Shobanaa Bhalchandra seamlessly integrated anecdotes relating to the Nayanmars into a cohesive whole in ‘Moovar Thevaram.
Using the Siva-Parvathi procession (Mallari, Gambiranattai) as a recurring motif, senior dancer-teacher Shobanaa Bhalchandra integrated anecdotes and songs relating to the Saivite Nayanmars Sambandar, Naavukkarasar (Appar) and Sundarar, into a cohesive whole in ‘Moovar Thevaram.'
With Professor Raghuraman as a guide, the presentation was backed by an intelligent thought process and a clear delivery style.
There were three segments in the show. The first was about the child prodigy, Thirugnana Sambandar. He supposedly composed his first song ‘Todudaiya Seviyan' at the age of three after being blessed by Parvathi in Sirkazhi. The goddess, worried that his palms would get sore while clapping during bhajans, gifted him a pair of golden cymbals and when he travelled singing bhajans, protected him from the heat with a ‘muthu pandal.' Shobanaa was uninhibited while describing the little boy's innocence making this the most heart-warming scene of the show.
The second belonged to a woman who falls in love with Siva while he is in a procession and recalls the sight in the Appar viruttam, ‘Kunitha Puruvamum.' This was a novel way of presenting a woman in love who is dreaming about her beloved.
The third induced some laughs with the story of Sundarar's encounter with an ‘old man' who disturbs his sleep by repeatedly placing his feet on Sundarar's head!
That the flow was smooth was partly due to the Mallari refrain that bridged the gap between segments. Senior violinist T.K. Padmanabhan (music composer) took the lead in these situations with his ready transitory notes besides guiding the melodious vocalist, Dr. Vanathi Raghuraman, towards the next raga. The musical score left the Thevaram panns (melodies) untouched and used Thevaram ragas for the additional lyric.
As the theme of the presentation was devotion, Shobanaa's strategy to remain connected spilled over to the pure dance segments as well. Every sequence made use of symbolic hand gestures depicting Siva, Parvathi, Nandi, etc. In addition, her restrained style indirectly helped keep the focus on the story.
Mridangam player Vijayaraghavan contributed with his mood-based stateliness; Neela Sukanya (nattuvangam) proved her mastery over rhythm once more. Another expert T. Sashidhar's flute interjections were always brilliant, but he was short changed by improper mike positioning.