‘Avalum Nokkinal', a smooth blend of word, song and dance, was a tribute to women at large.
Sita the goddess has captured the imagination of many a poet throughout history.
She is revered as the symbol of chastity, as somebody who endures innumerable trials for the cause of Dharma - a seemingly high sounding concept that would be interpreted in our day as the cause for love and duty.
‘Avalum Nokkinal' with concept, design and direction by Gowri Ramnarayan and dance by Priyadarsini Govind, organised by Tamil Meiyam at Sivagami Petachi Auditorium was a kaleidoscopic presentation of Sita of the bard, Sita, the consort of Rama, and most significant, Sita, the individual with an acuity and voice of her own.
The enviable combination of Gowri and Priyadarsini ensured that there were many angles to the evening's vocalisation of thought melting into emotive dance.
The choice of the colour of costume which moved from white in the opening number to black towards the end was one such example and left one wondering if there is a connection with the yin-yan concept?
“We chose black mainly because it is the universal colour for protest,” explained Gowri. Priyadarsini‘s iridescent black costume for the concluding piece, an English translation of Ambai's contemporary piece, ‘Akkarai Kadathal', certainly underlined this premise.
A little humour too
There were enjoyable moments of romance, followed by a humorous exchange between the couple that resulted to the harsh verdict of Rama. The Ramayana was not directly catalogued per se but brought into focus as needed by the spectacular dance and speech. Sita the maiden came skipping on to the stage all agog with the beauty of Nature.
Following the opening number, a Tyagaraja stuti in Sahana, vocalist Savita Narasimhan's clear delivery of the Kamban poetry built up the first encounter between Rama and Sita.
Priyadarsini's body language, particularly the timid slant of the shoulders, nimble foot movements and her abhinaya, captured the innocent maiden who knew only joy.
‘Eppadi Manam Thunindado' drew the portrait of the wife who spurned riches and luxury and wrest the right to go with her husband into the forest. Priyadarsini's portrayal now brought forth the shock and dismay of Sita that Rama would even entertain the thought of going without her.
Tulsidas's immortal words conjured up the image of Sita the dutiful wife who shyly reveals that “the dark skinned one is my husband and the fair one her husband” contrasted with the earthy images of the Telugu folk songs that followed.
Gowri's witty elucidation tangoed with Priyadarsini's humorous take on Rama who has a bellyful of Sita's rebuke!
The image of Rama flushed with victory over Ravana was powerfully captured by the dancer. A mere gesture of the wrist conveyed the callousness in the situation even as Sita emerged triumphant from the Test of Fire, this time to Valmiki's ancient verses.
Yet, the strong point of the evening was saved for the last - ‘the chinna muyarchi' or the small experiment as Gowri put it.
‘Who am I?' asks Sita today and the triad of music, dancing and verse put forth a Woman in Black who creates and sustains even in the face of separation and adversity. An English translation of Ambai's poetry saw Priyadarsini skilfully interlace body bends evocative of asanas to spotlight the woman who triumphs.
The innovative aharya for ‘Avalum Nokkinal’ certainly carried the story of Sita forward. The puff sleeves of Priyadarsini’s pure white skirt costume for young Sita gave way to a black laced pallu for the exile which then changed to an orange fan of the black costume for the Test of Fire and finally the shimmering gold hues of the black pyjama-type costume. The colour and design of the costumes by Lakshmi Srinath also highlighted the development of Sita’s personality.