“No, No, No! Don’t bend your knees, the wolves are NOT doing Bharatanatyam!” I could hear Samyu’s voice raise a notch or two. She was instructing new recruits in the ways of the jungle. I smiled to myself as memories of our premiere production four years ago rushed back. Choreogrpaher Narendra showing the walk of the wolves, demonstrating how to roll, acting out the crazy antics of the monkeys. Seems only yesterday that Narendra first called me and asked, “Akka, what do you think of Jungle Book?” At first I was hesitant: how could we possibly portray all the animals? What about costumes? How will the music be scored to make it a contemporary English play? As Narendra and Anusha fleshed out their vision, embarking on exhaustive research to unearth little known details about the timeless tale, we too caught their infective enthusiasm.
“Why call it Seonee?” I asked. “Nobody knows what Seonee means.” But Anusha and Narendra were insistent. Seonee was the name of the forest and they wanted to be clear that this wasn’t a copy of the Disney movie. Seonee personifies the struggle that Mowgli faces in choosing between the jungle, his adoptive home, and the village from where he came. As the musical score took shape we could imagine the characters, and the play came alive with Narendra’s incomparable choreography: the way he knew the personalities of the different animals, their moves, the shake of their heads. His vision was picked up by the Natyalaya family and the school buzzed with activity all summer. Parents excitedly brainstormed costume ideas, students were busy making props, and everyone left meetings and rehearsals humming the songs from the score! The piece de resistance was our magnificent tree — that was Seonee! Here we are again about to embark on not one but two shows, and the same excitement permeates the air, the studio is full of frenetic activity and the animals are set to take the stage by storm. Come, enter into the Seonee forest with us and be enchanted. And let us take our hats off to the Anusham Dance Company.
Director, Natyalaya School of Dance