It has been a step-by-step saga.
“You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.” - Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Jonathan lived in Jayanthi for several years, until she found a way to release him - through the only way she knew - her natyam, which translates into the production, ‘Jyotir Gamaya,’ to celebrate her 25-year journey of her dance school, Kala Darsana.
Jayanthi Subramanian began training in Natyam, first under Dr. Padma Subrahmanian, but being too young, she moved on to train under a personal instructor, Kameshwaran. Eight-year old Jayanthi had her arangretram and soon, was at the receiving end of V.A. K. Ranga Rao’s critical pen!
The criticism was taken well, and soon Jayanthi came under the tutelage of Kaushik briefly and then trained under Guru Adyar Lakshman, where she began with the process of unlearning and then relearning. Her training was intense and the Guru was liberal and generous to allow his students to sit through any class they wished to watch, and assimilate as much as they could. It was not “items” that he taught (that is so prevalent today - a quick fix formula), but dissecting thread-bare to understand every nuance of the composition.
To understand the art of abhinaya better, she went to Kalanidhi Narayan, who again was open-minded and encouraged a thinking, creative and imaginative mind. This resulted in bringing out the individuality of the artistes, each expressing abhinaya in their own way instead of just becoming clones! Armed with the individual strengths that these two Gurus gave her, Jayanthi went on to a third Guru, Seetarama Sarma, this time to learn Nattuvangam. His training, she says, was not just reciting jatis, but developing a thorough understanding of the kanakkus, kala pramanam, the varied permutation combination of jati korvais. All these varied training methodology helped her in her growth as a Guru herself.
Twenty five years as a teacher has won her several laurels including the Acharya Choodamani award and the Kalaimamani award.
Invited as an alumnus of Stella Maris to present a dance production for their annual day celebrations, Jayanthi introduced an excerpt from Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which she adapted in dance format. Tasting its immediate success in the form of cheery applause and warm praise, Jayanthi decided to commemorate her silver jubilee with the production.
“This production is a tribute to all my Gurus to showcase all that I have imbibed from them,” says Jayanthi. She says she was very fortunate in bringing over Rajkumar Bharati to work on the music for the production. Both Jayanthi and Bharati worked on the musical and dance aspects taking one step at a time and keeping the aspect of perfect balance in mind – not to have unnecessary jatis just for the sake of it. So they worked at keeping the interwoven tapestry as seamless as possible.
Jayanthi has used the idiom of music and dance to show the flight of Jonathan. The story line is about young Jonathan, a seagull, learning to take his first flight. The first is always the scariest and so hesitant steps - bare notes on the musical score are employed here. Variation in jati and speed shows flight. The concept of Gati bhedam has been used to show flight and speed. “Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom, fear and anger were reasons for a gull’s short life; with these gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.” – Richard Bach.
Navarasas play a crucial role here - the negative emotions expressed by the student replaced by the positive rasas taught by the teacher. Various tanams have been used to suggest speed – mandi tanam to show leaps, gaja tanam to show power and so on. The Bhoomicharis (gait on floor) and akash charis (gait in space), which she learnt from Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam as part of an Abhai workshop have also been incorporated!
The final take off is the tillana in three speeds, showing the gradual increase in the speed as Jonathan learns. Not only has Bharati scored music, understanding the essence of the subject matter, but he has been so inspired by it, that he has sung for the recording after a 13-year break. Jayanthi hopes that the theme will be of relevance to the younger audience, inspiring them to probably move closer to the classical arts.
Quoting Bach, Jayanthi says, “Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body too.”
Keywords: Jayanthi Subramanian