It is unusual for the discerning Chennai audience to give a standing ovation, for a dance performance particularly when it is presented without glitzy makeup and costume. But it is not surprising when the artist is Vyjayantimala Bali. At 70 plus, Vyjayantimala continues to enthral rasikas with her superb artistry. She brought 60 years of experience in the classical arts along with her to give her emotive best at the recital titled, ‘Abhinaya for padams and javalis’ organised by the Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha at The Music Academy Mini Hall.

Vyjayantimala was in her elements as she sang, explained and emoted. One hardly noticed that she was just seated on the dais this time. The D. K. Pattammal style of singing was evident all through her rendering. Vyjayantimala employed emotions such as humour, anger, pathos, love and valour to bring alive the different characters. As Mrs Y. G. Parthasarathy said, “It was fascinating to watch her expressive face and eyes bring each situation to life!”

‘Yella Arumaigalum,’ the first piece depicted a faithful wife wondering at her husband’s infidelity. In this padam by Ghanam Krishna Iyer in Thodi, the nayika was portrayed as a steadfast woman who retains her love for her husband. She even recounts his wisdom and generous nature and is convinced that it is the work of some malicious woman. In contrast in the next piece, ‘Maaname Bhooshanamu,’ in Sankarabharanam, the heroine rues the situation she has landed herself in. Her bad humour had driven the hero away and she had become the laughing stock in town!

Vyjayantimala’s expertise was revealed in the various shades she gave to each heroine. It was obvious that while one nayika was loyal the other was fickle. Indeed, many in the audience laughed at the plight of this woman.

‘Arivaen Ayya,’ in Atana was a portrait of a lady who was not amused at discovering the vain hero’s true colour. She takes him to task for showering his affections (and wealth!) on another woman while rebuking and finding fault with her. As the indignant lady, the dancer’s back stiffened and spoke volumes. .

Reminiscences of Vyjayantimala’s student days with Guru Dandayudhapani Pillai came coupled with tongue-in- cheek humour, before the well-known Karaharapriya varnam, ‘Mohamahinaen.’ The dancer shared information on how the maestro composed the piece especially for her. With Jayalakshmi Santhanam as the supporting singer, the song lent intensity to the show. “A javali is like a dessert, it lends sparkle and completes the recital,” she said and then took up ‘Modi Jese,’ a bright Dharmapuri Subbarayar javali in Khamas. A serious note was introduced with the Arunachala Kavi lyric in Huseini where Sita beseeched Rama not to leave her behind. Sakhi Prana in Chenjurutti was followed by ‘Yennaeramum’ in Devagandhari. The tillana in Dhanasri, more popular as ‘Vyjayantimala tillana,’ had the rasikas humming with her. Gayatri Sashidharan’s understated nattuvangam, mridangam player Adayar Balu’s style and violinist S. Vijayaraghavan‘s mature technique were in line with the unique needs of the presentation, which had been scripted for connoisseurs and dance lovers.

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