A studio in Chandigarh resonates with the verses from the Upanishads and the sound of trinkets. Cultural impresario Neelam Man Singh directs dancer Hema Sundari Vellaluru along with actors Rocky and Raman as they explore the text of Nachiketa from the Upanishads.
The story of a child, who learns life’s intricacies from the god of death, is being told in the form of a contemporary chamber opera piece of the same name. Commissioned by London’s Opera Circus, the project is directed by Singh and features artistes and musicians from both India and Britain. Nachiketa will open in London this November.
“It’s a journey with death and I am discovering the texts through movements, objects and moments. An opera is a new ground for me, and I am peeling the layers with various dramatic dimensions and expressions,’’ says Singh, who will soon be off to London for the final rehearsals of the opera, which travels to India in March 2014. The libretto in the opera is by Chilean-American novelist-playwright Ariel Dorfman, who was inspired by real-life events and his own experiences in exile, while the music is by British composer Nigel Osborne.
Creating a new visual vocabulary for the text with intricate moves and expressions, Bangalore-based Vellaluru will play the lead dancer in the opera. For the 29-year-old dancer, who is trained in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, African and contemporary dance, apart from yoga and pilates, describes her role in Nachiketa as a spiritual journey, where one encounters people, situations, objects and interacts with them and then follows one’s own path. “I do it through dance, and so this role has both meaning and value for me,’’ says Vellaluru, who agrees that to get classical and contemporary dance on a common ground is challenging. Shebegan freelancing in 2008 and is doing projects and collaborative work with dancers and directors abroad.