To the backdrop of a peppy mridangam bit that eventually joins the foot-tapping beats of parai, a couple of Bharatanatyam dancers alternate their vivacious movements with others. In the interludes, a woman wielding a silambam replete with colourful ribbons tied at the ends, takes over as the music continues unabated.
The frame is nothing short of a celebration — the wide smiles that the performers don only confirm this. In the past few weeks, the digital space has had no dearth of creative outputs that are in some way or the other related to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The latest to join the bandwagon is the music video ‘United to Heal: Coronavai Jeyippom’, brought out by Chennai UCCN and Aanmajothi: an artistic collaboration featuring different performing art forms of Tamil Nadu in a bid to show that unity is key, especially now more than ever.
Written and sung by gaana/folk singer, Guru Aiyadurai, the song (in Tamil) packed with groovy moments, rightly shuttles between being informative and optimistic. In fact, the opening line translates to, “Our country will continue to prosper; and will wipe out the dreaded disease…” as Guru takes centre stage to spread hope and cheer, while sporting a smile and equipped with a laudable sense of rhythm.
The video, which was put together in a couple of days before the lockdown was enforced, has been widely shared since. And it is not just the lyrics that address the crisis at hand, the Bharatanatyam dancers have even devised a few poses and subtle gestures that demonstrate how one should wash one’s hand and cover one’s mouth while coughing. This particular scene appears as a refrain.
“We thought it would be interesting to integrate different forms rather than sticking to one that is within our comfort zone. This is kind of how the idea came about,” says Shreya Nagarajan Singh, curator of Aanmajothi and the head of productions for this video.
Guru was more than happy to hop on. Though he wrote the lyrics, there was a lot of back and forth within the crew to keep the overall idea positive. “We didn’t want to make it a public service announcement but wanted it to be uplifting and fun for the listeners,” says Shreya, noting that all artistes practised at their own homes and spaces to the recorded song. “We knew we had very little time and didn’t have the luxury of coming together to practise. We only got together twice: to write the song and record it,” says Shreya.
Over the process of putting it together, Shreya adds, gaana seemed to be “the perfect medium”, parai the perfect instrument, and Bharatanatyam the perfect movement form to tell this particular story. The title too was very important because the primary aim of the video is to be motivational: “We wanted to keep an eye on the future. Hence the jeyippom,” says Shreya.
The video, which already has subtitles in English, is also being subtitled into Hindi, Spanish and French at the time of writing. In terms of response they have been receiving, Shreya continues, “The mood dramatically changed when the lockdown was announced, and many of the responses that we got were positive, especially then.”
‘United to Heal: Coronavai Jeyippom’ can be viewed on Chennai UCCN’s YouTube channel