Music and rhythm were finely balanced.
Fine arts like music, dance, painting, etc., have played an important role in nurturing and fostering traditions, history, legends and stories of our rich and vibrant culture. One such endeavour by Manjula Amaresh threw light on the brilliant medieval Kannada poet Akka Mahadevi, whose poetry is considered a great contribution to Kannada literature. Manjula’s adaptation of this saint poet’s story to the Bharatanatyam format, which was presented at Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai, recently was a commendable effort.
The dance began on a joyous note - kolams were drawn, lamps lit and festoons put up - to herald the arrival of a girl child, who is named Mahadevi. This child who grows up to be a young girl, and notices while playing one day, a big tree called ‘’Arjuna’’ on which a jasmine (mallika) creeper is entwined, and she spontaneously calls it “Chenna Mallikarjuna” - the beautiful Lord Siva, who is as white as jasmine.
Manjula had incorporated jati korvais to describe the magnificence of Siva, which was appropriate for the sequence. But a similar adaptation of jatis during a prayer sequence was out of place.
The story unfolded over four scenes. Manjula had choreographed it well, retaining a narrative structure with a fine balance of music and rhythm, which sustained the pace of her dance. She brought to life rocky terrain, waterfalls, dense forests with birds, bees and animals through her gestural language and conveyed through her abhinaya the pain, anguish and the pining for the lord. The musical score by Vidwan Balasubramania Sarma was in tune with the subject.
The use of swara patterns in varied kala pramana in raga Hindolam, instead of the tillana as a finale when Mahadevi united with the Lord, was good thinking. One wondered if more abhinaya-oriented sections would not have added depth to the production.
A special mention must be made of the costume in orange-red, using cotton seemed most appropriate and in keeping with the theme. Jayanthi Sundar took care of the narrative. The musical ensemble consisted of Ramesh Chadaga (vocal), Prassana Kumar (nattuvangam), Chandrasekar (mridangam), Radhika Venkatramana (violin) and Nitesh Kumar (flute).