The sound of the ‘Naubat’ (drum) heralded the Taramati festival in Hyderabadi tradition and we were all agog with excitement, gazing at the backdrop of the Baradari that towered above the open air theatre. The deep ochre glow of the setting sun slowly dissipated making way for the darkness to spread its canopy. And we had something unique to witness: a jugalbandi of two streams of classical dance —Bharatanatyam teamed with Odissi. What more, the inimitable Alarmel Valli pitted against veteran Madhavi Mudgal! And it was a thematic presentation going by the name ‘Samanvai’.
Valli, once again proved she was a league unto herself; doesn’t matter if she danced her ‘margam’ or ‘theme’ or adjusted her dancing to a partner on stage. It is enough that Valli danced and when she did, she oozes mysticism that is magnetic and magical. Everything was perfect within the given parameters, going by the fact that individual styles and concurrent laya and tala had to effect a compromise in order to sync and individual projection had to be kept to the optimum or else the very purpose would be defeated. With so many underlying constraints, it is not possible for any artiste of a lesser calibre than Valli and Madhavi, to hold the audience in thrall. One is a vigorous dance while the other is more graceful with steady, controlled footwork. The tala (beat) and song for one doesn’t necessarily make room for the other. But here were two sets of accompanists and musicians who blended with each other perfectly.
The duo began with ‘Prithvi suktam’ paying obeisance to Mother earth. Calculated moves in slow motion with arresting postures venerating the earth even as they depicted the fauna and flora formed the first circle of execution, while the pace gathered, we had them moving at times in tandem with brisk footwork within the genre’s framework. Together they picturise the deer, the serpent, the birds in flight, the elephant with its hefty gait so beautifully bringing them all to life in Nature. This ode to earth ends with an aesthetic salutation by the duo encircled in spotlight.
The tillana and pallavi, two complicated pieces of pure dance/nritta were a treat to watch. Valli with her doe-like frisky movements and full of fleeting footwork alternating with Madhavi Mudgal’s stable execution of adavu patterns to a crisp tala and bhol made for the male and female principle in dance.
The energetic Bharatanatyam seemed to embody the tandava aspect here with its lasya counterpart in Odissi. But neither had scope to explore their full potential as they kept grounded to the theme which called for a level playing field.
Though we would have loved to see the ‘tribhanga’ a little more pronounced which was Madhavi’s forte once upon a time, we had to make do with her excellent abhinaya in the padam which followed later. Compensating this, Valli’s every move, however light or complex, was defined by perfection and finesse. She literally speaks to her mudras with her entire being vesting them with life.
Personification of aesthetics
The abhinaya piece, a padam, indendu vacchitivi ra… (wrongly attributed to Kshetrayya), was a vocabulary that spoke with gestures and expressions, which was shared between them making for a wholesome treat. Dramatic element was explored in the Ksheerasagara madanam exploring the scope of dual dancers on stage. The pre-recorded concluding ‘Samanvaya’ piece was a personification of aesthetics with marvellous music. The duo were like chiselled statues in motion as they gave expression to the lovely swaram which begins with the ‘nishadam (ni)’ musical note with their precise footwork and postures. It provided space for each of them to showcase their individual prowess keeping the title in mind which very often tends to get jarred especially when two equally prestigious artistes share the platform. Here, neither allowed nor got tempted to dominate each other, lest they lose grip over the essence of the presentation which is a testimonial to their remarkable command over their medium. Gandhi Mullick on the pakhawaz and Lalgudi Ganesh on the mridangam were balanced; Arushi Mudgal and Jayashri Ramanathan on the bhol and nattuvangam respectively were stupendous; Poornachandra and Manikuntala Bhowmick on the Odissi vocal and K.P. Nandini on Bharatanatyam vocal were melodic while Shrinivas Satpathy on the bamboo and Ranjani on the violin lent their individual touch to the wondrous presentation at Taramati Baradari put together by AP Tourism Development Corporation and Banyan Tree.