Sruti Bandopadhay and group presented a production that was one-of- a-kind, Jaya Jaya Bhanu Jaya Jayadeva. As the name suggests, it drew influences from Rabindranath Tagore&’s Bhanu Singher Padabali, composed when the poet was in his adolescence, and Sri Sri Geeta Govindam of Jayadeva Goswami from the 12th century.
Jayadeva&’s Geet Govinda is all about madhura bhakti, which is the essence of Vaishnavite cult. The story line followed by Sruti Bandopadhay is about the love of Radha and Krishna in which, she has eulogised sringer bhakti from the works of Jayadeva and Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore was in fact inspired by Jayadeva and Vidyapati in his formative years and that prompted him to write Bhanusingher Padabali in brajabuli about the ethereal love of Krishna and Radha.
The auditorium was consecrated because of the ambience created by the dancers, pung and Kartal players who entered from amidst the seated rasikas to sanctify the place making it not so difficult for the audience to imagine that they were watching an enactment of Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan.
Bandopadhay started with joyodhwani and went on to Bhanu, Jayadeva and Manipur after paying obeisance to Govinda who is an ocean of kindness and a friend to the world. The love story commenced with the astapadi, vasante vasanti-kusuma-sukumarair avayavair bhramanti kantare bahu-vihita-kanusaraam from Geet Govinda, which narrates the longing of Radha for Krishna and portrays her anxiety as she searches for her lover.
In the next scene, Tagore&’s Gahana Kusuma kunja Majhe mridula madhura bangshi baje shows the sakhi inviting the gopis to see the eyes of Sri Govinda and Rai, in the moonlit night, brimming with love. The devotee (Bandopadhay in this case) entreats the lord to play on his mohanabansi because she is still not satiated by the sweet notes from his flute. She is driven by desire and wishes to could merge with the sumadhura taan of his music in the moonlit kunjabitan where the spring wind blows.
The gopis then come in a group to warn Radha of an impending storm that makes the Yamuna overflow its banks. Radha&’s dilemma about going outdoors on a stormy night was beautifully rendered by Somabha Bondopadhay. In the following scene, the sakhi or friend, who has been assigned the role of a preceptor after seeing the plight of Radha goes in search of Kanha and finds him immersed in joyful pastimes with the beautiful gopis. Speaking in the words of Jayadeva, she conveys to Radha, Candana-carcita-nila-kalevara-pita-vasana-vana-mali/keli-calan-mani-kundala-mandita, gandha-yuga-smita-shali.
Radha&’s pride is seriously injured when the friend tells her about Krishna dressed in yellow holding a garland of forest flowers, smeared with sandalwood paste and in a joyful sringara mood with the gopis. Again, Jayadeva speaks through Radha&’s sakhi and reveals the activities of Krishna with the gopis. She is shown that one of the them is firmly embracing Krishna, Radhe, haririha mugdha-vadhu-nikare. Another gopi, lured by his looks is shown meditating on the lotus face of Madhusudhana. He arouses lust in the hearts of these sensuous young women with sidelong glances from his restless eyes. One voluptuous gopi has leant her face close to Krishna&’s cheek on the pretext of whispering a secret in his ear. Krishna reciprocates her feelings. She seizes this favourable opportunity to fulfil her most cherished desire. All of these amorous activities of Krishna were shown aesthetically in the vocabulary of Manipuri by Bandopadhay and her disciples. Remorseful and suitably humbled, Radha expresses her feelings through Tagore&’s verse, Hridayaka sadha misaolo hridaye Kanthe sukhaolo mala. She sees the futility of her love and of her youth. However, she still cannot help loving him and pines for his darshan. She asks her friend whether Shyam would ever come to her and she would tell him off.
The gopis who are in search of Shyam for Radha&’s sake, do not find him. Whole nature feels diminished in his absence and Radha pines to lay eyes on his beloved. At that point, Bandopadhay came veiled showing her despondency and does a piece of excellent abhinaya to Tagore&’s Maranere tuhu mamo Shyam Saman. She wishes death to engulf her eternally but the friend tells her not to lose heart.
Next, came an interlude when the pung artists and kartal cholom players showed their talents. In a beautiful piece of dance theatre with the choicest lyrics from the two eternal poets, it would perhaps have been better if the instruments were used only as accompaniments but they instead marred the flow of kavya and drishya kavya that the audience was immersed in.
Thereafter, happiness pervades the stage when the sakhis announce the arrival of Mridula gamana Shyam wearing pinaha jhatitha kusumaharo, pinaha nila angiya. Without further ado, they wish to dance and sing in the kunjaban. Radha, who wants to accept him with open arms, feigns reluctance. At that point, the memorable song Priye charusile, Dehi Pada Pallava mudaram by Jayadeva was used. The song where Krishna asks for forgiveness from Radha by touching her feet was supposedly written by the lord himself.
The last scene was the prayer of jugal murti of Radha and Krishna followed by an aarti in typical Manipuri style. Quintessentially Manipuri costumes –phanek and inafi- were worn all through, except in the last scene, where Radha was dressed in a green poloi- a magnificent and dazzling Manipuri costume. Every sakhi wore a red poloi as has been dictated by tradition.
The stage decorations were quite good considering the fact that they were artists from Kolkata who could not get procure the necessary props before performing in Imphal. The Manipui dancers Saswati Dasgupta, Misti Das, Abheri Gupta, M.Bir Singh, Suvasish Sarkar and Subhendu Manna from Bandopadhay&’s repertory did a great job. Debangana Chakraborty as Krishna was superb.