’s life. Some scenes took them on a roller coaster ride of laughter at times but mostly they were filled with emotions and high drama.
Kiran Chhiber worked tirelessly for past six months fine tuning dialogues, scenes and background music and selection of bhajans. His choreography, narration and direction of the play to very minute details was overwhelming. NNKB students’ folk dances embellished many scenes to the perfection.
Meera’s character as a child, as a teenager and as an adult was depicted by three actors – Renu Thapiyal in the role of adult Meera filled the stage with aesthetic brilliance and her movements, dialogue and dances were enchanting as well as emotional. Sachid Shukla’s role asKrishna was mystical and charming.
The drama was divided into nine scenes starting from the birth of Meera and continuing through various aspects of her life. In the eighth scene one of the miracles of Meera was depicted, in which she drinks poison and survives. Each act was building the life-story of Meera that kept audience spellbound. In the final act Meera goes to Vrindavan and meets with Krishna Artists then started to came on the stage in small groups and took the bow amidst thunderous applause and standing ovation from the audience.
After the drama was over, Kiran introduced the artists, hairstylists, makeup artists and backstage crew and thanked the army of volunteers and trustees of Shiva Mandir. This magnificent musical 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.