While Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon delighted with their duet performance, the Bhoomika fest brought back vivid memories of Narendra Sharma.
The Bharatanatyam duet by the husband and wife team of Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon at the Habitat projected an intelligent sharing of stage space, exploring interactive opportunities to the full. The unusual start with Parvathy the devotee extolling Shiva with Sun as one eye, Moon as the other and Fire as the third, and Shiva (Shijith) dancing to Nandi’s drum “tanam nam tom dhit ta”, raised hopes of an ability for imparting new tones to old ideas — reinforced in the piece-de-resistance of the marathon Swati Tirunal varnam in Neelambari, “Sarasa shara Sundara”.
The choreography blended the interpretative, the dramatic and the narrative element in the shared dance encounters cleverly conceived for two persons. Leaving aside purely frontal dancing, movement was profiled differently — the dancers diagonally facing each other, or one behind the other, etc. Karaikudi Krishnamurty’s delectable jatis were rendered with savoured rhythmic joy and impeccable line and rhythm, Shijith effortlessly accommodating the most demanding challenges of speed and complicated adavu patterns.
Dancers as two devotees suddenly switched to gender representations, Parvathy becoming ardent Devi to Shijith’s Padmanabha. The Lord as saviour of Gajendra and Draupadi saw episodic treatment and then came the quick flashes of Dashavatar to the line “Sadhucharita nayaami katham Sri Padmanabha Deva”.
The merit of the varnam depended heavily on the excellent team of musicians — the tonal tautness of Balakrishnan’s nattuvangam, the clear toned violin of Iswar Ramakrishnan providing excellent support for G. Srikant’s bhav-filled classical singing. Evoking rasa, Nellai D. Kannan’s mridangam touches heightened the impact of the performance.
Happily changing his earlier version in Senjurutti of Dharmapuri Subbarayar’s javali “Sakhi Prana”, Srikanth’s singing, closer to the Muktamma style, provided excellent support for Parvathy’s sensitive abhinaya of the virahotkanthita. Shijith’s intense interpretation of “Ososi namadi” in Mukhari portrayed the disillusioned Nayaka who, despairing of having fallen for the wiles of the two-timing nayika, decides on sack cloth and ashes in Kashi.
Dynamism/silences movement contrast in the Behag tillana ushered in the perfect end to a concert awarded a standing ovation by the not very large gathering.
A life in dance
As the dance fraternity paid homage to the late Narendra Sharma (1924-2008) on his first death anniversary, in the two-day Bhoomika festival at the Habitat, a film curtain-raiser “A life in dance” by son and choreographer Bharat Sharma brought back vivid images of the master and his innumerable creations.
In an adventurous journey, the multi-faceted Sharma, initially enrolled in Uday Shankar’s Almora Centre, where the dancer in him got awakened. Later, joining the Indian People’s Theatre Movement —“I was always cast in the role of Ravan!” — to his work with the National Ballet Centre in 1955 where he got the chance of teaming up with Balwant Gargi in Washington, the young dancer was evolving in technique, improvisations and composition. “Find your own dance” was Uday Shankar’s motto, and Sharma never forgot this.
From 1954-71 began the most fulfilling chapter working with children in Modern School. Bhoomika was established in 1973 and then followed his famous productions like “Flower and the Bee”, “Panchatantra”, “Kites”, “Kalpavriksha”, “Antim Adhyay”, “Wolf Boy”, “Conference”, “Hans Baalaka”, the flying cranes which became his signature almost, “Mukhantar”, and so on. In 2008 with Narendra Sharma’s death, aspiring Contemporary Dancers lost a father figure and fine teacher.
Bhoomika’s “Nightingale” (work in progress) conceived by Bharat Sharma with Tripura Kashyap as Nightingale, based on verses of Sarojini Naidu from her book “Golden Threshold” published in 1905, comprised quick flashes of impressionistic images of “Palanquin Bearers”, “Coromandel Fishers”, “Indian Love Song”, “The Poet of Death”, “Indian Dancers”, and “To Buddha seated on a Lotus”. The last and the “Dialogue with Death” held at bay by one (Tripura Kashyap) who has much to do between Earth and Altering Sky to embrace death, were evocative. The work, with the batch of recent trainees acquiring experience, will get stronger.On the second day, Kumkum Lal’s blend of Radha’s sarcasm, anger, anguish and love in “Yahi Madhav” and Rashmi Vaidyalingam’s presence and dramatic power presenting the Dashavataram in Kuchipudi, enthralled the audience. Sangeeta Sharma’s choreography visualising frustrated man ensnared in life’s coils with no place for escape, for all the high physicality needed more trained bodies. Tripura Kashyap’s ‘120 Steps’, where ankle bells tied on a rope become a metaphor for life’s journey from classical dance to Contemporary Dance, portrayed the frustration in the prettified dancer better than the ‘escape’ which registered less.