BY PANDAVANATH DAS
MAYAPUR, INDIA – Once Prabhupada said,”Russians are the white Bengalis”. If he was speaking about their natural tendencies towards arts, that´s a fact, no doubt. During Mayapur Festival, this year again, Russians were the ones who delighted us every night on stage with their dynamics dramas and dancings. Some Indians or Australians actors helped them, and gurukulis and Americans played their own dramas, but, like during all the festivals, Russians faces were the most seen, even on stage.
After the wonderful, marvellous, colorful maha abhisek of the big Panca Tattva on Feb 25th, and before the purifying, flourish and merciful Gaura Purnima abhisek of Lord Caitanya´s deities on March 11th, the most well attended events at Mayapur were the Russians dramas, each night, at pandal (and the daily mangala aratis, of course).
Just going to the pandal was such a nice experience! The soft fountains around, the aromatic gardens, the well dressed devotees, Srila Prabhupada´s voice singing from the speakers, some Harinam here and there, the elephant walking through the rice flour paintings on the roads, the talent of the Bengalis being heard from their own pandal, etc…
And inside the international pandal not only russians dramas were played: so many dancers, films, awards giving, etc… were presented by Pragosh prabhu, who was always very funny and charming.
The Russians Dramas Pandavanath das
This wasn´t the first year Russians have performed the main dramas at Mayapur Festival. In fact, this was the 5th one. And before Mayapur, every year, they´re also attending the successful Russian-Indian Puri Festival; and after Mayapur, they´re playing the dramas at annual safari with Jayapataka Swami last year, at Dacca, they´ve astonished 10000 Bangladeshis with their modern art version of Ramayan. And during the rest of the year, the Russian Theater teams also perform for 3000 devotees at their annual local summer festival at Black Sea.
Like a sweet grandma who has a lot of grandsons and all of them dance very nice; and this grandma knits exquisite sweaters for each of them, Madhurya Kadambini dd coordinates the rehearsals and stage, in such a way that every actor and group of actors can display their own skills in an harmonic manner. She’s not old at all, but she has the experience and love for making this possible.
Like a Mamushka containing little Mamushkas hidden inside, in the same way, at Mayapur, all different kinds of Theaters joined in a Big Theater Company. And all of them had something in common: “We´ve put ancient lilas on stage in a modern art exhibtion, but keeping siddhanta”, told us Madhurya Kadambini dd.
“But this is not a question of modern on traditional, it´s a question of performing opened hearts dramas”, adds Caitanya das, one of the main actors and co-directors. “Vaishnava´s heritage is devotion, and Russian tradition on arts is to express emotions nicely. It´s not a business of having big actors or special effects: you can be simple but you´ve to express big emotions. In fact, we´re giving all of our souls to the audience, and people thanks us for receiving that”. This is the way the drama´s russian team achieves the money for buying the costly wardrobe and the plane tickets for their members: “some way of other we receive donations. And also we work all during the year. But in fact it´s a mystical process: we serve Krishna, and Krishna serves us sending us the money, like telling us: “please go to Mayapur Festival and entertain my devotees”.
Prabhupada used to love dramas. Once, at Manor at London, as Caitanya das tell us, he said after a Jada Bharata play: “this is better than my books. People can understand the feelings of devotion so easily in this way”.
But it´s not so easy to be an actor. They have to transform themselves on stage. “Before and after every show I was feeling so sick”, reveals Caitanya Das, “diarrhea, the heat, etc… but when I jumped on stage I felt completely empowered”. Like most of the members of the Russian Team, Caitanya das is a professional actor. He lives at Moscow and he´s specialized in children plays:clown, mime, puppets, music, etc… Practically speaking… he lives on stage… Other actors and dancers have performed, always on modern arts, Bharata Natyam, Folk Dance, Kathak, Fireworks and lights shows, etc… but always in a dancing mood.
Here we saw Russian tradition for acrobatics and dance. All over the world Russians are famous for their artists and their culture: from Rimsky Korsakoff to Tolstoi, from Kandinsky to Baryshnikov, there are so many exponents of what is a common thing at every house and school of this learned society: “read good books, study some art, become a cultured person”. And the result is that the flourishing Russian yatra has so many Theater Groups!: Clouds of Nectar (Madhurya Kadambini´s personal group), Manjari Theater (Moscow, dance, coordinated by Nandarani dd), Madhura Theater (dragon dance), Hanuman Theater (Volvograd), the Krasnoyarsk group, the acrobat group of Hari Narayani, etc…
How can we describe the wonderful views we saw each night on stage? Hands moving on circles while bracelet and ankle bells jingled, a self confident firm knee pointing forwards, two threatening arms, a soft spin on the air, harmonic madness, little ballet steps, artistic gym, pleasant slightness, suspense and success, silk colorful ribbon twisting and spinning, a moon going towards the sun, the sun acting like a moon, human motors at high speed, silence… and explosion… horror, magic puzzles solving in the minds, calculated random, wings gliding over stage, laughings all around audience, emotive hugs, devotees chearing, applauded heroes, Hanuman, Shiva, Lakshman, Jagannath Mishra, Parvati, Sita, Rama, Krishna, Nimai…
As we told before, all of the dramas were coordinated by Madhurya Kadambini, but each Theater Company played their own ones. For Ramayan, however, they´ve all combined themselves to perform a big spectacle. “Art is a medium of cooperation”, Madhurya Kadambini says: “doing things together to glorify Krishna: everything´s about cooperative spirit, team work”. In this consciousness, also some actors from other Maths outside Iskcon joined.
The main plays were the emotive Ramayan, the supersweet Nimai, Jada Bharata, Daksha and Shiva, Sage and Hunter, Land of Dreams (mime) and the clown hilarious parody of Kanishta devotees… From 10 am to 10 pm Madhurya Kadambini was there to help everybody: rehearsals, preparations, on stage details, etc… She loves her service and she also has a very personal way for treating the devotees. One of the most selfless assistants was the young Katia, who not only danced and performed very nicely, but also helped everybody with their roles and was the one in charge of wardrobe and props for all dramas. “She´s the most important person on our team; without her we couldn´t do anything. She knows every role of all dramas and is very responsible”, Madhurya Kadambini said on this tender devotee.
So, one big big round to these Krishna´s devotees! because Krishna doesn´t love no one more than the ones who had surrendered themselves, with softened hearts, to help others to become more and more Krishna´s servants!!! Spasiva, folks…