Vyjayanthi Kashi's distinct style dominated the performance
‘Conventional' is one thing that Vyjayanthi Kashi's Kuchipudi recital at Kalakshetra was not.
She has a distinct style that is still Kuchipudi, but not in its traditional avatar- the speed is slower as compared to the otherwise racy pace of the dance style, the footwork clearer and more deliberate, the movements less rounded and more geometric and the presentation less whimsical (with less kulukku) and more matter-of-fact.
Stylistic observations apart, Vyjayanthi's maturity and dramatic flair dominated the performance space.
The opening salutation to Goddess Balatripurasundari of Kuchipudi village, ‘Vande Vande' (Abhogi, eka, Vedantam Parvateesam) suggested her experience, while the subsequent Jakkula Purandhari Shabdam on the enchanting Mohini and the churning of the ocean episode, underlined it. Especially the moment when Lord Vishnu takes the form of Mohini, the transformation from a masculine god to a feminine enchantress, was a study in histrionics.
Krishna's Viswarupa darshan to Yashodha was another sensitive portrayal in the Tarangam (‘Pahi Pahi Jaganmohana Krishna,'Amritavarshini, Narayana Tirta) with the description of the millions of creatures in the three worlds, the frenzied recounting winding down into a reverential listing of the dasavataras, ending in a peaceful Padmanabha freize.
The best of the dramatic moments was in the conclusion of the piece when Krishna appears before the saint-poet, but the dancer broke it too soon to take a bow.
There were some instances when one felt the dramatisations could have plumbed just a little deeper, to touch the sweet spot of intensity. One was the dance-theatre presentation on ‘Gandhari.'
Composed in Kannada, the pathos got diluted in the rhetoric - ‘Siva had written the preface of the destruction of Kuruvamsa… Was it a boon or bane Gandhari received?' (referring to Siva's boon of 100 sons to Gandhari). It was saved by intelligent presentation that built up the anticipation of the new bride Gandhari awaiting Dhritarashtra. When he arrives and calls out to her, ‘Gandhari, yelli….' she suddenly realises the blind truth.
Mirroring the darkness, the stage lights were switched off and all you could hear was a shocked sigh…Vyjayanthi was backed by involved and skilful musicians.
The invocatory slokas were rendered unconventionally (by chance or design) by musician Karthik Hebbar and nattuvanar-vocalist Ramya Suraj in harmony (in different pitches).
The other musicians in the team were: Dr. Nataraja Murthy (violin), Narasimha Murthy (flute), Ananthanarayan (veena) and Janardhan Rao (mridangam).