“The adventures of the body, in Shunya Se, become an end in themselves. Its objective constantly shifts between talking about the elemental universe and re-discovering with renewed wonder the elements of Kathak, its ideas engaging with the body to create a newer system of signification.”
Kathakali Jana, The Telegraph, Calcutta. September 2017
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“A choreographic journey through the five elements from the most abstract and intangible to the most concrete and tangible, Shunya Se was first created in 2003 under the banner of Samskritiki Shreyaskar. The production was my second major collaboration with Debashree Bhattacharya, and we went on to set up Ranan in 2004. Shunya Se has since seen several revivals as a Ranan production. With each, it has grown and evolved, in a continuous and imaginative process of discovery.”
The elemental universe and the elements of kathak
Five dancers Five sections Five elements
shunya-space vayu-air agni-fire jal-water prithvi-earth
The five elements that make up the universe, the five elements that resonate within the human body. From the most abstract and intangible to the most concrete and tangible, all existing together, distinct, yet closely connected. Shunya Se tries to discover and extend a reflection of this specificity, multiplicity and abstraction with and within the Kathak dance form and the Kathak informed body.
Kathak is founded on specific principles of movement and a particular conception of the performing body defined by a recognisable physical grammar. Shunya Se journeys through this grammar, attempting to simultaneously maintain, extend and challenge the assumptions it is based on.
And an all-pervading pulse, a secret, sometimes silent rhythm binds all this together – the elements of Kathak and the elemental universe – in a growing, morphing, evolving conversation created and spoken through this dancing body.
How do we create space within and outside this body, how does this body move through space, how does this body resonate with the sound of the human voice?
How do we embody the shifts of air from stillness to stillness, how do we achieve a balance between lightness and power?
How does a storytelling form play with the fires of emotion without constructing a narrative, how do you convey the mythic in a moment?
How does this body create and communicate fluidity, how does it float, how does it respond to the buoyancy and force of water?
How do we speak to the earth, draw energy from it and release that through our bodies back into the world?
How does all this emerge out of the void?
Shunya Se premiered in September 2003 in Calcutta and was performed several times in 2004 with the same cast.
It saw revivals and revisions in 2008-2009 and 2012 for performances in various parts of India.
The current production was completely re-imagined for a tour of Lebanon presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in January 2016.
Shunya Se has always seen a close collaboration with composers, lighting and costume designers. The music for the original production was composed by Siddhartha Bhattacharyya, Anjan Saha and Subhashis Bhattacharya. The lighting design was by Naveen Kishore, and then by Sudip Sanyal. The costume designs were by Jayeeta Mukherjee.
In 2016, the music was composed by Subhagata Singha and Siddhartha Bhattacharyya and arranged and edited by the former. The costume and stage design was by Katy Lai Roy, and the lighting design by Sudip Sanyal.
[images on this page are by Anubha Fatehpuria, Sankha, and Mahesh Raut]