Narthaki Natraj’s interpretation of a Tanjore Quartet varnam turned it in into a vibrant piece of art.
The compositions of the Tanjore Quartet are exceptional for their intricate merging of raga, tala and bhava. Among their collection, the pada varnams and swarajathis are gems that offer Bharatanatyam artists vast scope to explore their creativity in detail.
Noted artist Narthaki Natraj’s presentation of one such piece underscored the value of intelligent interpretation in the context of carrying forward traditional values bequeathed by great masters of the past. Her performance was part of the Nritya Sangama festival held at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, organised by classical dancer Sailaja, founder and director of Saila Sudha for the school’s 25 anniversary celebrations.
Narthaki’s presentation of the varnam was a cohesive telling of Lord Brihadeeswara’s greatness with apt embellishments. Set in seven ragas and as many talas, this ‘special varnam, ‘Ninainthodi Vandaen’ began in a soaring Thodi and wound around concise jatis and brisk swaras that tested the artist’s mental and physical endurance. Other ragas such as Bhairavi, Varali, Khambodi and talas such as Dhruva, Matya and Roopakam, shone with their individual qualities.
In the dance form, pert addamis (neck movements), spaces within the arudi and the pattern of thattimettus marked the rhythmic distinctiveness.
After narrating Lord Siva’s beauty and many heroic deeds in the first segment, Narthaki added emotional hues in the ensuing passages. The eternal quest for the Divine coalescing with the word ‘Perudayane’ was a strong thread that held the pieces together. Her delineation of legends such as Ardhanareeswaram, Markandeya’s salvation and Ravana’s eulogy on the veena, was to the point and fitted well within the symmetry of the structure. Despite a few shaky moments, particularly with some poses on one leg, the dancer forged ahead with determination.
Narthaki’s intuitive hold on the sthayi and her considerable experience proved a winning combination in translating this song into a vibrant piece of art.
The efforts of the orchestral team led by Neela Sukanya’s nattuvangam, K.P Nandini’s singing, Nagai Narayanan playing the mridangam, Satish Kumar on the violin and Sruti Sagar’s flute added power to the dancing. The varnam succeeded an invocatory on Goddess Sundaravalli and was followed by a verse on Lord Mururga.