Indeed! An experience not to be missed, Sarpatatvam – the Serpent Wisdom

Reshmy Krishnakumar
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Upasana Dance Studio hosted the 10th International Screening of dance documentary, Sarpatatwam, conceptualized and presented by renowned Mohiniyattam danseuse Dr. Methil Devika, in Kuwait.

The invited audience also included art lovers and likeminded people from the Arab and European community. The presence of famous Bharathanatyam dancer Karnataka Kalashri Guru Rangasree Srinivas made the evening all the more blissful. The screening was followed by a session with Dr. Devika where the audience was able to converse and share the experience with the creator.

As a person whose ancestral home very close to the famous Mannarsala Snake Temple in Kerala, I am totally attached to the sacred groves and Serpant Gods. The basic feeling of fear for a snake was not at all solid in me, for reasons unknown. The concept of Serpent Gods safeguarding our family and generations made me feel extremely safe and secure. Rooted in tradition, entangled in myths and beliefs, lies my spiritual maturity and confidence to move on.

My acquaintance with Dr.Devika started at Upasana, where she plays the role of our mentor. To watch her dance is nothing less than a treat for my eyes, mind and soul.

Thus, a short trailer of Sarpatatvam released in September, to be precise on a Vinayaka Chaturthi day, last year, captured my attention as the combination of these two ‘close to heart’ factors and for that reason the Kuwait screening hosted by Upasana was a ‘not to be missed’ opportunity for me.

With sheer joy, excitement and curiosity on what is in store for me watching Sarpatatvam; I sat down. The, almost thirty minute, documentary took me to another level of trance. While the song which was very much familiar in a completely different platform progressed, I was enjoying a meditative journey with her to the world of serpents, as if in a fairy tale. Her expedition to the charisma of Serpant philosophy with the lyrics set by Pambatti Siddhar in 11th century was slowly getting unfolded at a soothing pace. The depth of passion towards her creation was completely visible in that piece of pure art. The divine voice of Aparna Sharma backed by the traditional instruments like veena, mridangam, edakka etc. added to the beauty.

When Dr. Devika conveyed the lyrical meaning through mudras, movements and expressions, I could literally visualize the serpent adorning Lord Shiva’s head and could feel it moving and taking shelter somewhere down the world. She herself transformed and presented the vigilant serpent, which uses its eyes as ears, with her eyeballs. I should say, the transformation was magnificently shown with every part of her body.

Later, she beautifully connected it to the powerful spiritual energy which is present in us at the base of spinal cord and usually represented as a coiled-up serpent. Awakening of those sleeping energies within us, as the Indian yogis refer to as Kundalini, through the six chakras was shown, where it got magically transmitted from the screen to the audience.

The familiar components of serpent worship including the “Kalam’ with five colours representing the five elements is shown with a purpose. The documentary ends with a brief interpretation where Dr. Devika is seen answering some questions, throwing light to the soul of Sarpatatvam.

Sarpatatvam can be considered as an enchanting product of Dr. Devika’s urge to explore the prospects of Indian classical arts. It thinks beyond the existing framework and for that reason it can be marked as an academic document, where she shares her experience and the knowledge that she gathered in the process.
Sarpatatvam proves that, art is a powerful medium to convey and convince. As the creator rightly said during the interactive session, “Dance is not meant for just performance. We tend to trivialize it.

But when we realize that it is something more than mere entertainment, our approach changes. Indian classical dances are much more than what is seen and presented. It has got literature, music, philosophy, spirituality and, in totality, getting immersed in it is a process of realization”.

An exceptional combination of music, dance and spirituality utilizing the potentials of perfectly chosen technical aspects including the commendable location and camera work, makes her effort the first documentary short film based on Indian classical dance to hit the contention list for the Oscars. It was a hypnotic journey starting from the Indian tradition of serpent worship, touching the finest meaning of those universal concepts represented by a serpent and finally leaving the audience in the ecstasy of that unique blend of five elements; a complete mesmeric experience.

Here, Mohiniyattam which is usually said to have associated with feminine emotions is creatively and thoughtfully used, enriching it to another level. She was precisely exposing the power of Indian art to the global audience, integrating an aspect of thought into her expertise as a Mohiniyattam dancer. No wonder, Guru Rangasree Srinivas commented after watching the film, “This is called Dance”.

Age old verses by Siddar, which is an embodiment philosophy and spirituality, along with the spellbound presentation of Dr. Devika took the audience to the magic of mysticism irrespective of cultural background which was evident from the reaction of the Kuwait audience.

Sarpatatvam is indeed, something not to be missed; not only for me, but for the creative fraternity!

Reshmy Krishnakumar is working with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) as Research Assistant. Having done her post-graduation in Statistics, she worked as lecturer at St.Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, until her relocation to Kuwait. As a freelance writer, she is contributing to various magazines, blogs, and websites. Her passion includes classical dance, writing poems in Malayalam and Hindi. She is a member of the Writers’ Forum, Kuwait and the Indian Women In Kuwait (IWIK)
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