Navatman, the critically acclaimed NYC-based cultural hub for classical Indian dance and music, is bringing The Mahabharata to film in the first-ever retelling that is driven by young, immigrant artists hailing from across the United States. Through a stunning blend of classical Indian music and dance, and years of extensive academic research into the epic, Navatman’s Mahabharata proves why the Mahabharata matters in 2021.
Mahabharata, the largest epic in the world, by producer Navatman, Inc. Navatman, best known for its live theater productions, will be venturing into film for their first feature film – at 2 hours and 10 minutes – on the Mahabharata. Combining traditional Indian arts with film, this feature is part movie, including spoken word to help audiences understand the story, part dance and music using mudras and hand gestures in place of props and music and character storytelling methods from dance to help create emotional understanding of these stories.
This film includes many “firsts” – the first feature film told from the narrative of Indian classical dance and music traditions, first American/Indian diaspora film interpretation of the Mahabharata, a first feature film of the Mahabharata written solely by female scriptwriters, and a feature film that switches gender roles as actors and actresses. It is a story that is driven by sounds and images that are not an attempt to assimilate, but a story driven to help create cultural understanding for the next generation of Indians.
As quoted by Sahasra Sambamoorthi, the Artistic Director of Navatman’s Mahabharata – “It is our work to create space in a world that does not acknowledge the Mahabharata as a great piece of literature, a reclamation of a text by those whose heritage revolves around it.” The film will premiere at a gala event slated to be held at the SVA theater in Manhattan, NYC, on the evening of Nov 6. While this is an exclusive, invite-only event, the general public can access the film online on Navatman’s video rental app. Tickets are currently priced at $49.99 and the video can be rented for 2 days to be watched anytime, anywhere before it expires.
This two-hour feature film abides by the principles of theater in some ways, like actors playing multiple characters and music, movement & using mudras (hand gestures) to tell the story. It also includes lines for female characters, an addition to the critical edition of the Mahabharata (a compilation of hundreds of texts) where women are often seen but do not have a voice. “Our version allows us to work within gender norms differently – while very traditional to see Indian artists play male and female roles on the stage, putting this into a film version of the Mahabharata puts a twist on who gets to play what roles in this world, and allows a space for arts organizations like ours to tell stories in a novel format. Yes, the pandemic forced us to explore digital means of doing our work – we started rehearsing for a stage production and then had to change gears to be on-camera – but I am glad that it did. Our Indian dance & music based film is going to be epic!”.
In other ways, it is a feature film with its 4K video shots and surround sound, powerful film editing and meaningful sets across New York and New Jersey. “It’s an incredible feat to have captured a massive story like the Mahabharata like we have. Our artists are not film actors, not theater actors, but professionally trained dancers & musicians who are great at their craft. I can proudly say that Navatman self produced and created this opportunity using its own resources, a feat that will allow dancers and musicians around the world to embolden their cultural and artistic heritage,” says co-founder of Navatman.Sridhar Shanmugam Navatman is a performing arts organization that empowers the individual to nurture his or her personal evolution through interactions with the Indian classical arts. Founded with an eye towards creating a home for the Indian classical performing arts in NYC, Navatman is best known for their Manhattan based and online classes, critically acclaimed productions, dynamic dance company, stellar music ensemble, and Drive East – a week long collaborative festival celebrating their mission. Broadcast on: www.navatmanvideobroadcasting.uscreen.io
Tickets: $75 early release, $50 December release; Info/purchase: www.navatman.org/mahabharata; Email: [email protected]; Phone: 732.580.2093