Vidhya Subramanian's presentation was graceful without compromising on accuracy.
Chennai-bred American-resident Vidhya Subramanian presented a style that mirrored the grace of the Vazhuvoor tradition. It is soft and graceful without compromising on accuracy and finish. Having been trained by the best (Swamimalai S.K. Rajaratnam and guru Kalanidhi Narayanan) Vidhya's dance reflects class. Vidhya's ‘Thoodhu' was a thematic production on the messengers we encounter in poetry and mythology. It had the advantage of both - a focussed work and a margam. As a margam, it was an enjoyable programme of high standards musically and visually, but one had some reservations as regards the representation of the theme.
The researched effort threw up Krishna, Hanuman, the friend, the heroine and the ubiquitous bee as messengers. While most fulfil that role, what about the heroine? By definition a messenger is the carrier of a message, so one cannot see how a heroine can qualify.
The other issue one had is regarding the visualisation of Krishna, the all-important messenger, which could have been explored in depth.
Krishna was the opening act of ‘Thoodhu’. His peace mission to the Kaurava court, where he is insulted, forms a bedrock for discussions on an ambassador's role even today. One felt there were too many extraneous details such as the dice game and Draupadi's humiliation that digressed from the main course. The piece was penned by R. Radhakrishnan and composed by vocalist Asha Ramesh (Shanmukhapriya, Khanda chapu).
That apart, ‘Thoodhu’ flowed in a continuous stream touching the banks of different situations smoothly. The sakhi as messenger for a lovelorn maiden got the pride of place in ‘Sami Ni Rammanave’ (Khamas, Adi, Ponniah Pillai) while Hanuman got mention in the tillana (Poornachandrika, Adi, Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, lyrics on Hanuman by R. Radhakrishnan). The unexpected bee was couched in a beautiful folk piece (‘Ganaringaram' Sindhubhairavi, Adi, Nanganallur Ramanathan) that was as pleasant as it was pertinent.
The varnam-padam-tillana format presented choice jatis and crisp arudis that were interspersed with moods of love and longing in the varnam and contrasted by the pain of separation and betrayal in the padams, ‘Dheera Sameere’ (Shyam Kalyan, Adi, Jayadeva) and ‘Unnai Thoodhu Anupinen’ (Saveri, Misra Chapu, Ganam Krishna Iyer).
The music department provided mellifluous accompaniment with Asha Ramesh (vocal) and Kalaiarasan (violin). Balakrishnan (nattuvanagam) led the way with an unobtrusive percussive style and enhanced the nritta along with an attentive Shakthivel Muruganandan (mridangam). This was a serene experience from all angles.