Costume aesthetics marred the overall effect
Groomed at Bangalore’s Sri Venkatesh Natya Mandira, Aishwarya Nityananda, a long time disciple of Guru Radha Sridhar, was chosen for the coveted opening slot of the Academy’s dance festival. Not for a moment questioning the Bharatanatyam prowess and stamina of the dancer, one would, however, wish for the costume aesthetics of Aishwarya not to detract from her stage presence.
The generally over ornamented get-up with pleated fans in several layers, and the head overburdened with flowers, made the dancer appear even shorter than she is. What would be more becoming is a one colour costume, with a narrow border and very little jewellery. Then came the red colour applied on her eyes which made them look swollen, cutting out all expressions for persons seated beyond the third row.
With a competent batch of musicians, Aishwarya began with ‘Thattajam’ Pushpanjali in Amrithavarshini, before going on to the centre piece of the Thanjavur Quartet, Ashtaragamalika varnam, ‘Sami Ninne Kori.’ Very expressive in conveying the nayika’s love for the ‘Tanjapurivasa’ and with full rhythmic command displayed in the intervening jatis, even while the nattuvangam by Pulikesh Kasturi lacked its usual punch, the dancer was in full flow -- though the Chennai audience, quite contrary to its wont, refrained from applauding for each jati.
The Purandaradasa devarnama in Sivaranjani, ‘Yamanelli Kananendu Kelabeda,’ expressed visual images of contrasting attitudes towards Vishnu manifesting as Rama and Krishna - Divine saviour for a devotee such as Vibhishana or Draupadi but appearing as an incarnation of Yama for Hiranyakashipu, Duryodhana or Kamsa. While rendered with involvement, weaving in Arjuna/Krishna interplay with verses from the Gita, interfered with the main text and even flow of the lyric itself, and did not add to the general message of what the artist was communicating.
The khandita nayika in the Ghanam Krishna Iyer padam, ‘Unnai Thoodanupinen’ in Saveri, wherein the nayika who has lovingly tended to details of her friend’s general get-up, before sending her off on a mission to deliver a message to her lover, looks in angry dismay at the messenger who returns with a tousled look, more than suggestive of having enjoyed intimacy with the man herself. The dancer’s interpretation had the requisite sarcasm and anger, with vocalist Balasubramanya Sharma adding to the mood.
Sadly, persons at the rear of the audience could see little of the abhinaya nuances thanks to the dancer’s make-up.