Srinidhi's Dasarathi was thought-provoking.
There was an intellectual quality about Srinidhi Chidambaram's performance titled ‘Daasarathi.' Intellectual in conceptualisation and presentation as well as in execution. In its planning, the programme was a compilation of poems and songs in praise of Lord Rama, using, at times, multiple texts in a single item to bring out a salient point.
In its presentation, it was thought-provoking, in the way it linked mythology to the present day in the context of the unrest in the modern world. There was elegance in the restrained abhinaya and precision in the mathematics of the adavus.
Choreographed in the Margam format, the performance opened with a neat pushpanjali based on a composition by Lalgudi Jayaraman in Rasikapriya, which was combined with texts from Sri Rama Ashtakam. The varnam was compiled from Tyagaraja's compositions and depicted the unquenchable desire of the devotee to be with the Lord. Wondering why Rama remains absent in spite of being aware of the suffering His devotee is undergoing, in ‘Nagumomu,' the poet offers possible explanations - could it be that Garuda said it was too far to travel, for example?
This episode and the hopeful preparations for His arrival were interpreted in style, with such touches as the quiet wiping away of a tear as night falls without a sign of Rama's arrival.
While Tyagaraja sang that a life without Him was worthless in ‘Eti janmam idi,' he also excitedly welcomed Rama with ‘Ra Ra Devathi Deva' and the second part of the varnam described the joy of the devotee at Rama's arrival.
While a duet between the percussion and the dancer came a little out of the blue in the earlier part, the jati choreographed to show the excitement of the Lord's arrival was dynamic and impressive, as was the musical lead up (arrangement by Swamimalai Suresh) to the song itself.
Also noteworthy was the creativity in the abhinaya where the dancer compares Rama's royal lifestyle with the humble abode of the devotee. Finally the devotee thanks the lord for coming to bless him - ‘Nannu palimpa' praying that he always gets to worship at Sri Rama's feet – ‘Nannu vidachi.'
One wondered whether it was by design or accident that the bhakti bhava in the abhinaya was tinged in places with sringara. An exponent of the Vazhuvur school of dancing, Srinidhi remained true to many of the key aspects of the style, as in the extensive use of sarukku adavus, the aesthetic and light jumps of the kuthithadavus and the light, yet precise use of ‘usi' in the theermanams.
‘Nee vara vendum Rama' was an impassioned plea for Rama, the embodiment of tolerance and renunciation, to redeem the souls of an increasingly intolerant mankind. Written and tuned by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, this song talked of the demons being not outside but inside our hearts.
In a world where a sense of ‘me' and ‘mine' is overwhelmingly prevalent, it is none other than Rama, who shunned the throne and renounced material comforts, that can bring back tolerance and generosity.
Srinidhi also effectively brought out the irony in the fact that war was being raged over a piece of land in Ayodhya in the name of the very soul that placed no importance on either power or possession. Topical as this theme was, it seemed to strike a chord with the audience.
In the following item, a modern mother was shown feeling the same inadequacy that the poet Arunachalakavi had felt in trying to effectively describe the beauty of Lord Rama in his song ‘Anda Rama Soundaryam.' Portraying the mother taking recourse to reading excerpts like ‘Thol Kandar, Tholae Kandar' (those who saw His shoulders, saw nothing more, so struck were they by their beauty).
‘Raghuvamsasutha' in Kathanakuthoohalam provided the basis for the final item that had a thillana composed by Lalgudi GJR Krishnan woven into its lyric.
This carried the only uncertain moment in the mridangam accompaniment of Shaktivel which was otherwise unobtrusive yet attentive, as evinced by his varying the tone of his mridangam to match the Mohiniyattom feel of one of the movements.
Srinidhi described Radha Badri, who provided vocal accompaniment, as a soul sister, who also actively contributed to the production.
Kalaiarasan on the violin is a familiar figure on the stage nowadays and he and Devarajan on the flute provided a lilting musical interlude.