‘Bharatotsavam Festival of Music and Dance' at Thrissur featured some perfectly executed classical performances.

The annual ‘Bharatotsavam Festival of Music and Dance' got off to an auspicious start at the K.T. Muhammed Memorial Theatre in Thrissur, with a Mohiniyattam recital by Vineetha Nedungadi. After her invocatory Ekadantam in raga Natai, she presented ‘Mukhachaalam,' a pure dance item, which focusses on postures and footwork. The main presentation of the evening was ‘Varshamohini,' a collage of Navarasas through the idiom of rain. Here Vineetha's portrayal of rasas Adbhutam and Bhayanakam were particularly convincing.

The artiste was accompanied by father and son duo, veena artistes, Anantapadmanabhan and Anand Kaushik. Krishnakumar on the edakka, P.R. Suresh on the flute and Kallekulangara Unnikrishnan on the mridangam added to the overall effect of the dance.

Like her father, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, M. Narmada is a proficient practitioner of both Carnatic and Hindustani styles of music. Her violin recital began with a Durbar varnam in Adi tala. ‘Mahaganapathim Manasasmarami' in raga Natai opened with a brief but comprehensive prelude. ‘Vande Sada Padmanabham' – a Swati composition in raga Navarasa Kannada, displayed the playful mood of the violin. ‘Raghuvamsa Sudha,' always a favourite with audiences, flowed in its characteristic fast tempo. The composition is particularly suited for the violin and Narmada's expertise made the experience quite enjoyable.

Detailed alapanam

Raga Poorvikalyani was presented with all its nuances in a detailed alapanam. The gliding notes were extremely attractive, as were the clusters of swaras, which formed a pyramid of aarohanam-avarohanam. The kriti chosen was Tyagaraja's ‘Gnana Mo Sakarada' (When will you enlighten me?) The niraval and manodharma swaras were played at ‘Paramatmadu Jeevatmadu.'

The violinist set up rhythm patterns with percussionists Trivandrum V. Surendran on the mridangam and Vellattanjur Sreejtih on the ghatam. In a style that is reminiscent of her father, she exploited the full range of her instrument and traversed the range of octaves in her delineation of the raga. Narmada's superior bowing technique and her unrivalled mastery of her medium were highlighted in this recital.

She performed ‘Vararaga laya,' in Chenchukamboji set to Chaturasra Eka tala by Tyagaraja, an ‘Ekaika' kriti (an only kriti in a particular raga). ‘Bhavanuta,' a Tyagaraja composition in Mohanam, was the main presentation of the concert. The swarasancharas had variety and the movement from the low to the high register, was quick and easy. Taniavartanam was brief but of fine quality. During the concert, Narmada also demonstrated her prowess in vocal music.

Up-and-coming dancer Sreelakshmi Govardhanan gave a delightful Kuchipudi performance on the third evening of the fete. ‘Ramayanana Shabdam' is a traditional item in Kuchipudi repertoire and the artiste presented it as a quick retelling of the main features of the story in raga Mohanam, set to Adi tala. Exquisite footwork and abhinaya were used to advantage. ‘Sandhya Tandavam' narrates the scene in Kailasam, the abode of Shiva on the evening of Pradosham (the 13th evening of the fortnight). Shiva is dancing in sheer bliss, while Brahma accompanies on the tala and Lord Vishnu on the mridangam. The piece, written and choreographed by the late C.R. Acharyalu, presents a bright and energetic Shiva.

Sreelakshmi seemed to be an embodiment of that selfsame energy.

Next Sreelakshmi portrayed two ‘dharavus' from the famous composition ‘Bhamakalapam.' ‘Pravesha dharavu' depicts Satyabhama, a consort of Lord Krishna, boasting about her beauty and her special place in Krishna's heart. Unable to find him, she asks her friend, Madhavi, for his whereabouts. Madhavi then asks Satyabhama to name her Lord out loud, but she refuses to do so and instead describes him in a roundabout manner with terms such as ‘One who wears a peacock feather' and ‘Son of Vasudeva.' This dialogue in the second ‘dharavu' was presented as Vachika abhinaya, where the artiste speaks to the audience. The ‘tarangam' depicted Navarasas in connection with Lord Krishna.

In the ‘sanchari' (the abhinaya segment), the demon Pootana is depicted as being mesmerised by the beauty of Vrindavan, so much so that she even proceeds to join in a few ongoing activities in the garden. The last segment of the ‘Tarangam' showcased elaborate footwork on a brass platter.

Vasundhara Doraiswamy is one of the most revered names in Bharatanatyam today. Her vast experience, depth of knowledge and her scholarly interest in the art form contribute to her stature and reputation. On the final day of the fete, with her recital she paid homage to Vadivelu of the Thanjavur Brothers on the bicentenary of his birth. She presented a traditional margam, commencing with alarippu and culminating in tillana. Alarippu in ragamalika and talamalika and Jatiswaram in raga Vasantha exemplified Vasundhara's unique style. Displaying remarkable agility and tremendous energy, Vasundhara went through the elaborate varnam with ease.

Variety and grace

Her perfectly executed jatis had variety and grace. ‘Shabdam' in ragamalika was based on vignettes from the Ramayana. Beginning with ‘Sita Swayamvaram,' Vasundhara retold the ageless story with freshness and originality. Particularly impressive was her enactment of Sita's angry exchange with Lakshmana when he refuses to leave her unguarded to go to Rama's aid. She also presented a padam based on the Swati Tirunal composition ‘Chaliye Kunjan Mor' and a lilting tillana composed by Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna.

During her recital every movement was precisely calculated and flawlessly carried out.

The four-day festival also featured performances by young talents. The annual Kalyan-Bharatam Award ‘Vadyabharati,' was presented to M. Narmada. The fete was organised by Bhartham, Thrissur.