Smitha Madhav’s Azhagar Kuravanji was a showcase of her dancing and composing skills.
The Kuravanji form of dance drama intertwines Tamil poetry, classical music and dance and folk theatre together. Traditionally, the storyline follows a set pattern with the princess and gypsy lady as the principal characters overlaid by the motif of the presiding deity of the province.
Azhagar Kuravanji, written by Kavi Kunjara Bharathi, which was presented by Smitha Madhav and her group, showcased her versatile skills in classical music, dance and composing and was commendable for its fresh approach.
In keeping with the customary format, the dancing began with a sprightly invocation to Lord Ganesha performed by a male dancer. Events unfolded quickly with sequences of the deity Lord Sundararajar (Lord Vishnu) of the Azhagar temple in Madurai district, being taken out in procession, the grand entry of the nayika with the curtain and subsequently giving her heart to the divine hero.
Smitha merged with the role of the heroine Mohanavalli with her charming mien. Neat araimandi, correctly aligned feet and agile movements enabled her to set a buoyant mood in these segments. The quick dancing by the sakhis and their warm mukha bhava complemented the solo dancing.
However, the narration dragged as the dance drama progressed to showcase the pangs of separation suffered by Mohanavalli, not so much due to the prevalent mood but because of repetitive facial expressions. The dancer could have explored varied nuances in the realm of virahataapa in the songs addressed to the moon and the sea but chose to settle for a restrained delivery. The interpretation missed out on the degrees of love, devotion and yearning that underscore the philosophy of the human soul pining for the Supreme in this genre particularly in the famous lyric ‘Ivar Yaro’ in Khambodi.
The merry arrival of the soothsaying gypsy, ably performed by Bhargavi, enlivened the dance drama and the scenes of Mohanavalli’s marriage with Lord Azhagar ushered in a propitious air. The lively exchange between the two male dancers followed by the meeting of the gypsy with her husband also brought in folksy notes characteristic of the Kuravanji.
The group also included Vidya, Ganga, Varsha, Pavani, Sreenath and Season Unnikrishnan. Research inputs from Dr. Rama Kausalya, music direction by Embar. S. Kannan, vocal music and nattuvangam by Smitha and melodies of Kuldeep Pai gave a good foundation. Rich costume that matched the characters and tasteful backdrops enhanced the production. Recorded music featuring N. Ramakrishnan on the mridangam, Embar S. Kannan on the violin, Bhavani Prasad on the veena, Vishnu on the flute and other talented musicians, was of a high quality.