Young performers set the Delhi stage twinkling.
The finale for the Malhar festival in the Kathak recital by Vidha Lal was an example of adhering to classical grammar while structuring the dance round a theme appropriate to the occasion. Starting with verses of Kalidasa to Vidya Vasini Devi’s composition “Jhoola padigaro Kadamba ki daar” followed by “Bijari Chamake Barasa” in Surmalhar to the finale of “Badarvan Barsanko Aaye”, here was a seamless performance thoughtfully designed by Geetanjali Lal. Interwoven with the shringar stirrings quickened by the monsoon moods, was the entire gamut of Katha intra-forms in vilambit, madhya and drut laya(s), punctuated by the thunderbolt virtuosity of chakkars and footwork. Vidha’s training under Geetanjali and her own hard work have created a very well finished dancer combining grace with layakari. Amidst sparkle and lightning quickness with immaculately rendered tihais, anchal gat, kavit, ladi and tatkar, the distracting aspect was the super-imposed interventions of thunder sounds with excessive use of lighting effects. When Vidha with her stage presence and talent has so much going for her, why stoop to the recourse of such gimmicks which become irritating digressions, diluting the classical weight of the performance? Also with the heightened exuberance of youth settling down to more internalised strength in the abhinaya with perhaps a costuming sense running less to too many shiny bits of ornamentation, Vidha’s dance would shine with greater depth. Amjad Ali sang very well but his voice was drowned and words not heard with the tabla (Aman Ali), sarangi (Aisan Ali) and sitar (Fateh Ali), all of which while tuneful could have been softer.
Bharatanatyam dancer Rini Aich and teacher Kanaka Srinivasan seem to have found the ideal guru/shishya chemistry. One of the recent best of Kanaka’s disciples, Rini, performing at the India International Centre epitomised the best of what she has imbibed from this guru. Starting with evoking a playfully charming Ganesh in Kunjala Bharati’s composition “Swami Gaja mukha vibho”, the centrepiece, structured like the varnam, based on Kabir’s love poetry, was a ragamalika offer, musically set by Sudha Raghuraman with Kanaka’s dance visualisation. “Koi piyase milawe” is the cry of the love-struck nayika, who after inducements offered to the sakhi to fetch her beloved, addresses her plaint to the swan to act as the messenger. The winsome appeal came from Rini’s fetchingly communicative mukhabhinaya. The charanam line where the nayika persuades the swan to take her to the land of the beloved, would have been even more eloquent if the varnam had a raga or two less. Each line in a different raga, for this critic had a restless feel not allowing mood to build up to a climax. The teermanams, on one occasion calling for more immaculate accuracy in the fractional tala intervals, were done with grace and verve. Neelakantha Sivan’s “Ananda nadamaduvar Tillai” in Poorvikalyani was the best item in the post-varnam stage, with the dancer looking stunning, after a costume change. The Devi stuti Omkara Karini brought out the contrasting benevolence and destructive power of the Devi. Rini deserves more performance chances. Sudha Raghuraman’s melodious vocal support, Kanaka Srinivasan’s nattuvangam, Keshavan’s mridangam and Raghuraman’s flute made up the accompaniment for the dance.
Interestingly visualised by the teacher, Chennai’s Meenakshi Chitharanajan, disciples Aparna Chitharanjan and Preethi Nedumaran combined with perfect understanding in their Bharatanatyam recital, “Raghava/Yadava”, built round the twin deities Rama and Krishna. The energetic entrance to a pravesa chollukettu drew the attention of the audience to the todaya mangalam which followed “Jaya Janaki Ramana”. Though manifestations of Krishna/Rama/Narasimha are all interwoven in this composition taken from the Bhajana Sampradaya, the passages set to different ragas and a multiplicity of tala patterns give scope for neatly executed interspersed teermanams in different jati-s. With two dancers the dance narratives have dramatic possibilities, with characters taken on by both dancers in changing roles. While the female and softer roles were taken on by Preethi, the taller of the two with a more definitive quality to her movements, Aparna, filled the male roles. The four verses from the Divya Prabandha, set to Senjurutti, Kapi, Sindhubhairavi and Punnagavarali ragas, began with rejoicing in anticipation of Rama’s crowning, spoilt by Kaikeyi, goaded by Manthara. Bharata hastening to the forest returns only with Rama’s paduka (footwear). It was interesting to see Aparna as crafty Manthara exit the stage, to return promptly as Dasaratha! The lifting of Mount Govardhan and the over-powering of Kaliya had punch — clear without exaggeration. An excellent singer in Praveen Kumar, clarity of nattuvangam by Meenakshi and Nagai Narayanan’s mridangam with Raghuraman on the flute added up to very supportive accompaniment for the dance. The abhinaya stressing on vatsalya rasa intelligently strung two compositions, “Krishna nee begane Baro” rendered by Aparna showing Yashoda with little Krishna, and correspondingly the Rama/Kausalya interaction in “Thumaka chalata” presented by Preethi. Concluding on a high note was the Kalinga Nartana tillana, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyar’s composition rendered with aplomb. Simple and well coordinated choreography provided complementing contrasts.