Janaki Rangarajan chiselled every movement and expression to be just so.
In her pursuit of perfection, Bharatanrithyam dancer Dr. Janaki Rangarajan, former disciple of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, and founder, Nritya Niketan, Washington, chiselled every movement and expression to be just so. Her araimandi stance was admirable as was the marked contrast between the sama, standing position, and the half-seated one, something that many dancers overlook. Her timing and execution were well-rehearsed; her agility admirable and the dramatic portrayals, done with conviction. But behind the quest was a holdback that made Janaki play safe. The non-adventurous starkness took away the warmth of a performance; letting go will fetch her heart-warming results.
Janaki commenced her performance for Kartik Fine Arts, with a chatusra Alarippu that was accompanied in the short time span by the pancha ghana ragas on the flute (T. Sashidhar). This was followed by verses on Chokkanathar (Nattai) and the Chokanathar Kavuthuvam (pancha ghana ragas, misra chapu tala). The dancer has a penchant for minimalism, and the already minimalistic Alarippu was pared down further with single-arm movements. The Kavuthuvam, however, had more meat with mention of Chokkesa’s miracles included in the lyrics.
The musically rich opening was followed by the beautiful chowka-kaala Karnataka Kapi varnam, ‘Suma Saayaka’ (Rupaka, Swati Tirunal), sung sensitively by vocalist K. Hariprasad. Sashidhar carried the melody solo all evening while the strongly focussed mridangam artist Vedakrishnaram’s soft, mesmerising touch added depth to the unhurried, haunting melody. Jayashree Ramanathan (nattuvangam) scored with strong yet unobtrusive cymbals; the musicians together created a high.
The protagonist of the varnam being a dhootika, the nayika’s friend, conveys the nayika’s state of longing to Madhava. The accent was mainly on the suffering nayika, though in the end, the sakhi comes centre stage to comfort the weeping heroine. While it was not ambiguous, a few more glimpses of the sakhi might have smoothened the narrative.
The dancer experimented with space and character switches with success; for example as Cupid, she struck a one-legged pose and turned around to become the suffering nayika. The heroine’s recollection of an earlier amorous rendezvous also carried conviction.
With sharply etched lines and precise finishes, the adavus and karanas carried a similar quest for precision. The muzhu-mandis and the jumps were impressive. There was neatness in every step, but there was a certain lack of drama in the presentation that one looks for.
‘Unnai Thoodu Anupinen’ (Saveri, Adi, Ghanam Krishna Iyer) and a Hamsanandi thillana (Adi, music composition by Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, lyrics by Subramanya Bharati) completed the repertoire.