Gopika Varma gave a sublime Mohiniattam performance as part of SICA's dance fest.

The two-day dance festival of South Indian Cultural Association took off to a rather lukewarm start and attendance perhaps due to changed schedules. Gopika Varma's Mohiniattam was enthralling for her expressiveness. Internalising the bhava of each and every item she chose to present, the dancer was able to touch the hearts of her viewers by sheer emotive strength. She was like a gentle breeze, cool and beautiful to behold. Her steady footwork in the opening as well as the Tillana (a Swati Tirunal composition in Bhupala ragam) established her credentials on the nritta front while the soul of the dance lay in her sensitive abhinaya, be it in the Mishra Pahadi Aaj aaye shyam mohan…or the Annamacharya keertana or the Sindhu Bhairavi bhajan.

For the most part, being a member of the royal family of Travancore, Gopika opted for Swati Tirunal's compositions. They were melodic, rich in content and lyrics. Her myriad ways of depicting Sriman narayana….. (Lord Vishnu) with an elaboration of the Vamana avatar was commendable. She was her expressive best to the lines “parama yogi jana...”

The piece on ‘Shyam Mohan' was at its artistic best with her ‘Pandhal' play of gopikas in the Brindavan. Her gentle swaying and footwork to show a peacock in full form to the notes emanating from the flute orchestra was lovely to watch. The beat of the mridangam along with the ‘kanakku' embellished the romantic song and dance.

The Nilambari softly wound into a song as Gopika lulls little Krishna to sleep in a cradle as Yashoda, with a bed-time story-that of Lord Rama. The Ramayana in a nutshell flowed eloquent as the dancer mimed scene after scene in a picturesque manner with exquisite control on her abhinayam. It was neither melodramatic nor too dry. It had all the moods embedded in the story of Rama. The Soorpanaka episode, the abduction of Sita, her struggle, etc. came to the fore interspersed with Yashoda casting a quick glance at the cradle to see if her little boy had finally dozed off to sleep! Gopika flitted across these several roles with ease. The larger than life depiction of Ravana and others to convince a child of the dimensions of these characters was beautifully brought out by the artist.

The piece on Lord Vishwanath of Kasi also penned by Swati Tirunal and set to Sindhu Bhairavi was a philosophical one where a poignant Gopika did full justice to the play of metaphysical contradictions like life and death in the backdrop of Kasi.

The Mohiniattam was a balanced flow of dance with an innate involvement. Rajesh on vocals was powerful. The festival was hosted at Ravindra Bharati.

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