It was the great doyen of Telugu literature, Gurajada Apparao’s day. For, we had a drama, a dance ballet and another piece of his powerful writings which had influenced society of his times. Kuchipudi dance guru Sobha Naidu’s pupils presented ‘Puttadi Bomma Purnamma’, the story of a tender teenaged girl being married off by poverty-stricken parents to a tottering 70-year-old for a handsome dowry. Those were the days when girls were sold in marriage to older men in exchange for money. The ballet ends on a note of pathos with the suicide of this young girl.
Woven in the Kuchipudi format, with a live orchestra, ‘Puttadi bomma…’ opens to two narrators (girl dancers) giving us an outline of the story and introducing us to the heroine. Mrinali donning the role of Poornamma was full of verve and vigour, very apt to the role. A few ‘pravesha daruvu’ could have enhanced the dance, than mere sancharis. In all honesty, Mrinali has the potential for convincing ‘satvikabhinaya’ if her expressions were anything to go by. Childhood pranks like weaving flower garlands with siblings, prancing around with younger sisters, with the mother peeping in and out keeping a watchful eye, the rhythmic ‘chamma chakka’ with friends of her age, the mock marriage enacted by the girls, the actual marriage ceremony, the preparations towards this through a series of jatis; all such incidents were intricately worked out in detail and made for an impressive choreography.
There was an artistic link to the story from growth to death — not a span of many years, considering it all occurred in a very short time. The audience is taken along with the frisky, happy young girl whose life is carefree and pristine till one fine day, the father decides to marry her off, for a paltry sum, to an old man. The innocent girl’s life takes a miserable turn with the mother having no say in the matter. This was enacted with great poise by the young dancers. The narrators sweep in to pronounce the fate of the girl while we are shown the farewell scene of the newly-wed. Poornamma, unable to reconcile to her old husband, slips out and kills herself. Prior to this, again there is detailing of the heroine dismally pulling off her ornaments and offering prayers at a temple before she decides to take her life. This was a good piece of artistry which served to move the audience to experience the plight of a young, desperate soul. The finale was well-conceived with a frozen tableau of the kith and kin gazing in utter shock at the body of their dear one.
Sobha Naidu on the nattuvangam and choreography was her usual best. Kanna Rao and Swetha Prasad on the vocal, Ramachandra Sarma on the mridangam, Sai Kumar on the violin made their presence felt.
The ballet was staged at Ravindra Bharathi on the occasion of ‘150 years of Gurajada’ festival.