I still don't recall how it all started, but I do know that the desire to to stretch beyond limitations has always fascinated me. What ensued was an idea that I will cherish forever.
MANJARI - Mystique Fragrances, my dream project, my debut solo production, my baby. Pillared by some of the most fabulous and wonderful human beings on the face of earth, MANJARI is really not mine, but Ours.
And this is how it all happened :
September & October 2014 - The idea germinated, omnipresent but unexplored. I kept wondering whether it even made sense, because if its that simple, someone ought to have worked on it already.
And then I learnt, sometimes the simplest of things are the most overlooked.
November 2014 - In 30 days, the entire research was done. At that point, I didn't even have the slightest idea that I would make a presentation of it. The theme was intriguing enough for me to pursue learning about it, without the slightest thought of how it would turn out.
29th November - In a serendipitous meeting with acclaimed danseuse Ramaa Bharadvaj, I happened to share with her the idea behind MANJARI, and she took an immediate liking for it. She told me "Do it before anyone else does". That and of course her inspiring solo feature MITRA, set the tone for what would be the most exciting year of my life thus far. The decision to stage MANJARI was taken.
December 2014 - In the first 15 days we had the first draft of the script for MANJARI ready. The ever critical-thinking and creative - Sharan Subramanian was constantly adding,removing and modifying content from my preliminary research, resulting in a final draft towards Christmas. Both of us being music lovers, even took the liberty to courageously pen down the choice of Ragas (musical modes / melodic tunes) for each segment.
The final document was convincing enough for me to take to the musical genius,vocalist and composer - Karnataka Kalashree DS Srivathsa for his inputs. A preliminary discussion with him, reinforced my belief in MANJARI, for he approved not just of the script, but the Ragas as well. I then brought it back to work on the loopholes, and tighten the loose threads. We figured we would be in a position to stage it after September 2015.
March 2015 - After waiting a good two months working on the script over and over again, the much awaited day dawned - the very first composing session with Vathsa Sir. Three hours, and the biggest composition of MANJARI was done. In awe I sat, while listening to the very first draft recording.
April 2015 - I would like to believe this was the toughest part of the entire process - getting a common date from all my musicians for the performance. After a good number of phonecalls, I figured everyone was available on the 28th November, a convenient Saturday. The auditorium was available too, and I was warded off from my biggest worry.
We also worked on the promotional material, since the vocalist, Sharan and the guitarist, Bharad (for the promo videos) and the Caption Writer, Karthik Shyam (for the promo posters) all accomplished Doctors would start getting busy June onward. Hasty photo shoots, video shoots, jamming sessions, recording sessions and a big long YouTube tutorial on video-editing resulted in Teaser and Promo videos as well as posters being ready. Basically, we had all our promotional material ready way back in Mid-2015, with a detailed plan on when to insinuate what. (Hence I smile at any accusations of imitating PR or SMM strategies)
May 2015 - Towards the end of May two more compositions were done in yet another fabulous composing session with Vathsa Sir, one in Kannada and one in Telugu. Linguistic and artistic prowess at the peak !
Another highlight was the discussion with the Rhythmic Genius - Srihari Rangaswamy Sir. In a quick half an hour briefing session, I explained everything about MANJARI, and in the next week he had all the rhythmic interludes sent to me.
June to August 2015 - The most interesting phase of MANJARI - putting all those months of planning and thoughts into action, into dance, into choreography. I've always loved experimenting on choreography while keeping intact the structure and form of what I've learnt over my learning tenure, which continues to this day. The new theme and brand new compositions gave me ample scope to explore, and unleash the creativity.
The plan was to work on one composition per month over 4 months, and cram two smaller segments in one month, so as to wind up by October (Yes, you're allowed to say that I have an OCD). Considering I worked my full-time corporate job through the day, it seemed a fair deal. The plan did materialize until August. The structure of four compositions was more or less final.
A long catch up with the mystical flautist - Mahesh Swamy Sir furthered my belief in MANJARI. It is a blessing to be associated with and have your project pillared by some of the most generous and warm people. Mahesh Sir patiently listened to my script and gave all his inputs not just with respect to music/dance but even the stage, lighting and ambiance.
By August end, the last two segments were also composed by Vathsa Sir - one in Tamil (which is one of his masterpiece creations) and another abstract piece.
September & October 2015 - The month of performances. What I thought would be just one outstation trip ended up becoming four (Mumbai, Pune, Mysore and Udupi), on four consecutive weekends, with a follow up by the blessed Dengue virus. I say blessed, for it debilitated me only for 2 weeks, and not the usual 2 months. Naturally no work was done on MANJARI. With two more segments remaining, panic had well and truly struck. However, the bed-ridden time was effectively utilized to design the invites and handouts which were still pending on me.
An additional Doordarshan recording and a performance at Bangalore brought the Dengue affected body back to form. I say this with certainty - 'the spirit most definitely over powers the bodily limitations'.
November 2015 :
Week 1 - Crammed and choreographed the last two compositions.
Week 2 - Showed all of them to Soundarya akka, who patiently mentored me throughout with her keen eye for detail, and gave all her corrections, approvals, disapproval even.
Week 3 - Introspection. What started of as a dream was actually materializing before my eyes, and I can't believe MANJARI came this far. When I printed out the handouts for 28th, there was that mixed feeling of tension, satisfaction, anxiety and everything else one would feel if they were doing something for the first time.
Week 4 - Rehearsals in progress........
MANJARI is extremely special to me, literally my baby, happening because of a lot of love, affection, care, concern and support from a lot of people.
Be there not just to witness a magnificent concept (and all those associated words in my invite), but to see something crafted with a whole lot of love - for Dance, for Life and for the Lord.