Obeisance to Lord Rama, the embodiment of love and compassion and personification of all that is good -- ‘Sugunadaman’ -- brings great learning and joy to all those who participate in it. That was the background of ‘Ramabhirama’, a thematic presentation by Sumitra Nitin and Sunanda Narayanan.
With narrative descriptions by mother Sujatha Vijayaraghavan in her characteristic poetic Tamizh, this presentation not only took viewers through various facets of Rama, but also showcased the roles of some of His devotees.
Sumitra and Sunanda are students of guru Rhadha, who conducted the nattuvangam that day, and their style carries some of the movements typical of her style -- the rounded arm movements, the underplayed shoulder and neck movements and lithe jumps.
They began with Rama Pushpanjali and Alarippu set to the Ramashtakam playing in the background, where the recurring line ‘Sri Ramachandram Satatam Namami’ was used effectively.
‘Bhavayami Raghuramam’ was the natural choice for the main piece, since it not only incorporates the entire life of Rama, but also lends itself well to choreography for more than one dancer. Rhadha’s choreography was both subtle and lucid, effectively using the two dancers to alternate between the roles. In the jathi sequences too, it was interesting that each dancer picked up the adavu from the other, not always at the end of the line, but sometimes midway too. Sunanda’s depiction of Kaikeyi’s mind being poisoned by Kooni and Sumitra’s portrayal of Soorpanaka were tastefully done.
‘Nithichala Sukhama’, a solo effort by Sumitra, was an unusual selection for a padam and brought in a different perspective. In this beautiful Tyagaraja composition, the poet asks his heart to compare the transient joys of the material world with the eternal bliss of devotion to Rama. The item incorporated a tanam duet by vocalists Sujatha Vijayaraghavan and Ramya Rangarajan to depict the conflict between the poet’s rejection of ‘Narastuthi’ (poetry in praise of a mortal) and his wife’s desire for material wealth that narastuthi could bring.
Sunanda’s solo item focussed on Hanuman and his role in the Ramayana after his meeting Lord Rama. Though technology played truant in the beginning, Sunanda was completely at ease with this recording of the Hanuman Chalisa that touched upon several incidents from Hanuman’s life.
Dhananjayan’s mridangam accompaniment was attentive as was Sigamani’s violin.
With synchronised costumes and poses (as in the opening Rama-Sita pose, or the freeze with Rama hugging Hanuman in ‘Bhavayami Raghuramam’), the performance was aesthetic and visually pleasing.