Dance Theater

Kunti Kaunteya Katha


Sreyashi Dey and Dheeman Bhattacharyya
With Keshob Bhattacharyya

Post-performance discussion with Manjula Kumar, Sreyashi Dey and Dheeman Bhattacharyya

Saturday, March 26, 2022

USA: 11am EST

India: 8:30pm IST

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Kunti Kaunteya Katha is a new dance theater work that interprets the life of Kunti from a different perspective. Focusing primarily on the silence that surrounds her life, particularly in her relationship with Karna, the son she abandoned at birth, we delve into Kunti’s psyche, which is shaped by not only her own personality and motivations, but also dictated by social norms, pressures and expectations of her as a woman. We explore Kunti’s life as a daughter, a queen and a mother; in state diplomacy and her role in the Kurukshetra war. But we also find empathy for her inner turmoil, guilt, fragility and regret. Juxtaposed against this is the life of the great tragic hero of the Mahabharata, Karna, searching for his identity – forever an outsider and marginalized, seeking recognition from the world around him. In the end, both are left with unfulfilled desires for acceptance, acknowledgment and vatsalya. An important theme and motif in this work is that of silence – the tension between choosing to remain silent and being silenced by society.

In creating this piece, we have drawn our primary inspiration from Tagore’s well-known poem Karna Kunti Sangbad, but that is only the initial springboard to further explore the psyche of Kunti and Karna. Many other texts have informed the performance narrative. Instead of a linear narrative of events, we go back and forth in time, recalling the circumstances of both characters. The interactions between Kunti and Karna reflect their meeting, as well as encounters both of them had imagined but remained unfulfilled. The narrative text has brief sections of Tagore’s poem but mostly consists of original writing. The original music is specially composed for this piece, and includes a few songs of Tagore. We have used the Odissi style of dance and movement theater as the performance technique.

The performance will be followed by an engaging discussion with the distinguished educator, actor, director, filmmaker and activist, Manjula Kumar, from Washington, DC.

Concept and choreography: Sreyashi Dey
Script: Dheeman Bhattacharyya
Music: Indrajit Sen

Kunti – Sreyashi Dey
Karna – Dheeman Bhattacharyya
Narrator – Keshob Bhattacharyya

Sreyashi Dey is one of the foremost exponents of Odissi in the US, and the Founder and Artistic Director of two arts organizations – Srishti Dances of India and Akshara. She is a disciple of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan in Odissi and was also a disciple of Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan in Bharatanatyam. As a thoughtful artist, she constantly expands her creative horizons with new choreographies and collaborations across artistic genres. Sreyashi regularly tours the US and has performed all over the world – in Europe, Asia and India.

Her work has been critically acclaimed by well-known critics in leading newspapers and magazines in the US, such as the New York Times, as well as in India. She has been the recipient of several awards, notably the Harry Schwalb Excellence in the Arts award, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and several premier foundations in the US. Sreyashi was instrumental in founding two arts festivals – the annual multi-arts Rasa Festival in Ann Arbor, and the annual KathaAngika classical dance and theater festival in Kolkata, India.

Sreyashi’s educational background includes an MS in Economics and an MBA, and she has parallel careers in marketing, University of Michigan administration and non-profit.

Dheeman Bhattacharyya teaches Comparative Literature at the Centre for Comparative Literature, Visva- Bharati, Santiniketan. His doctoral thesis was on Indigenous Theater traditions in India and Canada. He is trained in Odishi and Rabindrasangeet. Dheeman has performed in productions like Yugaant, Ananta, NAAD, Urubhangam, Andhayug. His original scripts include Karuna Dharay Esho, Megh Bhanga Gaan, Shrabon Kheyale, Waterness, and NAAD. He directed the documentary Vimukti in association with ICSSR and AAWW.

A natuaral and talented actor with immense acting skills and abilities to play various type of roles. Keshob Bhattacharyya made his acting debut in Theatre Nandik theatre group. Since then he has been attached with different theatre activities. (Acting, Singing, Playing, Body-Movement, Writing, Direction)

He has been working as theatre practitioner in Bengali theatre groups for 11 years. In his career he has worked with/under – Soumitra Chattopaadhyaay, Dwijen Bandyopadhyay, Paulomi Chattopaadhyaay, Biplab Bandyopadhyay, Bratya Basu, Kaushik Sen, Manish Mitra, Abanti Chakraborty, Kamaleswar Mukhopadhyay and many more. He also holds enough experience of appearing in cinemas, commercial and TV soaps, has been a narrator for audio books and stories, also script writer and director for children theatre activities.

Manjula Kumar is an educator, actor, director, filmmaker and activist with a strong belief in the arts as an agent to bring social and political change. After over 30 years of working at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. as Program Director in the Office of Education. she is now working as an Independent Arts Consultant and Programmer. At present she is the President and Executive Director of Global Performing Arts.
Through numerous academic projects and public programs she has worked tirelessly to build bridges of cross-cultural understanding between diverse communities. A two-day symposium on SUFIism, a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore and a retrospective of the entire work of the internationally acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray, are considered ground-breaking projects.
In 2009 she was awarded the Fellowship Peace Award by the Gandhi Memorial Center in Bethesda, MD for her research and creative work and dedication to the understanding and appreciation of the Arts to promote Peace, Harmony and Understanding and Tolerance across religious, political, socio-economic boundaries.
In 2016 she was recognized and given an award by Montgomery College in MD for her special Achievement in the Arts and Humanities.
She works with the WDC International Film Festival as a program consultant and Member of a Jury. Currently she is working on her film – An Ode to Washington: Celebrating Multiculturalism.
Born in Kolkata, India, educated in Delhi and London, England, now in her third incarnation, she continues her work as a Cultural Catalyst with the hope of creating a better world for all.