‘Pennmai Chudar’ scored on the detailed content, co-ordination and narration.
Kala Pradarshini, a Centre for Performing Arts and Cultural Activities, established by senior dancer Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala, premiered ‘Pennmai Chudar,’ a thematic Bharatanatyam dance-drama at the Brahma Gana Sabha this season.
It celebrated the lives of five extraordinary women such as Sita (patience), Andal (perseverance), Manimekalai (charity), Avvaiyar (intellect) and Keladi Chennamma (valour).
It had been conceptualised, penned and composed by Kalpakkam Srinivasamurti, recorded by artists (Hariprasad-vocal, R. Suresh-percussion, Parvathi-nattuvangam, Srinivasan-flute, M.S. Kannan-
violin, Padmini-veena, Venkatasubramaniam-keyboard) and choreographed by Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala with guidance from P.V. Venkatasubramaniam. The dancers were Parvathi, Shivakumar, Shanmugasundaram, Bhavajan, Divya Prabhakar, Shravani, Namrata, Deepalakshmi, Shavanee, Yuvasri, Preethi, Vallabhi, Tejeswini and Akshatha.
It was a well-researched and a well-rehearsed effort. ‘Pennmai Chudar’ scored on the detailed content, co-ordination and narration (Kalyani Rajaraman and Nandhitha Ramesh). The visualisation, however, oscillated between vibrant, straightforward and downright unimaginative.
The best moments were in the vibrant group dances composed by dancer Shivakumar, like the rakshasis’ dance in the Sita episode, the pleasant jathi interludes in the Andal episode and the dance of the sea in the Manimekalai episode. Some episodes had narrators who merged with the group choreographies flawlessly.
Hanuman growing bigger to convince Sita of his genuineness, the transition from the child Andal and the Krishna statue to a grown-up Andal and a real Krishna and the visualisation of the chariot with Chennamma in the war scene were some of the arresting images. Baby Sahana as the deer, a young Andal and the child learning Avvaiyar’s ‘Aati Choodi’ maxims was an asset to the picture.
While Andal’s episode was the best in terms of merging dance and drama, the Manimekalai episode was the richest in terms of the musical score. But the dramatic part on the whole, though clear, was prosaic and uninspiring in many places like in the Avvaiyar episode it was only drama and no dance. Sita’s melancholy and Chennamma’s role play was simply too melodramatic to be artistic.