Telling the climate story with Bharata Natyam

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 – Indian classical dances such as Bharata Natyam, Oddissi, Kathakali and Mohini Attam have always provided an interesting and creative medium to express the stories of men and women, both living and long gone.

For Bharata Natyam dancer and choreographer Nimalaruban Roovanendira Raj, the art form was naturally his choice of medium when an opportunity opened up for him to tell the story of man and his role in the continuing plundering and destruction of nature under and the consequences that have been brought to mankind and the world.

Nimal was one of the nine participants whose works were chosen for Malaysia’s first project , PANAS!, to highlight local climate change stories.

The PANAS! project, launched in early May is a collaboration between the Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia and British High Commission Kuala Lumpur and EcoKnights, to tell local climate change stories as seen by Malaysian journalists, writers and content creators.

The other journalists, writers and content creators in PANAS! were Nicole Fong, Ashley Yeong, Poorani Kannan, Sunesha Munisamy, Dr Nur Hazwani Bahar, Rekha Sevaloga Nathan, Elanggo Munian and Lim Ann Gee.

The project was led by Tan Su Lin, co-founder of SMC Malaysia while other team members include Dr Renard Siew, sustainability and climate change expert; Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar, co-founder and chairperson of Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY), Dr Law Yao Hua, co-founder and editor of Macaranga; and creative producer, Kevin Bathman.

Dancer, choreographer Nimal Raj (centre) performs in the Prithvi dance drama.

Drawing parallels with Hindu Puranic stories, Nimal’s dance drama presentation – Prithvi (Earth in Sanskrit) tells the story of mankind and his neglect of Mother Earth.

The dance begins with the antagonist, Manu, who, forgetting that he is born out of the earth, becomes selfish and conceited by destroying mother nature in the name of development to fulfil his greed. 

Through the dance, the scenes of deforestation that cause the loss of habitats for land animals and sea creatures, are depicted and how these go on till Manu meets a mystical lady, Prithvi, who takes him on a reflective journey to show his follies and how he is given the chance for redemption again and again. 

Nimal, who came up with the concept, music and choreography for Prithvi was accompanied by dancers Kavitta Tamilselvam, Keethanjali Subramanian, Rhivakshini Premaraj, Jasmen Jewa and Dakshayani Chandramohan in the dance drama.