We was thrilled to get tickets for Pandavani performance and by no less an artiste than Teejan Bai. This was a part of the Lokaranga (a folk theatre festival) organised by Kasba Argha.
Somehow, all 6 of us managed to beat the crazy traffic and reach Madhusudhan Mancha on time. The enormous hall was fully packed with quite a few known faces - actors - film and theatre.
First, Sima Ghosh, disciple of Teejan Bai presented the Abhimanyu Chakravyuhu episode. The acoustics were not too great and the music and chorus drowned out Sima in parts. However, it was not difficult to follow her at all and everyone was rapt.
The Kurukshetra battle field came alive in front of my eyes and a young Abhimanyu, wounded, all weapons destroyed, weilding a chariot wheel as the last resort, fatally trapped inside the Chakravyuha (like I and a million others read in Amar Chitra Kathas of our childhood). When Sima Ghosh heralded his death with a long drawn out Abhimanyu, I was jolted back from Kurukshetra to find Sima on the stage and her percussionists and accompanists seated on a dias.
There was a brief interval, during which we were requested not to step outside because there were others who had not got tickets outside who were a bit upset.
Teejan Bai presented Karan - Arjun Samvad and right from her entry to the tragic end of Karnadani, she was arresting. Dressed in a red sari, black choli, silver amulets, armbands, anklets, her jet black hair in a long plait belied her age (she claimed she was aged). But given her tumultous life, 50 plus would be like a very long life time. As she unravelled the tragic tale of Karna-dani fighting his last battle against Arjun and his charioteer Sri Krishna, we held our collective breath. As she finished, the applause was not as thunderous as should have been given the packed audience. But that I realised was more because we were stunned.
The organisers asked the 'vishist atithi' Aparna Sen (who had come to see the performance) to come up on stage and present a bouquet to Teejan Bai. Some one from the audience called out that she has gone. 'Chole geche'. The organiser then requested Purna Das Baul to do the honours. Which he did. This was the only discordant note in the entire evening. No disrespect meant to Ms. Sen, but one legendary folk singer to another, Purna Das Baul should have been the first and obvious choice.
Teejan Bai waited patiently, through it all. But then poray bhebay dekhlam all this disorganised ness is the hallmark of all things Indian and not take into account. The audience appreciated the performance who in turn appreciated the audience's enjoyment, and all other irritants, were swept away.