A Love Story Transformed
26 Oct 2018
The Gold Coast is about to stage a bold interpretation of the classic Indian story of Meera, a 16th century princess who fell in love with the Hindu god Krishna. The production will feature over 100 performers on stage, bringing this traditional Indian story into the modern world with a contemporary interpretation.
Meera is the brainchild of Aarti Bajaj, a local health professional who also runs the Navrasa Arts Academy. Aarti says that Meera’s love of Krishna was true, but the tangibility of whether Krishna exists or not, is purely a matter of faith.
Aarti was drawn to the story because it’s about love. “Meera’s madness for Krishna is incredibly powerful, despite the fact that she realised that her love could never materialise, that she could never get anything out of it in an earthly sense. And that devotion meant that she risked everything she had as a princess which is remarkable. She gave it all away for her belief.”
In bringing the story into the 21st century Aarti believes that audiences will connect with Meera because it’s theme is universal. “When you take the spiritual element out of it what you’re left with is a divine love story. We all have some passion or some madness within us, whether it’s love or something else.”
A Seed is Planted
The idea of bringing the story to the stage first occurred to Aarti around 15 years ago when she was working on a TV series in India about Meera. Like the princess herself, Aarti never lost her desire for what Meera represents, although her journey has taken her down many roads since that time. “
“Since I first made that TV series life happened! I got married, moved countries, started on my career and even though today I am a health professional that performance part of who I am never left me.
“Meera has been performed many times in India as a traditional story, but I wanted to reframe it from a western perspective in a more contemporary style, where we take a particular ethnicity out of it to make it more universal by framing it within a contemporary way of thinking.
“Creating the production in such a diverse, multicultural community has allowed me to facilitate something that I could never have done in India where the story could really only be told in a traditional way. Having been exposed to so many more artistic forms since coming to Australia allowed me to see this story being portrayed in a very different light.”
Love on a Grand Scale
With over 100 performers and 200 crew Meera is being staged on an impressive scale. While the show is a very polished, professional production, the cast come from all walks of life, making it very much a community project, as Aarti explains:
“All of the creative teams are led by professionals – the choreographers, make-up artists, voice coaches and the drama consultant are all professionals, but outside of that all of the performers are amateurs.”
Barbara Prestia, Meera’s voice coach and narrator says the show has had an extraordinary impact on her. “There is a spirituality with all of us that this Meera touches. The story, the production and indeed Aarti’s remarkable vision and drive have inspired me as an artist. It’s been a remarkable experience for me personally.”
Bringing this multifaceted production to life is a story within itself and has all been part of the journey for Aarti.
“It sounds crazy but 18 months ago I found that HOTA had an availability in their 1100 seat theatre on November 4 and just decided to book the venue on the spot, but until that moment I hadn’t put anything together in terms of a production. Somehow word just spread and people became drawn to the show. If I had to put it down to one thing it would be that there is a belief in what we’re doing and that there is something special about achieving what we’re doing on this scale as a team. It’s a very human story and a very human project.”
Certainly there have been many involved in the evolution of Meera, whether it be by divine guidance or otherwise. One of the key’s to Meera’s growing success was fostered by Bond University’s Transformer Program, which is part of the innovation hub and is designed to foster student development by creating solutions for community projects.
According to Bond student and Meera’s Head of Marketing George Cary it wasn’t until the production became part of the Transformer program that the show began to find wider recognition.
“When we started working with Meera the only people who knew about it were those directly involved with the show. So we created a substantial collection of marketing collateral to promote what the show was all about. We took something that had no presence in the wider community and created this beautiful brand entity around it.
“We utilised up to 30 talented students to help bring this production to life, whether it be marketing students, technical people, videographers, directors, students from our arts department or graphic ideas from our school of architecture - they all came together to transform this show. It’s been a huge collaboration.”
It wasn’t only the show itself that evolved, as George explains: “when I started I was involved with the community help aspect of the show. But Meera itself is all about discovering your passions and while I come from a tech background I’ve found that I have a real love of marketing which until now had never been realised.”
*Meera is being staged at HOTA on Sunday November 4 at 5pm.