MUNNA and the MAHARAJA
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The storyteller's bag of tools
In the video above you see Preeti use a mixed bag of facial expressions and hand gestures ("mudras").
Now let's break this down: you'll find a series of short video clips below, in which Preeti demonstrates each gesture and the facial expressions she's chosen to use.
For each one, she includes the name in Sanskrit (the classical language of India) and some further examples and applications.
Meet the mudras
First we'll look at hand gestures. Every culture uses its hands for expression. Preeti grew up learning Indian classical dance (bharatanatyam) in South India where gestures are classified in minute detail. Each gesture has specific meanings and applications.
MRGASIRSHAM (animal head)
SAMDAMSHAM (release & bite)
In Indian dance and theatre, the face is a key tool for communicating emotion—Indian dancers and actors train for years to perfect their control of their facial muscles!
There are many techniques to isolate the movements of the face, which are classified as "bheda" (BAY-dah). Indian classical performer uses these in combination to create an emotional mood under what is called "saatvika abhinaya" (SAAT-vika ab-in-EYE-a).
In particular, watch these short demo videos to see how Preeti manipulates different aspects of facial expression (eyes, lips, eyebrows etc.) to create the emotional effect.
Breaking down the performance
There's a lot going on in Indian classical dance, even in a short performance such as "Munna and the Maharaja." In the video below Preeti talks you through how she's using the classical gestural vocabulary to tell the story.
We use our faces a lot to express emotions. In Indian dance-theater the Navarasa (nine emotional states) are used to show characters' feelings and responses in a story. It takes years to learn how to isolate and use facial muscles to show these emotions!
On a sunny afternoon we took our video camera into the garden...and asked Preeti to explain how to interpret these expressions and get to know which emotional state is being acted.
(If you have questions for Preeti send them to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Think you're an expert already? Try this quiz!
THE RED CURTAIN DRAWING CHALLENGE!
Now it's your turn. This week, we challenge you to create a drawing of your favourite character from the story.
Send your drawings to us at email@example.com. We'll publish as many as we can on this site! (And you can see some great drawings we've received so far from kids around the world by clicking here!)
Meet our global collaborators...
Ben Foskett, Composer
Paris & London
Ben Foskett is a composer and arranger working across many different genres from classical concert music to ballet, dance, theatre, pop, film, TV and sound libraries.
Ben met Preeti when he was still a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London (back in 2002).
Accosted into the world of dance by Preeti, he has since gone on to work on a number of dance pieces with her and other leading dance companies including the Ballet Boyz. His orchestral piece "From Trumpet" was commissioned by the BBC Proms.
We asked Ben some questions about his process in creating the music for "The Golden Mango"—he gave us some great answers which you can see by clicking the button below. To see more about Ben and his work go to www.benfoskett.com.
Tom Lynch, Illustrator
New York City
Tom is one of New York's most in-demand illustrators and commercial artists. He's designed numerous book covers for leading publishers. He's written and illustrated numerous children's books—you can see more of his incredible work at Tom Lynch & Company.
For his version of "Aesop's Fables" he was (to his amazement) described as "a kind of genius" by the New York Times.
Tom first worked with Preeti in 2010, when he and partner Tony Reonegro created incredible set designs for her award-winning production "The Absent Lover".
We asked Tom for some background on how he became an artist—you can see his reply by clicking on the button below.
Bonus video: Behind the scenes with Tom!
Have you seen The Golden Mango? Tom also drew a beautiful illustration for that story, and provided two more videos of his process. You can check them out here!
Our learning partners
We loved collaborating with online learning experts Learn Interactive on this project. If you're an artist or an arts organization looking to create online learning content in these challenging times, contact Learn Interactive who'll be delighted to discuss your project!