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Rasia: The Dance of Desire – Koral Dasgupta

by Venky

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Bharatanatyam to Raj Shekhar Subramanian is what breath is to life. A universally acknowledged genius of his craft, Subramanian once an inmate of an orphanage, succeeds in elevating one of the purest forms of classical dance to such exalted levels that it transcends aesthetics, adumbration and applause. Standing by his side like a rock is his wife Manasi. Having learnt the nuances and intricacies of Bharatanatyam from her formidable husband, Manasi essays the role executed by Man Friday in Robinson Crusoe. Patient, perceptive and poignant, Manasi sacrifices every desire and ambition of hers at the fire that is the passion of Shekhar. The duo together establish Kala Mandir, an institution for propagating the finer intricacies and nuances of Bharatanatyam to eager, aspiring and deserving students. The prospective candidates are handpicked by Shekhar and together with Manasi the recruits undergo a punishable grind that transforms them from rough and uncut stones to exquisitely crafted and delectably polished diamonds.

Vatsala Pandit is a ballerina in Manhattan who, pursuant to attending a show featuring Shekhar, gets instantaneously smitten by both the art and artist. Her quintessential ambition in life becomes obtaining access to Shekhar. When her innumerable attempts and advances are spurned by a ‘stone-hearted’ Shekhar, Vatsala Pandit, embarks on an audaciously devious scheme that will bring Shekhar himself to her doorstep. Campaigning for a Kala Mandir to be established in the United States, Vatsala starts a campaign that picks great steam and gathers immense momentum. Hundreds and thousands of accumulated signatures later, Shekhar is formally invited to establish a branch of Kala Mandir in Manhattan.

Vatsala, encouraged by her success, exploits the position of a lead volunteer and campaigner by brazenly accosting Shekhar and demanding to be accepted as his student. But it is not just expertise in a classical form of dance that is Vatsala’ s ultimate objective. The student is also the incorrigible and impossible enchantress who will not deviate from her amoral mission of usurping Shekhar from Manasi.

When her repeated requests for a role in the inaugural show of the United States Kala mandir is spurned in no uncertain terms by Shekhar, Vatsala takes the ludicrous step of accosting Manasi directly and hurls a vile challenge at her. Accusing Manasi of hiding behind the substantial glory of her powerhouse husband, Vatsala challenges Manasi to a ‘battle on the stage’ that will ultimately determine the fate of both women.

The calm and collected Manasi, without batting an eyelid accedes to her request. Shekhar will essay the role of Shiva who would be enticed, enraptured and entangled by Kali (a role to be played by Manasi). The ultimate objective of Goddess Kali is lure Shiva away from his divine consort, Gauri (to be executed by Manasi). Only time will tell whether the battle of the protagonists would end in sheer despair for one and unbridled delight for the other.

“Rasia” is an extremely compelling tale of layers. The unpeeling of each layer reveals the full extent of intrinsic as well as extrinsic human desires, subtle and suppressed emotions and wistful and wanton longings. It is also a story of untold intricacies that embellish as well as endanger the relationship between a man and a woman. It is also an adroitly balanced tale of conflicts, conjectures and consternation.

‘Rasia’ – a dalliance with destiny.   

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