Uma Namboodiripad’s depiction of Narasimha and vamana avatars was unhurried and just right.RUPA SRIKANTH

As Kartik Fine Arts’ tight scheduling allowed for limited performance time, this year’s Nadanamamani awardee, Bharatanatyam dancer and musician Uma Namboodiripad Sathya Narayanan, wasted no time on preliminaries. She jumped straight into the deep with a Swati Tirunal Sanskrit Dasavatara kirtana, ‘Kamalajaasya hrta’ in ragamalika, Adi. The vibrant 50-minute piece, choreographed by Guru Chitra Visveswaran, who kept a protective eye on her protégé from the front row, presented a dancer who has grown in confidence, energy and maturity. She has adapted and internalised Guru Chitra’s dynamic style that involves adavus-in-motion and introduction of the flick of the head and wrist to finish with a flourish, in a sense.

In tune with the times

This modern-day version of Guru Chitra is conscious of the trend towards maintaining good lines, sitting in proper araimandi especially for thattu-mettu sequences or during the theermana adavus, and infusing adavus with energy. Though some of these trends are not new to the style, there is a studied attempt by Uma to go with the times.

Uma’s capable depiction of each avatara had a well-rehearsed finesse. Of them, the Narasimha and Vamana avataras were stand-out sequences when both the dancer’s sensitive portrayals and the melodious music came together gloriously. Take the Narasimha story, when Vishnu appears as a man-lion who emerges from a pillar in a courtyard and attacks Hiranyakashipu, laying him across his thighs. He proceeds to tear his stomach, and this is interesting, the dancer used awkward wrist movements and bent fingers to depict the lion’s paws.

Narasimha’s expression is fierce as he disembowels the atheist demon; he remains in this mood for a time until his gaze falls upon the child-devotee Prahlada, when he goes back to a saumya roopa. Every detail was pictured unhurriedly. 

The Vamana avatara was the coming together of the whole team:  K. Venkatasubramanian set the tone with interesting rhythm and varying the volume-strong for Mahabali and soft for Vamana, like a speaking mridangam; the sanchari was shown with swaras, and vocalist B. Umasankar’s voice rose dramatically as Vamana’s dwarfed form grew large. The same event was then shown from Mahabali’s reaction, as his eyes widened in wonder and fear.

We enjoyed melody from Mudikondan Ramesh (veena) all through the recital, being the only accompanist. Sukanya Ravindhar (nattuvangam) was a strong comrade-in-arms with her efficient performance.

The Sringara padam, ‘Ariya Paruvam’ (Hamsanandi, Adi, Periasami Thooran) brought in a change of mood but was bland due to a predominantly padartha (literal) treatment. 

The Valachi thillana (misra chapu, Madurai N. Krishnan) saw the mridangam artist and the dancer in good energy, the former varying tones according to the adavus this time. The vocalist had his moments, but here his voice let him down on occasion. 

The recital marks a new chapter in Uma Namboodiripad Sathya Narayanan’s Bharatanatyam career.