Parama Padam was 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 world-wide as “Snakes and Ladders” by the British, during the 18th century CE.
Artistic Direction : Aravinth Kumarasamy
Artistic Mentor : Priyadarsini Govind
Dramaturg : Lim How Ngean
Music Composition : Dr Rajkumar Bharathi
Sound Design : Sai Sharavanam
Light Design : GyanDev Singh
Narrator Script : Audrey Perera
Concept and Choreography : Mohanapriyan Thavarajah
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
“Parama Padam: Life’s game of Snakes & Ladders”
Parama Padam – Life’s game of Snakes & Ladders, a dance-theatre production by Apsaras Arts featuring, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, the company’s resident choreographer and principal dancer premiered at the Esplanade theatre studios on Jan 11th and 12th, 2019.
In his speech, HE Mr. Jawed Ashraf, Indian High Commissioner, Singapore aptly summarised by saying, “Parama Padam by Apsaras Arts is an intelligent work of art, beautifully conceptualised and choreographed to convey the message that heaven is not something up there; it is the way of existence, in the choices we make.” The two shows were fully sold out to the Singapore audience who arrived with curiosity to watch how this traditional game of Snakes & Ladders will be brought to life on stage through the language of Bharatnatyam.
Aravinth Kumarasamy, Artistic Director of Apsaras Arts Dance Company, in his foreword message described how the company’s vision was to work on such new but unusual concepts that are connected to traditional heritage but are rarely presented in the narratives of classical dance productions. Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, spoke how he drew his inspiration from his traditional culture and intended to create an awareness and appreciation of the meaningful traditions of the yester years in the modern world. In this production, he cleverly takes the analogy of the game- Snakes & Ladders, and revisits the players’ learning journey of life’s values through a gamification approach.
The production opens with introducing a soul searching for the ultimate truth. Starting with the end in mind, this soul diligently traces his journey through the six worlds, but gets stuck at the 7th door to the final zone called the Vaikuntham. On receiving a peek into the beauty of the 7th heaven and a glimmer of hope of achievement of salvation Parama Padam, the souls initiates his journey of life. The second act is a delightful pure dance piece where the soul travels through the 100 squares rising up the ladders and sliding down on the snakes. Thavarajah’s unconventional choreography and Gyan Dev Singh’s board game light design, playfully brought alive the lessons from the game of life. The third act introduced 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.
Mohanaprian’s finesse in abhinaya, the art of storytelling in Bharatnatyam is best demonstrated in this act where he effortlessly transitions between being the storyteller- Chitragupta, the soul (common man) and the characters in the stories. His mastery over the rhythm was evident in his smooth delivery of complex pure dance segments. He was a delight to watch keeping his audience glued to his dance, a rare skill needed for solo dance performance.
The closing scene is a dance of salvation where the soul gains wisdom or moksha.The path to Parama Padam is described through the life journey and is guided by the moral values the soul chooses to embrace everyday. The closing act is a masterpiece work of art where the lights, the music, the choreography dance in sync with Thavarajah to enlighten the entire theatre and brings home the ultimate aha-moment for the audience. “As always, I lingered at the venue for some time afterwards, not wishing to break the spell that has been cast over me,” said Smt Asha Varma, a rasika in her review. “With Mohanapriyan Thavarajah performing his own choreography supported by an array of star studded artistes, the one hour plus programme was a scream!” was how Sriganesh summarised his experience in his review.
Parama Padam is a production where dance meets philosophy; arts meet science and theatre meets reality. The blurring of the lines between the stage and the audience; the characters from mythology and the modern man; the dancer and the audience is beautifully conveyed by the dance, music lights and script. The entire production is a true collaboration of the most talented minds.
– Soumee De (Singapore)
8th and 9th January 2019, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, Singapore
20th October 2019, Mandapa, Paris, France
Sri Lanka Tour
30th May 2020, Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo, Sri Lanka
September 2020, Paramatta Riverside Theatres, Sydney, Australia
September 2020, Bunjil Place, Melbourne, Australia