Swadesh – Production Diary 1
Theme set, artistes engaged, venue booked – seems simple enough, but how does it really all come together? Through this Production Diary, we take you behind-the-scenes as Swadesh, Milapfest’s brand new International Dance Commission takes shape (without giving away too much of course)!
Swadesh explores the the idea of ‘India’ and what thoughts, feelings and ideas about a country with such diversity, spirituality and emotion may be expressed through dance. India is a land of contrasts, rich diversity and incredible cultural history, with countless personal perspectives of its people and visitors. What is your idea of India? What do you feel when you think ‘India’ and how can this be represented through your art? We’ve roped in three of India’s greatest young talents, Mythili Prakash, Arushi Mudgal and Monisa Nayak to share their answers with us.
The three dancers, the lead vocalist – Sawani Mudgal, and myself (Archana) met for the first time in Chennai to share our ideas and see how we might be able to weave them together to create one fascinating story. This is where scholar, writer, actor and theatre specialist Akhila Ramnarayan comes in with her expertise.
Expecting artistes who have never worked together before to work together to create something brilliant is always a gamble. But right from the moment we all met each other, I knew we were on the right track. Over the course of just a few days, we refined the theme and concept further, worked out portions of the musical score, and even choreographed a part of the finale piece.
We tackled the production head-on with intense discussions first. How do we narrow down such a wide topic? We wanted the performance to be uplifting, thought-provoking and accessible. We needed to find a way to communicate our ideas in a clear way which was interesting and enjoyable. Akhila took notes on everything discussed. We knew tons of email exchanges and phone calls were in store for us – we needed to write this into a script, complete with narration, format/flow, lighting cues and a stage design plan. Normally people working on a production have the benefit of living in the same country, let alone the same city. Here we are though – stretched across India, the UK and USA! This will no doubt be a challenge – a very rewarding one – for Milapfest, the artistes and hopefully audiences too.
Next, the music. We are so fortunate to have the Mudgal family and their wealth of music with us on this journey. So we all sit in the business centre of a hotel and listen to Sawani sing in different ragas and tunes until we find the right match for Swadesh. Arushi pitches in and Madhup Mudgal is on the phone from Delhi contributing his ideas as well – exciting! After much debating, we finally settle on a tune for the finale track. Now we can start the choreography! Bringing three different classical dance styles together is not an easy task – but Mythili, Arushi and Monisa are pros and sail right through it. Before we know it, we have a solid structure for the finale piece complete.
We leave Chennai excited and inspired, ready to work on the next phase of the project!