Published on 12 September, 2014 in Mint
Shilpika Bordoloi presents a ‘physical-theatre’ performance on Assam’s mystical river island
Majuli, the largest river island in the world, nestled in the lap of the mighty Brahmaputra river in Assam, is the cultural centre of Assamese civilization. It is also one of the many rapidly shrinking islands that might cease to exist in the next 15-20 years, owing to constant floods and soil erosion. In times when the existence of Majuli is of great concern, Assam-based dancer and choreographer Shilpika Bordoloi makes an attempt to tell the tales of its people and their myriad social, cultural and spiritual values through a physical-theatre namesake performance, Majuli.
Trained in classical Manipuri dance, Bharatanatyam and martial arts, Bordoloi’s area of expertise is “physical theatre”, a narrative that weaves together aspects of movement, voice, light, music, costume and set design. Majuli is a representation of the strong resonance of her inner self with the river, which has found parallels and imprints in her other solo works as a movement artiste. One of the core elements of this piece is water and its various manifestations in form and flows, river to wetlands, rains to floods, life-giver to life-taker.
“My association with Majuli goes back to the early days when my father was posted there for work. I spent a lot of time listening to the chants emanating from the Vaishnavite Satras (monasteries), the chirping of migratory avian visitors in the wetlands, and watching the art of making boats for fishing and masks for the annual Raas festival. All of this left a deep impact on me and prodded me to discover more,” says Bordoloi.
Majuli is the first act in the series of her multimedia project called Katha Yatra, for which she has decided to travel down the river and get to the roots of traditions. “It’s fascinating to see people’s unique relationship with the land. Normally humans tend to shift or settle in safer places, but in Majuli they revere the river as their mother. They adapt and adjust; They would never leave for a safer place,” she says.
Through her performance she hopes to highlight the meandering character of the river—often quiet, often raging—and the innumerable stories of people-river interactions.