The air was pregnant with expectation at Bharatanatyam dancer Anuradha Venkataraman's thematic production on motherhood titled ‘Jananyey Namaha.' The handouts detailed the meticulous research and compilation of verses from the Vedas, Puranas, Sangam poetry and contemporary works such as those of Rabindranath Tagore and Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar.'
The production opened with ‘Procreation' that provided an abstract vision of man, woman, marriage, birth and a happy family, in that order. There was an element of creativity, however detached, in the music and movement arrangement. But what followed was an unbroken series of dramatic characterisations - of Gandhari's traumatic two-year pregnancy, Kunti's guilt when she tries to justify to her first-born Karna why she had to let him go, the old woman's feelings when she sees her son lying dead on the battlefield as a martyr (Purananooru 278) and Mandodari's grief on seeing her brave ‘lion' Indrajit dead on the battlefield in Lanka. Motherhood served as a common theme.
Involved role play
While each of the dramatisations had merit in the unhurried and involved role-play, the overall impact was too heavy. There was no charm in the visualisation, no time spent building up the context or the mood. For example, in the Mandodari piece, the character walks on to the stage sits down (by Indrajit's body, we learn later) and emotes to the song. The music (Vidya Srinivasan) was good but it was largely straight forward as well.
The Tagore translation that drew on the happy moments of motherhood was perhaps the most interesting musically. With strains of Sahana, Yamuna Kalyani, Kurinji and others playing in the background, the play between child and mother became a lot warmer. The Papanasam Sivan kriti ‘Kanne En Kanmaniye' (Chenchuruti) in the same adoring mood, followed seamlessly.
The dancer, a disciple of veteran dancer-teacher Saroja Vaidyanathan, Delhi, has in fact a compelling stage presence and an involved emoting style. Her essay of Gandhari's pregnancy came through with its pathos, frustration and gore despite the dancer remaining blindfolded throughout the piece. The old woman on the battlefield was proud at first to see the bloodied body of her son; the sorrow sets in only later... This showed Anuradha's sensitivity.
The script was lucid and the translations were poetic; to quote the last lines of the Puranaooru verses, ‘… Her bosom swelled and filled with pride, She rejoiced more than his birth, the day he died.'
The ideating might have been exacting, but its visual presentation was not exciting.
Keywords: Anuradha Venkataraman