Ambiguity crept in as too much was offered in too little time.
‘Rati - A Journey,’ a presentation of love poetry in a Bharatanatyam format, was presented by senior dancer Manjari, with verses chosen from across the country and time zones, i.e. from the 8th to the 16th century. With poets such as Vidyapati, Kshetrayya, Thirumangai Azhwar, Madholal Hussain (Sufi) and verses from Amarushatakam (Sanskrit), Vasantavilas (Gujarati phagu), Qutban’s Mrigavati (Avadhi) and Bilhana’s Chaurapanchasika (Sanskrit), the list was extensive and well-researched.
The presentation had a logical sequence as it followed the bumpy ride of star-crossed lovers and an evocative musical score (Prof. C.V. Chandrasekar) that enhanced the emotions. Yet, ‘Rati - A Journey’ was more appealing as an academic exercise than as a dramatic recounting. It was a case of complicating a simple storyline. For one, there was not enough time to set the stage and understand the emotions as there were too many songs and too little time, and secondly, there was ambiguity in the alternating ‘she said-he said’ technique used in the dramatisation.
Manjari had taken on a challenge when she decided to steer clear of mythology and the time-tested ‘margam’ repertoire. It did not help that some of the songs chosen were in unfamiliar tongues. So, it was solely up to her to establish and convey the nuances at every step. Though the programme introduction and the written script sounded well-thought out, the conversion of the powerful word into gestural language was not clear enough.
Manjari had however set the scene beautifully with two oil-painted screens placed in different corners of the stage, perhaps denoting the ‘he’ and ‘she’ spots. The Vasantavilas scene celebrating spring was one of the finest that evening. Set to a delectable selection of ragas - Vasant, Nand, Chandrakauns and Desi - the scene burst with joyfulness and vibrancy. Guided by the nattuvanar (Sheejith Krishna) who wielded the cymbals in the bhajan mode and a consistently attentive percussionist (Ramesh Babu), the nritta was especially eye-catching.
Anahita Ravindran (vocal) proved up to the challenge of a rather unusual musical score where many songs in varied ragas flowed in quick succession. She was helped by a very melodious Sashidharan (flute) and a steady Srilakshmi (violin). Laxminarayan (tambura) provided the sruti.