Meenakshi Chitharanjan presented dance compositions by the Thanjavur Quartet as part of Kartik Fine Arts' festival at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. She called the presentation “Naalvarin Navaratnam,” or nine gems from the Quartet. As a disciple of the late Pandanallur Subbaraya Pillai, who — through his grandfather Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai and father Chokkalingam Pillai — inherited these masterful compositions, Meenakshi has a sizeable repertoire from this tradition. That evening, which she dedicated to the memory of her guru, featured pieces familiar to the audience.
Familiarity brings ease as well as challenges. Oft-performed pieces, like roles in a theatre production, become part of the dancer's personality. And it is to be expected that every composition gains as the dancer grows. While the challenge is to keep a presentation from looking mechanical, the advantage is that one has lived with the piece.
And, although the hallmark of Meenakshi's dance is a no-frills intensity, perhaps on this occasion it was a lesser degree of intensity, both in nritta and in abhinaya that prevented “Naalvarin Navaratnam” from sparkling.