Uma Ramesh depicted bhakti, pain and humour, all in one in her ‘Thevaram Moovar’ recital.
‘Thevaram Moovar’ by Uma Ramesh at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan presented key episodes in the lives of the three Saivaite saints – Thirugnana Sambandar, Thirunavukkarasar and Sundarar.
Despite this being a serious Bhakti theme, the smart dance design included theermanams, swaras and graceful moves that shared space with a variety of emotive dialogues. Uma’s setting of pure dance was enriched by the text of abhinaya composed by Bragha Bessel and ensured that the lives of the saints came across with rationality. With inputs from resource scholar Rama Kousalya and vocalist Hariprasad the dancer was assured of a sound foundation.
In terms of pure dance the undemanding content tallied with the in-depth abhinaya to develop a genteel quality. It was an evening where the dancer carried the audience, even without displays of showmanship, but more due to her convincing natyam.
Uma‘s aharya of the white angavastram with a traditional coloured border over the mustard skirt type costume bestowed the requisite hint of piety.
The birth of Gnanasambandar and incidents thereon derived from the incandescent verses ‘Thodudaya Seviyan,’ ‘Madaiyil Vaalai’ and included dramatic moments where the dancer depicted the toddler attaining divine grace and the initiation of sound in the golden cymbals. Ragas Gambhiranatai and Khambodi in Rupaka talam and the brief jati recited by Leela Sukanya inserted in this passage made for some lively dancing.
Uma’s images of the opposing emotions of pain and elation felt by Thirunavukkarasar were refined ones. ‘Maasil Veenaiyum’ in Nadanamakriya and ‘Tunjirul Kaalai Maalai’ in Navroz were hymns whose interpretation evoked the necessary believability in the rasikas without compromising dignity.
But this also meant that while Uma’s mode of depictions functioned well for the main chronicles, the lack of a sharp depiction to mark the turning point in each saint’s life bit into the precision of the story.
It was in the depiction of saint Sundarar that the dancer truly came into her own. The touch of humour as Sundarar is infatuated with Sanglinachiar and his loss of vision came from the heart. Interestingly while depicting blindness could have turned a landmine for over dramatisation with fluttering eyes, the dancer stayed within the bounds of natyadharmi abhinaya and still reached out. The culminating moments with ‘Nillaiperumaru’ in Harikhambodi and Madhyamavati for ‘Meela Adimai’ were fragrant with soft bhakti.