Mata Ki Kahani A spectacular theatrical presentation

Mohd. Yaseen
There are a number of feature films, Television serials and docu-dramas on the legend of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi but a creatively designed Dramatic presentation ‘Mata Ki Kahani’ is much more effective and engrossing. This mesmerising spectacular musical theatre performance is a local production of Natrang Jammu. Conceived, devised, scripted and directed by Padamashri Balwant Thakur, this mega theatrical presentation has become the major highlight of North India’s major ‘Navratra Festival’ at Katra. Produced in 2017, every year during Navratras, Natrang with the collaboration of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and J&K Tourism presents two shows every day for nine days at the Katra base camp. This theatrical wonder transports the pilgrims and the visitors of Navratra Festival to a mesmerising journey, unfolding the story of Mata Vaishno Devi. Professionally designed and performed by over 70 artists on stage, the dramatic presentation keeps the audience spellbound and within one hour the entire story is showcased in an electrifying manner. A noteworthy feature of this presentation is its wonderful and comprehensive soundtrack. Overall it’s a powerful blend of professional sound, imaginative lighting, perfect sets/props and impressive acting by experienced Natrang actors.
As per the legend, during the period when the Goddess was busy in annihilating the Asuras, Her three main manifestations viz. Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Saraswati got together one day and pooled their collective Tejas or spiritual strength. Today Mata Vaishno Devi is worshipped by millions and trillions of people across the world. Mata Vaishno Devi has surfaced as an embodiment of will, strength and peace. In the present times, when the atrocities against mankind are prevailing, the legend of Mata Vaishnodevi gives a guiding light to her followers to help her devotees to uphold inner confidence and faith within themselves and on the strength of her healing and cosmic powers. Interestingly, Balwant Thakur while devising the story has used the resources of classical literature and the folk narrative and have mixed the both in such a manner that the entire story becomes more interesting and connects with the audience. Using the traditional devices of music, dance and elements of dance-drama, the entire presentation becomes so engaging that no one can afford to leave the performance before it comes to an end. There are instances that few people watched it repeatedly and sometimes they volunteered to bring more and more to see this theatrical wonder. The live stage presentation has its own charm and attraction and magic of the same can be seen while its shows happen in Katra. This year again the major attraction of the Navratra Festival-2022 Katrang is going to be ‘Mata Ki Kahani’ presentation by Natrang which will showcase 18 shows, two shows each day for nine days.
In a conversation with Sh. Balwant Thakur about this theatrical wonder.
Some Excerpts
Q. From where did you get the idea to create a musical extravaganza on the entire legend of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi?
A. I was wondering that there are films and TV series but no one ever dared to showcase this legend as a theatre presentation. Mata Vaishno Devi shrine is the 2nd most visited pilgrimage of India. People come and go but there is no occasion where they can be engaged in a theatrical happening where they will not only be entertained but also be made aware of the story of Mata Vaishno Devi. My mission is to make it a permanent happening in Katra where the visitors to the place are given an opportunity to see the story of Mata Vaishno Devi interspersed with local performing traditions. One one hand, it will truly disseminate the story and promote the local culture and talent.
Q. Tell us about the people involved in this mega venture of yours?
A. I have not compromised in any department of creativity. For the sound track I have used the voices of top theatre and Film actors. Be it choreography, lighting, sets, props, acting best of the talent has been used.
Q. How will this creative reach to every household?
A. The best way is to make it a permanent happening. The word of mouth will popularise it. The moment people are sure at performance at a particular time throughout year one can always see this presentation, all those who will see will ensure others also avail this opportunity. I am confident that the majority of pilgrims to Katra will definitely witness this.
Q. What kind of efforts are being taken by you to connect with the younger generations?
A. You see the design of the show. It is a fast-paced show interspersed with music, dance and spectacular visual imagery which attracts the younger generation to a greater extent. On top of it majority of the performers are in the age group of 18 to 25. The entire presentation has been made to cater to all kinds of spectators and most importantly the storyline has to be engaging and authentic. It took me three years to finalise the script. I have had the interaction with top scholars who finally vetted this before I started structuring music and theatrical action.
(The writer is a National Scholarship and Fellowship holder from Ministry of Culture Government of India in the field of Theatre)