Mythili Prakash’s commitment and dedication combined well with neat presentation skills.
As the curtain went up at The Music Academy, the lone spotlight cast its glow on a sculpturesque figure standing with hands raised in Anjali Mudra. The dancer then slowly turned around to face the audience and, like an artist unleashing his colours on a blank canvas, brought to life the resplendent form of Surya, the Sun god, to the rendering of slokas from Aditya Hridayam.
Mythili Prakash used a combination of linear and circular movements, choreographed effectively to denote the Sun. The imagery which was unveiled by way of sancharis like the lotus blooming to the caress of the suns rays, the emergence of life energy emanating from the earth, depiction of life in water, and the exhilaration experienced when the first drop of rain falls on earth, was riveting. The galloping horses of Surya’s chariot were also depicted without vigorous fast paced movements. Mythili finally ends the shloka with outstretched arms in salutation, under a ray of light filtering through from a single beam of light which made a strong impact and Venkatesh Krishnan’s lighting design for this dance number was highly commendable .
Mythili chose to portray Andal in the ragamalika varnam ‘Aatkolla Vendum Ayyanae’ where the intense love of the nayika for Krishna and the angst she experiences when she is separated was the theme. There were moments of great beauty in her abhinaya like her depiction of Andal’s father discovering a strand of hair in the garland meant for the Lord or when she uses a slow circular motion of the hand, which slowly intensifies in speed and moves around to circum-ambulate the body to depict the fire of passion which engulfs the nayika.
The jathi korvais were too long in this varnam which lasted almost an hour. The sahitya lacked in poetic imagination so essential for creative exploration to flow and the swaraprastharas in the charanam also fell short. It is inevitable, but it is necessary to draw parallels to the swarajathis and varnams of the past, so rich in poetry and structure that it has stood the test of time.
Aditya Prakash’s melodious voice complemented the moods being portrayed, but his diction in certain phrases reminded me of the American vocalist John Higgins. Rajna Swaminathan, a talented young mridangam artist, whose brilliant and unobtrusive rhythm combined with Eashwar Ramakrishnan’s playing on the violin and Sruti Sagar on the flute, embellished the recital from the wings.
The abhinaya skills of Mythili was in focus again in Ghanam Krishnaiyar’s padam in Saveri where one could see her total identification with the nayika, who chides her sakhi for betraying her. As a tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar, Mythili presented a Tarana (equivalent to thillana) in Natabhairavi. Aditya Prakash was in his elements here and his enthusiasm was matched by his sister’s footwork. The use of chakkars, seen in Kathak, was an intelligent inclusion here.
A prayer ‘Hey Naath’ emphasising total surrender to the Almighty completed the performance.
Mythili’s dance is moving away from the frenzied and fast-paced movements seen earlier to a more reposeful and intense state, allowing her to relish every little nuance of the song. Her commitment, dedication and unstinted effort, combined with the requisite amount of showmanship, packaging and presentation skills evident in this show, made a lasting impression on the viewer. With Malavika Sarukkai as her mentor, she is on the right track.