The role of padams in music and dance was explored through song, dance and word

What is the role of padams and javalis in enhancing a classical music or dance performance? ‘Chumma Chumma Varuma Sukham,’ a lec-dem by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan under the auspices of Natyarangam Trust, discussed the splendour of these lyrics and their status today. The lec-dem was an ingenious spread of Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and substantial information about padams and javalis.

An erudite scholar who is known for her vibrant contribution to the Tamil literature scene, Sujatha collated interesting facts about poets, their historic perspective as well as the significance of this unique musical genre.

Tracing the evolution of these lyrics from their antecedents in the Sangam era to the present day, she elaborated the reasons why the evocative songs have survived generations. Well-known vocalist Geetha Raja chipped in with pithy snippets of several songs and dancers Radhika Vairavelan and T.N. Saranya provided the visual colour. Kalaiarasan’s soulful violin notes synchronised with Parur M.S.Anantasri’s subtle nattuvangam and Vedakrishnan’s capable mridangam play.

Sujatha stressed that the fruitful delineation of a padam results in a moving experience, and added that it is the result of a creative vision that outshines perfection of technique. Illustrating her talk with references to accomplished musicians such as K.V. Narayanaswamy and Sanjay Subrahmanyan, she also cited examples of great dancers such as Balasaraswati and veteran teachers Kalanidhi Narayanan.

She pointed out that although listening to the music is extremely enjoyable, singing padams was no easy task and demanded considerable musical agility. Same was the case with their interpretation in Bharatanatyam. Her heart-felt speech highlighted ‘the weighty classicism’ intrinsic in these melodies and rued their declining prevalence in the current day repertoire.

A dozen songs were arranged to ensure continuity of the expressive content -- ‘Entane Varninthu’ in Kedaram by Pattabhiramayya; ‘Itanai Tulaambaramay’ in Dhanyasi by Muthu Tandavar, and ‘Apadooruku’ in Khamas again by Pattabhiramayya. Radhika and Saranya delineated concise padams such as ‘Kachirangan Kripaiin Kalyani’ by Ghanam Krishna Iyer. Geetha Raja’s sprightly singing traversed the curves of the ragas with felicity.

Against the setting of many lyrics and interspersing talks at appropriate junctions, the bright music and dance persisted as individual entities in places. Given the circumstances of performing Bharatanatyam with choreographed ‘dialogue’ to spontaneous music, this was not surprising.

One form emphasised the melodic structure while the other form focussed on the sahitya’s application. In the concluding piece, a javali – ‘Saami Radaayagaade’ in Huseini (Dharmapuri Subbarayar), while the tisra nadai lent a peppy element to the musical dimension, the abhinaya for the dance was on the lines of a nayika lamenting her errant lover.

‘Chumma Chumma Varuma Sukham’ was layered with keen observations that appealed to the spectrum of rasikas including senior artists, teachers, students, scholars and critics. A bigger performance space than the Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall would have accommodated the attendees without overcrowding.