Aniruddha Knight, the legendary Balasaraswati’s grandson, brought back memories of a Bharathnatyam style that has few practitioners.
His lineage precedes him and curiosity takes the better of an audience who cannot but marvel at a foreigner dancing so perfectly to Indian tunes. That is Aniruddha Knight to you, the legendary dance doyen, T. Balasaraswati’s grandson.
He belongs to the Balamma bani (school) and hence we cannot compare him to the Bharatanatya dancers of the day, as there lies a world of difference. Everything including the costume is quaint and unique, to put it positively. Aniruddha took up the margam and hence we had an alaripu fortified by the Tiruppuzhal in Madhyamavathi where we found little nritta and lots of abhinaya. The most impressive pieces in the entire repertoire were the Shabdam, a Chinnaiah Naidu composition and the Varnam by Tanjore Quartet. This doesn’t mean the other abhinaya –centric padams were any less. But the Shabdam and Varnam provided a wider scope to judge the artiste on various fronts. His delineation of a couplet was multi-layered through hastha, and mukhabhinaya is his forte which puts him on a pedestal compared to the rest of his ilk.
The pada varnam, ‘Sarasala Lo’ was replete with imagery in Aniruddha’s excellent handling of the sangathis through his abhinaya. The subtleties were presented with finesse that defies description. We had a glimpse of his nritta abilities in the swaram in which he did a brisk exposition of the adavus. The straight tisra nadai and the teermanans was deceptively simple, yet worked out with stunning clarity if one were to observe closely. As such, despite negligible nritta element throughout his presentation, the agility with which he holds the mudras and darts like a deer as he executes the footwork is to be marvelled. The sancharis to the penultimate part of the Varnam were like flashes of brilliance. To the present day format-oriented audience Aniruddha’s impromptu abhinaya, as we were told at the very outset, despite its excellence seemed to be impeding a smooth flow, making the dancer pause for while as the solkattu went on without a break. The few and brief jatis that he undertook were so vigorously executed that the stage diminished at the lightning speed with which he moved. It was pleasure to hear him sing as he danced effortlessly and gracefully without appearing effeminate.
Since it was T. Balasaraswathi’s style, the dancer showcased three different abhinayas through the padams - one on lord Shiva, one on lord Muruga and two on lord Krishna. Each outdid the other in terms of mime. The forlorn naayika in Kshetrayya padam ‘Ninnu Joochi…’ the love-lost heroine looking out for Muruga in ‘Swami Velavare Umami Tedi’ or the utter adoration of Lord Shiva’s mercy shone like gems in a treasure trove. Most of us cannot forget for a long time to come, Aniruddha expression in ‘Krishna Nee Begane Baro’ in Yaman Kalyani. It was a wonderful, live piece of artistic creativity. Incorporating the ‘Dashavatara’ at ‘Jagaddhodaraka namma Udupi Krishna’ brought out the finesse in choreography. The tillana in Mandari was too brief and seemed a hurried finale.
T. Girish on the vocal accompanied by T.R. Murthi on the flute, Adayar Gopinath on the mridangam and K. Rakesh on the nattuvangam complemented the artist.
Prior to the dance, was a fusion ensemble led by famous vidwan K.V. Prasad accompanied by Parur Ananthakrishnan on the violin, Bhavani Prasad on the veena, Solomon on the keyboard and Krishna Kishore on the Pads, where we were treated to a one-hour instrumental bonanza with melodies like Amruthavarshini, Saraswati, Hindolam with taniavarthanam.