Srinidhi Chidambaram's performance was a powerful reflection of the city.
Beautiful rangoli on the streets, an anxious working mother and awards from both the art as well medical circles… Srinidhi Chidambaram's ‘Chennai-A Traditional Margam' highlighted the past and the present of Chennai and harvested inputs by Aruna Sairam, Ganesh, Kumaresh and the wizardry of Vairamuthu's pen.
The margam -- the traditional format for a Bharatanatyam recital -- was intertwined with fine elucidations by P. C. Ramakrishna. Verses celebrating the city of Chennai led to the bhakti piece drenched with the everlasting aura of Siva.
The next song vibrated with the wrench every working woman feels when she leaves her child behind at home. A vignette from Veena Dhanammal's life was the springboard for a javali. A lament on the river preceded a tillanna-like lyric which meshed with Subramania Bharati's poetry to round off the recital.
‘Aayirum Ooru Undu' proved to be the dancer's personal statement of attachment and pride to her city. Her declaration that this city was matchless was underscored by sedate adavus and cogent abhinaya. Srinidhi was a picture of grace and confidence in her signature red and gold costume. The thath thei tham adavu was a sample of intelligent choreography that enabled the dancer to cut across the Academy stage swiftly.
A medley of ragas found its place for the centre piece ‘Mylai.' This piece was crafted by senior vocalist Aruna Sairam and took the place of the varnam. A thevaram was succeeded by the typical first half of the varnam in Sankarabharanam. Some of the best of Papanasam Sivan's songs such as ‘Kapali' in Mohanam and ‘Kaana Kodi' in Khambodi had been customised as the second half of the varnam to suit the theme. The strategy worked.
‘Karunai Seyeida' was in essence a ragamalika/ composite that enabled the dancer to eulogise and entreat Lord Siva to shower compassion on her. The timeless aspects of Mylapore, the magnificence of Lord Kapaleeswara, the flower bedecked maidens -- each was a powerful reflection of Chennai.
Justice to pure dance
Srinidhi did justice to the pure dance aspect of the varnam also. The sollukattu recited by Swamimalai Suresh were evocative of the Vazhuvoor style. The differing stress for the footwork for select adavus added to the interest.
Just when one was beginning to wonder if this was going to be a nostalgia trip, Srinidhi presented ‘Solaikku Pirandavale', another Vairamuthu poem. The women in the audience vibed totally with the mother with one eye on the clock, and another on her child in the cradle. This was a piece with a touch of irony as the mother implored her child to sleep to the tune of ‘Cassettil taalaatu'!
Srinidhi's graceful hand gesture (the katakamukha hasta) for the handbag preserved the classical flavour even in a modern theme. The only quibble was the zari content of the costume. As against the sophisticated tones of the earlier pyjama dress, the grandeur of this green and gold sari costume seemed overpowering.
A nayika's confidence in her beloved formed the crux of the famous Paras javali ‘Smara Sundaranguni.' The sringara bhava shifted with the next poem. Srinidhi's take on the state of the Cooum River was laudable but the flashback could have been pruned.
Excellent support came from vocalist Radha Badri, Swamimalai Suresh's nattuvangam who also chipped in the singing, violinist Kalaiarasan, vainika Ananthakrishna, flautist Sasidhar and mridangam player Dhananjay; their combined effort enhanced Srinidhi's presentation of ‘Chennai'.