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Parama Padam: Life’s Game of Snakes and Ladders

Apsaras Arts and India Habitat Centre present a dance theatre production, Parama Padam ~ Lifes game of Snakes and Ladders, on Tuesday, 5th September 2023, at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre. Mohanapriyan Thayarajah’s solo act of Bharatanatyam dance piece is based on the board game snakes and ladders. 

Parama Padam has been created by the followers of the Vaishnavite faith, with the duo purpose of entertainment and teaching moral values of human life. On the game board, there are a hundred squares which are illustrated with Snakes and Ladders. The ladders in the game represent good virtues, and the snakes indicate vices. Ladders take you up as the good deeds take us to heaven, while the snakes bring you down as to a cycle of re-births. The final goal is to reach Vaikuntha, or heaven. This game which originated in India in the 10th century CE, was popular worldwide as Snakes and Laddersby the British during the 18th century CE.

The 60 mins non-stop performance by Mohanapriyan Thavarajah has three acts, using lyrics for only brief introductory epithets and short explanatory narration in English between acts. The first act: The Soul Yearns, elucidates the six zones that have to be traversed to reach the seventh, which is Vaikuntha. The second act: The Game Life, depicts the souls journey through climbing up ladders and being pulled down by snakes and the third act: Making the Right Choices in Life, has two segments. The third act introduces Chitragupta, the accountant who keeps track of the good and bad deeds as a guide who narrates several stories of those who attained Parama Padam: Poet Saint Tyagaraja, Alvar saint Periyalvar and Poet saint Tukaram by following the path of devotion, love and knowledge. Chitragupta drew the analogy of the life of Ravana, who was defeated in the game of snakes of ladders due to his arrogance, while the Poet Meera overcame the vices (symbolised by the snakes) through her pure devotion. The piece ends with the learning that the Parama Padam is not a destination but a way of life that is guided by moral values.

The concept of Parama Padam – Lifes Game of Snakes and Ladders, is in tune with our dance institutions vision to take up novel themes which are connected to Indian heritage and culture and not seen as the narrative of dance expression. This theme allows us to visualise traditional board game choreography using the rich movement vocabulary of Bharatanatyam and explore the narrative of the games moral values seeking references from Indian epics, communicated through Abhinaya, the art of story-telling in Bharatanatyam.Says Aravinth Kumarasamy, Artistic Director, Apsaras Arts Dance Company.

Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, Principal Dancer and Resident Choreographer of Apsaras Arts Dance Company says, As a Bharatanatyam practitioner and choreographer, Parama Padam is my humble attempt to create an awareness and appreciation of Indian heritage and culture, which I proudly value. As our world moves towards globalisation and modernity, we need to create opportunities to look back at our roots, which are rich in culture and history, and have unique ways to promote good morals and ethical ways of living.

Creative Team:  Concept Choreography and Performance:  Mohanapriyan Thavarajah (Singapore),   Artistic Direction: Aravinth Kumarasamy (Singapore), Artistic Mentor: Priyadarsini Govind (India), Dramaturg: Lim How Ngean (Australia), Music Composition: Dr Rajkumar Bharathi (India), Sound Design: Sai Sharavanam (India), Light Design: Gyan Dev Singh (India), Narrator Script: Audrey Perera (Singapore).

Orchestra (India): Vocals: G Srikanth, Mridangam: V Vedakrishnan, Percussions: Ganapathy Venkatasubramaniam, Violin: Embar Kannan, Veena: Bhavani Prasad, Flute: Sruthi Sagar, Sollukattu: Shreejith Krishna, Narration Voice-Over: Ramesh Paniker (Singapore)

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