Lakshmi Ramaswamy’s ‘Aalaavathu Eppadiyo’ was a smooth blend of dance, song and theatre.
‘Aalaavathu Eppadiyo’ was a vibrant depiction of the challenges in the lives of three Saivaite saints -- Siruthondar, Tiruneelakantar and Kannappar. Choreographed by Lakshmi Ramaswamy, who is known for her prowess in academics and Bharatanatyam, the coalescing of classical dance, theatre and music and sound literary backing made a remarkable impact.
Prof. Raghuraman, who had composed the lyrics for the production, explained in the introductory speech how the saint Pattinathar had anguished over the tortuous way to reach God. He then elucidated that bhakti could be perceived not only in prayer but also by facing the trials the Lord placed in the chosen path of his devotees.
A thematic presentation stands or falls by the quality of its different components and this one consisted of many worthy inputs. Music by Rajkumar Bharathi was a key entity for the production with its strong aural reach. Singing by Srikanth, Krithika and Veeraraghavan alongside the voices of the music composer, Lakshmi and Ramaswamy, blended with the dancing. The costumes in jewel tones for the Sree Mudhraalaya group, Siva’s hairdo and ornaments were elegant and visually appealing. But the same could not be said of the high zari quotient in the costume fan for Siva which could have been toned down to go with the theme.
Rhythm played a large role in enhancing the emotional drama of the stories. The sollu set by the music composer as well as the intriguing ‘da-ma-ru’ and ‘na-ma-si-va-ya’ set by Lakshmi that preceded two episodes resonated with the accompanying mood.
Siruthondar’s supreme sacrifice was the first tale to be performed by the group. To the background music in raga Khambodi, Archana Mahesh as the chieftain and Devi as his wife together with Lakshmi as Siva led with their refined abhinaya. Flowing swaras and involved miming carried the role play well.
The old story was convincingly portrayed, yet one could not help wondering how Siruthondar would be treated in the modern age by rationalists – as a hero or child killer?
Tiruneelakantar’s tale was enacted with same élan by the dancers. Two sets of dancers, Shivapriya-Harita and Rajalakshmi-Padmasree represented the young and the aged couple with quick coordination.
Kannappar (or Thinnappar) had all the requisite ingredients of vigour, dramatic flourishes and soulful strains of ragas such as Mukhari. Purnima as the tribal devotee who empathised with his Lord to the extent of gouging his eyes out, touched a chord. But then the raised platform on which the Sivalinga was placed did not leave enough room for dancing and led to some incongruous moments with Kannappar dancing in ecstasy along side a wobbly Sivalinga.
The concluding piece fashioned like a thillana was performed with dynamism by the whole group of 19 dancers.
The message of exploring how bhakti could be intuited in one’s path was dealt with in the dance medium more as a swift summation here. One felt that further interpretation of the core idea through dance would have highlighted not only the choreographer’s intent but the title’s relevance.
Despite this, as an amalgam of spirited music and dancing in the first show, the production had plenty of substance that uplifted the rasikas with its lofty ideals.