Namitha Rao and Deeksha Shastry gave a wonderful presentation of karanas, a specialised area in Bharatanatyam
It was an educative session which led the audience steadily into the highly specialised field in Bharatanatyam, viz. ‘desi karanas’. The theoretical explanations by Guru Harini Santanam notwithstanding, the exposition and execution of ‘karanas’ as such was demarcated step-by-step so as to facilitate easy understanding, in a programme recently organised by Kala Premi Foundation.
With just about two senior disciples, Namitha Rao and Deeksha Shastry of Bharata Nrityasala and a vibrant live instrumental accompaniment, Harini Santanam ably explained the three elements that go into the making of a ‘karana’, a very effective aspect of dance. By bringing in the ‘desi’ stream, which was culled by her mother late Sundari Santanam from the ancient temple sculptures of Karnataka right from 7th century, she was able to underline the distinct characteristics of regional variations. All this could have just passed over our heads but for Namitha and Deeksha’s depiction of each and every move with charming clarity, precision and grace. Karnas are not just postures; they have a sthana (position of the feet-static), followed by chari (movement with the sthana) and finally nritta hastha (gesture through hand) which culminates into a total expressionistic movement called ‘karna’. Each of the three aspects is given a name and fall into one of the 108 karnas. We had a few such karnas like the ‘sthalika karna, followed by Hindolika, Uthplavalika and the Dolalila (swinging)’ showcased by the dancers in solo. Namitha gave an excellent demonstration marked with grace and grip with wonderful balance, especially as she went through the Utplavalika where she was able to hold the heels of her feet together and jump without loosening her posture of her feet! Her snake-like wriggle for the 66th karana drew spontaneous applause. Together the duo performed impressive matsya and Radha raajanam karna delineation in full to swara (stringing the karnas into a nritta item). What was more arresting with Namitha executing the margi karanas juxtaposed by Deeksha’s ‘desi’ to the same song, providing a striking discernibility of both the streams. The ‘desi’ emerged as a lucid style, elastic with native appeal, while the ‘margi’ or classical was demanding, intense and charismatic. The finale was a choreography by Harini set to ragamalika and talamalika of a song penned by Dr. Ganesh Shatavadhani to which the duo gave an impressive interpretation.
Earlier, Dr. Ganesh Shatavadhani gave a lucid definition of ‘desi’ (regional) versus ‘margi’ (classical) in dance parlance, while Dr. Karuna Vijayendra traced the history of Karnataka sculptures through video presentation, with the research project on ‘Neo Desi Karnas’ authored by Sundari Santanam during her lifetime now accessible in book/DVD form.