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Bombay Jayashri resurrects Mira in
`Bhaire Baanvari’
It was a trip down the first-half of the 16th century for a peep into the trials and tribulations of Mirabai, an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. Born into the Royal family of Ranas of Mewara, Mirabai had to endure hate, abuse and deceit as she steadfastly clung on to her love Krishna. Humiliated by men and women in the royal family of her in-law, a frustrated Mirabai moved away to Merata, her maternal home. Her unflinching love for the Lord led her to Vrindavan and finally to Dwaraka, where she merged into the image of Krishna.

Bombay Jayashri led a team of highly talented young artistes to pay a musical tribute to saint-poet Mirabai. The programme was a fund-raiser for the children with learning disability and autism spectrum disorder. It was hosted by Sankalp Trust at Mutha Venkata Subarao Auditorium, Lady Andal School, Chetpet, Chennai, on March 7, 2010. Sankalp, a registered non-profit trust, supports these children.

Bombay Jayashri led the audience slide into history and into the times of Mirabai.

The emotions of innocent Mira, the pains of a married Mira, the pangs of a distraught Mirabai and the untold sufferings of the devout lover of Krishna – all these were beautifully sketched out by Jayashri, as she held the audience spellbound for close to two hours during her presentation of `Bhaire Baanvari’. She made the audience empathize with Mirabai. It was indeed an enriching experience.

It was refreshingly different from a regular Bombay Jayashri concert. The setting was different. The stage was full, as the accompanying artistes sat in a horseshoe-like formation behind Bombay Jayashri. To add flavour to the whole presentation was the narration by Gowri Ramnarayan for each poem. Gowri is not just a music critic and writer. She is also a vocalist and accompanied late M.S. Subbulakshmi on many an occasion. The entire `Bhaire Baanvari’ was conceived and directed by Gowri.

Jayashri donned the Mira role to perfection with her fabulous singing. Jayashri sort of transformed into Mira perhaps, as she gave such a wonderful expression to the lyrics of Mira’s poems. Glimpses of M.S. Subbulakshmi, who played the heroine in the film Mira, could be found in Jayashri as she gave musical expression to the poems of Mira. MS did not do the role of Mira but was Mira herself as she enacted the role very many summers ago. MS’s singing in the film had left an indelible mark on the people of India. Jayashri’s music was chaste with clear diction and full of devotion. The accompanying artistes measured up to her equally to make “Bhaire Baanvari” a unique experience.

Jayashri was accompanied by Embar Kannan (violin), Naveen Iyer (flute), Sai Shravanam (tabla), Jeyacha (side percussion). The accompanying vocal artistes were: S. Sabesh, Amritha Murali, Kedar Karat, Rahul K. Raveendran, Chaitrra Sairam, Keerthana V. Nath and Poornima Satish.

The stage wore a grand look. Thanks to the works of Sheejith Krishna on lighting effects, it turned grander. The artistes’ costume and stage designs were made attractive by Lakshmi Srinath.

The programme began with Gowri’s beautiful narration. Gowri had taught the team rare songs of Mirabai that she had learnt from MS and other Hindustani singers. The success of `Bhaire Baanvari’ should also be attributed to Gowri for her concept, direction and narration. Gowri’s story-telling was elegant and replete with information on the princess of Rajasthan, as she brought life to the story of Mira.

The music programme commenced with the resonating sound of flute (bansuri), the favorite instrument of Lord Krishna and Mira’s lover. Naveen Iyer gave an aesthetic welcome with his flute playing in the base pitch. Most of the times during the concert flute had played a vital role and created various moods. One should compliment this flautist for his remarkable work. The opening song was “Kamala lochana kati pitambara adhara murali” in rag Yaman. This song was learnt by Mira from swami Raidas, her first mentor who belonged to a lower race. Jayashri excelled in singing this opening song on Lord Krishna’s beauty. Gowri gave a good introduction before each song and made the listening session rather interesting.

Mirabai used to pray to her Krishna in the temple. She felt that her Krishna should be free of the dristhi. To ward off the evil eyes on him, she sang “Dhristi Padiyo”. This was sung in ragamalika by Jayashri. “More Aangan me Murali Bhajao re” is a song where the child Mira asks Krishna to play flute for her. Then there was a conversational song “Prabhu Ji”. Here Mira describes Krishna as Chandan (sandalwood) and herself as Pani (water). She wants to be a part of her Lord just like the way sandalwood mixes with water. This song was sung by Jayashri and Sabesh in rag Durga. Sabesh has a charming voice. He is not a season singer but his voice did make an impact on the audience that evening. In one of the songs, “Mai Mane Supana Mam Paranyam dinanatha,’’ Mira dreams of marrying Lord Krishna. Jayashri sang this with so much dedication and devotion. There is also conversation between the Saas and bahu (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law). It is between Mirabai and her mother-in-law, who asks her to pray Goddess Gowri. Mirabhai refuses to worship any other deity other than Lord Krishna. Hence the song “Maana Guru Govind”. The Saas part was sung by Amritha Murali, who did an admirable job during the entire concert. Jayashri played the bahu. This was an interesting exchange.

There is yet an interesting conversation song between Mirabai and her sister-in-law Udabhai, who gives never-ending troubles to Mirabai. Mira replies that “Govind Guna Gasayam”. Here Jayashri and Chaitraa Sairam (who has an absorbing voice) converse in beautiful Rajasthani dialect and then the team sings the song. This was followed by the “Paga Gungroo bhaand Mira Naachi Re”. Jayashri beautified the lyrics “Loga Kahe Mira Bhaire Baanvari” (Meera as crazy) in this song. There is yet one more anecdote from Mirabai’s life where she seeks advice from Sant Tulasidas. This is a beautiful poetic letter writing conversation between Mirabai and Tulasidas.

Mira says to Tulasidas
“Shree Tulsee Sab Sukh Nidhaan Dukh Haran Gosaaee
Baarahi Baar Pranaam Karu Ab Haro Shok Samudaaee………
………Mere Maat Pitaa Ke Sam Ho Haribhakt Sukhdaaee
Hamko Kaa Uchit Karibo Hai So Likhiyo Samuzaaee

Tulasidas says this to Mira
Jaake Priya Na Raam Baidehee Tajiye Taahi Koti Bairee Sam Jadyapi Param Sanehee ||
………Jaaso Hoy Saneha Ram Pad, Eto Mato Hamaaro

This was brought out very well by Jayashri and Sabesh with their attractive rendition.

Another song is “Mera Dard na Jane, maim to Prem Divani”. Meera feels nobody can understand her love’s anguish. Only one who is wounded could understand how it hurts. In this poem, Mira says Krishna is the physician who can relieve her of the pain. Jayashri gave a good expression to the lyrics. There was then this fascinating chorus recital - “Chakaro Rakho Ji”. This song has become popular after the Meera film. The accompanying male artistes gave a whole new experience to the song.

Mirabai remembers Vrindavan and sings this song in praise of Krishna and Radha. ``Ali Maine Lage Vrindavan niko”. The whole team renders it with stimulating swaras and jathis, beautifying the poem and giving it a grand treatment. ``Mayi Re Mai to leho Govind Mol’’, a group song started by Jayashri and joined in by others, was energetic and served as a hori song with attractive colours in the background.

Mirabai calls Lord Krishna as Jogi. “Jogi Mat Jao”. This is a touching song, where Mira calls upon Krishna and asks him to burn her into ashes and adorn her into his limbs. Jayashri brought out the melancholy expressively.

The nearly two-hour concert came to an end with “Hari Tuma Haro”, creating an everlasting impression on the audience. Sai Shravanam excelled in playing tabala right from the beginning. Embar Kannan was inspiring and the side percussion artiste Jeyacha created eloquently various moods and sounds, which were spell-bounding.

It was a refreshing experience as Gowri went on narrating the story of Mirabai. The path of love is full of thorns. Prahalad, who sacrificed his father, Bali, who forsook his guru, Vibeeshana, who left his brother, Bharatha, who sacrificed his mother, and Gopastrees, left their husbands – history is replete with instances of sacrifices made by devotees.

This is the message that Tulasidas sends out to Mira: To leave behind those who do not worship Ram or Shyam even though they may be the closest relatives. He also emphasizes on the need to be with satsang or in the company of good people.

Similarly, it wasn’t easy for Mira who pined to marry the very Lord Krishna, the Supreme (Paramatma). In Bhagavata purana, nine types of bhakti or devotions are prescribed. Mira took the path of Prema bhakti or the Madhurya bhakti. It is also said that Moghul Emperor Akbar and Tansen had come in disguise to see Mira and hear her bhajans. They had presented her with a precious gem necklace which Mira had adorned to her Krishna’s idol.

There was another important incident when Mira went to Vrindavan and wanted to meet guru Rupagoswamin. He had, however, refused to meet any woman. This message was communicated to her by his disciples. To this Mirabai had said that there was only one purush (male). That was Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. The rest were Gopis, she reasoned. Mira communicated this to his disciples. No sooner did Rupagaswamin hear this message than he came out rushing to see Mira. He realized his mistake and understood the nobility of Mirabai. There were also incidents when Udabhai and Rana sent Mira a cup of poison and a basket of snakes. Snakes turned into flower garlands. As she drank the poison, Mira remained fresh but the doors of Dwarakadish temple closed instantly, making the devotees aghast. Mira chose to call Krishna as “Giridhari”, though he was familiar with thousands of names. The reason was not difficult to find. He not only held Govardhan (the mountain) on his little finger but also was compassionate and protected the human and cattle from the torrential rains. Mirabai broke all the barricades in the royal family of Rajasthan, which suppressed the women. Mira danced with the sadhus and sang in praise of Krishna. She refused to put a veil on her forehead with the saree which was symbolic of the woman in Rajasthan. She had finally merged with Lord Krishna at Dwaraka. Mira is indeed an icon of the Indian culture.
R. Vijayalakshmi -
I enjoyed the concert very very much.

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