Rare javalis and varnams formed the repertoire of the six senior and up and coming dancers.
The young dancers performing for Natyarangam’s Vaggeyabharatham at Narada Gana Sabha, supported by the right research/guru scaffolding, proved their worth.
With T.M. Krishna as guide musician for a prolific composer like Subbarama Dikshitar, a margam choice can still pose problems of plenty. T.M. Sridevi started with the now rare jatiswaram, the historic Yamunakalyani creation, composed within an hour as answer to the Ettayapuram Raja’s challenge. The Anandabhairavi varnam was special in its old mode of suddha daivatam, and this disciple of Sudharani Raghupathy revealed her flair for unselfconscious sringar bhava depicting the lovelorn nayika’s persuasive powers over the nayaka. The varied pacing of the theermanams with Priya Murali’s clear nattuvangam and Nandini Anand’s singing, and the dancer’s finished sarukkai and mandi adavu movements made the varnam a true centerpiece.
Praveen Kumar of Bangalore (C.V.Chandrasekhar’s disciple) in his focus on Mysore Vasudevachar’s compositions, after the invocatory ‘Sri Mahadi Tyagaraja’ in Kalyani, showed his mastery over nritta. The Kamalamanohari ‘Karumai Kushalam’ piece depicted Devi’s graceful walk with toe/heel/ crossed feet rhythmic gaits. The Khambodi tana varnam “Akhilanda koti brahmam’ had its high points in visualising creation in quick flashes. Telling vignettes of Dasavataram, Gajendramoksham, Shabarimoksham, Govardhanagiridhari episodes showed Vishnu’s lila. The Kanada javali in the rare nayaka perspective portrayed the hero asking what wrong he had committed to merit the nayika’s anger. Praveen’s muted abhinaya needs more emotive intensity. Singer Manasi Prasad’s high pitched voice without staying power sadly often went off-key.
Revolving round Neelakantha Sivan’s lyric, (P.L. Saraswati Ram for guide), Divya Sivasundar, disciple of Shanta Dhananjayan, made a zestful entrance with ‘Siddhi Arul’ in Nattai, before presenting Nrityopaharam in Khambodi, the vibrant rhythmic interludes linking vivid narrative sequences on the Muruga myth. The best of the dancer’s bhakti oriented recital was in the leisurely interpretation of Devi ‘Ambike’ in Dwajavanti, soulfully sung by Preeti Mahesh. A contrastingly peppy ‘Darsaname’ in Thodi captured the verve of Nataraja’s dance. The ‘Vazhi’ benediction in Madhyamavati made a fine ending.
With their Kalakshetra connections, Tiger Varadachariar, Veenai Krishnamachariar and M.D. Ramanathan were the inevitable choices for Gayatri and Balagurunathan with T.K.Padmanabhan (violinist) and Rama Ravi as guides. Two bodies, one behind the other moved like one in the M.D. Ramanathan Hamsadhwani ‘Gajavadana’ invocation. ‘Sadananda swarupa,’ Krishnamachari’s lyric in Kuntalavarali with flashing images of Dasavataram was followed by ‘Yehi Manmatha’ the varnam by Tiger in Sriranjani. Contrasting Krishna attitudes in Balagurunathan’s vigorous aerial leg sweeps and Gayatri’s grounded grace changed with the latter becoming solo nayika expressing evocative longing for Krishna. Suddenly (unfinished varnam lacks charanam) narrators turned actors. Sporting a crown, Balagurunathan as Krishna held aloft the mountain and subdued the serpent, with Gayatri as bhakta. What made the recital were the last two lyric by M.D. Ramanathan – showing Shiva and Vishnu as manifestations of the same Truth (‘Hariyum Haranum onre’ in Atana) rendered by Balagurunathan. Finale was a sparkling Kapi tillana rendered by both. In a superb musical team, vocalist A.R.S Murali delighted.
Radhika Vairavelavan’s credentials with her Kalakshetra background apart, her recital interpreting Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar’s compositions (Aleppy Venkatesan as guide) did not transcend pleasant technical correctness, lacking the sculpted, definitive stamp of the Kalakshetra profile. After the Kuntalavarali homage to Raghunatha, the Vasanta varnam with the customary dhootika pleading with the Lord to join the uttama nayika pining in unrequited love, despite well conceived teermanams, acquired a monotone quality. The Behag Javali, again a nayika’s plea to the dootika appealed with Hariprasad’s singing. Uncomplicated in rendition but rare was the Kapi tillana in the 25 akshara lakshmisham tala.
Urmila Satyanarayanan, presenting K.N. Dhandayudapani Pillai’s compositions (hitherto not part of Bharatanatyam with late maestro’s wife Chandra as guide), performed a rippling Shodasha Alarippu, and a evocative padam, (throwback to the devadasi) ‘Yaradi inda vashalil’ in Shanmukhapriya. Dashavataram ‘Parantamane charanam’, Urmila’s favourite was well done. But the Khambodi varnam ‘Varuvano’ threw kalapramanam to the winds in the accelerated teermanam passages. The breakneck speed of the charanam destroyed aesthetics, the sabdaartha abhinaya never attaining the fluidity of bhavabhinaya.