Kathak trio Apoorwa Wade Bakhsh, Leena Malakar Vij, and Molina Singh highlighted the navarasas in their choreography.

The repertoire of the North Indian classical dance of Kathak lays more importance on pure dance than the interpretative dance (abhinaya). Basically, it is a translation of tabla bols into foot movements. Abhinaya finds expression mainly in the feat of ‘bhaava bataana' only. But when the Kathak trio Apoorwa Wade Bakhsh, Leena Malakar Vij, and Molina Singh performed at the Sreemoolasthaanam of Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple recently, the recital appeared a worthy departure from the conventional repertoire.

‘Stree- Rupa/Anurupa' was a bewitching choreography that strove to highlight navarasas, the essence of abhinaya. Further, it appeared unique as the basic emotions were delineated through select female characters from Indian mythology and history. Interestingly, the three danseuses chose to present each rasa in turn and finally joined together to enact ‘saantha,' the basic one.

Enchanting sequence

Enchanting dance sequences could be seen in the portrayal of ‘hasya' by Molina Singh. This was based on the story of Bhasmasura. The Asura was hasya incarnate when he obtained the boon from Siva which helped him to reduce to ash any being he could point his finger at. The height of this rasa occurs when he tries to use his boon on Siva himself. And here the transformation of Siva to Mohini who invites the Asura for a dance completion was well depicted. Mohini challenges the Asura to repeat the feats she demonstrated. He executes them admiringly. But finally Bhasmasura imitates Mohini in pointing his finger at his own head and that destroys him.

As for roudra, the character selected was Soorpanakha. Apoorwa was all fury as she enacted the demoness tossed between the brothers Rama and Lakshmana. To teach her a lesson, Lakshmana drags her by her hair and cuts off her nose. She turns into the very embodiment of roudra, as she rushes to her brother Ravana asking him to abduct Sita.

Beginning with an enchanting Nritta, Leena switched to Menaka, the character chosen for Sringara. Her description of Viswamitra's penance was noteworthy, though short. Perhaps more theatrical was the delineation of all the remaining rasas as appropriate changes in the costumes were effected for better aaharya and abhinaya. Also, ‘aangika' and ‘satwika' abhinaya were more discernible in this sequence.

The story of the birth of Kauravas was the anchor for bibatsa (revulsion). The blind-folded Gandhari, infuriated over her prolonged pregnancy of two years gave birth to a big, hard lump of flesh. Disgusted, she tried to throw it away but is prevented by the rishi. It was cut into 100 equal parts and kept in earthen pots leading to the birth of the Kauravas. Molina Singh presented this piece admiringly.

For ‘adbutha,' Apoorva chose the anecdotes from Krishna's childhood: killing of serpent Kaliya, lifting of Govardhana mountain and showing the 14 worlds in his mouth. Yashoda's wonder at all these was well enacted by her.

The story of a newly married Rajput chieftain who refused to go to the battlefield without a memento that reminded of his beautiful wife, evoked the veera rasa. It threw light on the valour of Rajput women. His wife, Rani Hadi, chops off her head and presents it to him as a memento. The story says that the man tied the severed head on his neck, went to the battle field and faced death.

For karunya, Apoorva related the story of Yashodara's travails after being abandoned by her husband, Gautham. Her technique of bringing a sakhi to listen to her had much in common with that usually employed in Mohiniyattam. Absence of rhythm enhanced the mood of the rasa. Molina's depiction of Kali in all its ferocity spoke for her singular abhinaya and also the tisra gati of the rhythm she chose. Her postures of ‘veerabhadra aasana' and ‘uddithapadangushtaasana' helped her to heighten the mood. Music, aaharya and subtle movements of the three danseuses jointly evoked the santha rasa most effectively.

The recital commenced with the traditional vandana, in praise of Siva.