Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rawana comes alive at the Filharmonik

I was just curious; as such I thought I should revisit the epic tales at the Filharmonik.

I mean, after getting mesmerized by the dance drama as presented in Jogja (Sendratari Ramayana), I thought I would give the local a version a chance and hoped to be bowled by the PETRONAS Performing Art Group last night.

Obviously I told the kids to look hard at into the dance-drama and compare between the two. You probably had read my entry on the Jogja version here.

Let me go from point to point, to cut the chase short.

1. Choreography - This one the one in Jogja wins hands down. No competition, in all aspects of the dance. The choreography itself were elegant and more epic in Jogja. Every single move by the dancers was full of passion and and you can see that they were one transformed into their characters.

Unlike the dancers at PPAG. They are devoid of such emotions, and they and their character sdid not become one during the play.

You can say that they were amateurs which is a shame actually. I know they were all hired and employed by the PPAG, but they are only now learning their rope in Ramayana and are not fulltime dancers of this dance-play.

At times, they were just walking around and not in such graceful manner either, whereas in Jog, every single step they made is choreographed and you know that that night, they all became one with their character.

The only resemblance of the real thing - if I can call the one in Jogja the real thing, and with apologies to actual home of Ramayana, is the character Rawana. He did a decent job there.

2. Character - As I have said, the improvement is the fact that the PPAG did well with the portrayal of the nine heads of Rawana, by having eight different dances to imitate his every move. And to great effect I must admit.

In term of dancing, you still can't beat the real thing.

Rama and Sita in this dance play are quite weak and could not match the warrior that was Sri Rama in the epic tales and could not match the grace of Sita in the Jogja play. I must admit I did not feel for the two of them when they face Rawana, unlike when I was in Jogja.

Each dancer has not mastered their characters that well, and hence you don't feel that embodiment in them.

3. Music - Last night the background music was more modern, though at times it did switch to traditional. But I love the background choir. The vocal managed to heighten the tension and one could feel it all over at the DFP. I think if there is a selling point of the PPAG on the Ramayana, this would be one. Of course the acoustic of the DFP may have a say on this too.

To my mind, if they could reduce the touch of modern music - just a little bit, it would be perfect.

4. Unfortunately, they aren't that clever in using the acoustic of the DFP to its full effect. When Rawana, with its nine heads were laughing menacingly, the voices came from the individual dancers (without mikes). They should have use decoys placed at strategic places so to speak to imitate the laughing and fill the hall with the menacing laugh.

I told the kids, I remember watching a drama during high school (MRSM Week at Kota Bharu), when the drama done by Seremban use this effect to great effect as the shrill of the shouts were echoed through out the dewan obviously by actors placed at strategic places.

Much like a home theater I must say.

5. I like the idea that they were using a TV screen to broadcast the subtitles of the dance-play so that everybody could follow each segment and understand exactly what's going on. Brilliant idea, I must admit. Now I know exactly how Sita (Dewi) was born, and to which parents and - I didn't know that or I may have forgotten as it would have been over 35 years since I last read the epic novel.

If only they would consider putting the flat screen on the middle so that I would not have to turn my head to either my right for English subtitles or left for Malay.

Oh I nearly forgot, please get someone with a good command in English. Much of the subtitles left much to be desired, some were downright laughable to be honest, if not embarrassing!

6. PPAG introduced the segment on how Sita came into being, with Dasaratha, Mandudori and Mandudari being part of the play. I didn't know about this actually, so it was news to me.

All in all, I must say the PPAG must have dancers specializing on certain dance, and if they want to be considered a serious player in this arena, to hire professional dancers. who specialize in that particular art form. You can't turn a rap dancer and expect him to perform the Ramayana! They can't afford to have Jack of all trades (and master of none) to do these kind of dances.

Everybody should specialise in a form of dance; much like you don't want your pianist to masquerade as a violin player, methinks.

The same dancers later were masquerading as dancers from Borneo in Laman Etnik which made it one of then most boring dances I have ever seen. Only the closing dance was beautifully executed with so many dancers giving it an epic feel.


I know, I know, two outings in two consecutive Saturdays for us at the DFP. But it is better than sitting at home idling our time away. The tickets I must say are cheap enough for stingy people like me!

And I am becoming to difficult to please nowadays with stronger criticisms in last two performances? May be I am a bit harder to please nowadays. But MPO has only themselves to blame for setting the bar too nigh previously! ;-)

Actually I have attended four performances in the last two months and I do have things to say about all of them. Make it three of them.

I met with Datuk Rahim, a retired ex VP of the big oil organization. He was my former manager at a refinery in the East Coast. Apparently one of his children was the play and hence he was there to watch. I am glad to be able to catch up with him. You may have read an entry I did on him in July last year, and I was briefing him on the status of the work that I am doing for him (before he got retired).

We didn't call it a day after the end of the play. We went visiting a friend at Wangsa Maju, who was doing a doa selamat for his son who is recuperating from an operation and undergoing chemo at the moment. So it was another epic chat with An/Liza, and Chepok/Yong, all former friends at MRSM KB.

We called it quit only at 1 am.


  1. May I concur with you of the background vocal was obviously brilliant and deserved compliments.

    One of the flaw in the story flow depicted that i could sense was the fight scene between Rawana and Dasartha when suddenly, the TV narration explained that Dasartha had to give up his Wife to Rawana for some reasons that cant be picked up already by audience; I to be in particular, could not comprehend why she was surrendered to Rawana when the duels seemed balanced, it seems. Maybe the director had desired for audiences like myself to read its story and probably relate back to that duel scene.

    The end of narration was actually 'Rama killed Rama'- eventually meaning Rama had killed himself- a testament that the person who arranged the TV presentation would probbaly had to put more effort in embellishing the story telling, especially when one is narrating for a play held in DFP- a world class stature hall.

    But I did enjoyed Rawana's character. he was indeed scary, powerful and mystique as depicted by the actor.

    - Al R-

  2. Aleoul,

    Thanks for your comment. We are on the same page with background vocal, TV narration and Rawana.

    I have read the Malay version of Ramayana (Hikayat Seri Rama by DBP when I was kid). But I don't remember the story of Dasaratha and wife Madudori and her clone Madudaki (not sure If I got the spelling correct to be honest). Checking on Wiki, we are told that Dasaratha is the father of Rama, and in this play, he is the father of Sita.

    So like you I am confused.

    Yes, we should go back to the text!