Roja Kannan’s bhakti and enthusiasm were palpable.
It was senior dancer Roja Kannan’s energy that made a difference to her solo Bharatanatyam presentation, ‘Panniru Thirumurai,’ which was a devotional edifice built on the verses of Saivite saints. It was not just energy in the physical sense, which incidentally was commendable, but also the energy invested in the spirit of the production. Just as the adavus were well-defined and the footwork was strong, the dancer’s bhakti and enthusiasm were palpable.
With the help of Kannan of Natyarangam Trust, Roja had chosen well-known viruthams and padhigams from ‘Panniru Thirumurai,’ and tuned them with vocalist Radha Badri in the respective pann-related ragas. Though the thread of bhakti was the same, the pieces did not feel repetitive, as the musical score had been worked on. The lyrics had been embellished with sensitively-placed swaras and jathis that added to the theme. The fare was sincere, but there was one shortcoming - it was bland.
Bhakti rasa dominated, as it ought to have, but the presentation would have benefited with a little spice from other rasas. The Thirunavukkarasar verses that prefaced other padigams -- ‘Munnam Avanudaiya Nammam Kaettaal’ (Harikhambodi) and ‘Puzhuvai Pirakkinum Punniyaa’ (Bhairavi); the former where he takes the garb of a female-devotee and describes how she loses herself to Siva in stages, and the latter in which the saint addresses Siva that even “If I am born a lowly worm, please bless me that your feet will not slip from my mind” -- could have been dealt with as first person accounts, giving the devotion a closer feel.
The circumstances leading to first thirumurai of Thirugnanasambandar, ‘Thodudaiya Seviyan’ (Nattai, Rupakam), when the saint as a hungry three-year old sitting by the Sirkazhi temple pond, is fed by Parvathi with gnana paal, and comes out with this hymn when confronted by his father, was a lost opportunity as it was explained but not delineated.
‘Panniru Thirumurai’ was otherwise neat and well-planned. With vibhuthi mark on the forehead, her only concession to the theme, Roja commenced with a brisk nadai-bedam Mallari (Gambira Nattai), followed by ‘Vaakundaam.’ (Hamsadhwani, Avvaiyar II). Her description of Siva in ‘Thodudaiya’ and in ‘Kolaru’ padhigams (Chenchuruti) and the poses that appeared in ‘Munnam’ and ‘Kaadhalaagi Kasindhu’ (Kharaharapriya) were detailed intelligently. Roja’s enthusiasm remained high till the very end; even her thillana (Suddha Dhanyasi, T.K. Padmanabhan) was bright, with no panting and no compromise.
Radha Badri’s singing was an asset, as were R. Kalairasan (violin) with his strong melody and J.B. Sruthi Sagar (flute) with his participative play. The music arrangements for ‘Mandhiramaavadhu Neeru’ (Chenchuruti) and the Thirumandiram ragamalika were especially impressive, the former enhanced by the mridangam artist Nellai D. Kannan’s enjoyable rhythm. Sharanya, a disciple of Roja, did a fine job with the cymbals.