Rama Katha, a Bharatanatyam performance by Satyanarayana Raju was a mind boggling experience
It was a brilliant exposition in Bharatanatyam from the word go. Our tradition never fails to evoke interest and emerge with new meanings even after centuries. So was it with Satyanarayana Raju’s ‘Rama Katha’, a solo, episodic presentation of Ramayana through kirtana and kriti set to enchanting music, Bangalore recently.
It was a ‘made-for-each-other’ team with the central artiste as the show-stopper. A gamut of emotions (rasa) flowed through the dance reiterating the inbuilt values and true-to-life colours of the story of Rama. The stage opened to a subtle setting of a stand hanger with ochre and red drapes placed to a corner, a sort of metaphor for Lord Rama. The backdrop with a carved wooden door flanked on either side by wooden pillars obviously represented the Ayodhya palace. The artiste entered with a bow and arrow in hand, to the tunes of raga Bhouli mellifluously flowing out of the flute to Thyagaraja’s “Melukovayya, mammeluko vayya”, making for an apt beginning. Before you could wonder about the prop in hand which is generally used in drama than in dance, Satyanarayana Raju in a swift circling of the stage hung the bow and arrow to the hanger and turned to the audience with a series of jatis prefacing the abhinaya, a sort of a suprabhatam to awaken the Lord. The diverse hastabhinaya for “Naradadulu ninnu kori…” mirrored the dancer’s grip over his medium. From the beautiful Bhouli we were transported to the pleasant Kapi, into Lord Rama’s childhood with “Tumaka chalath Ramachandra…” where the artiste deftly depicted toddler Rama to the swar bhol that was sung in a racy refrain. It was marvellous to watch as Satyanarayana Raju personified vatsalya bhava through Kausalya and her little son. Working out minute details of love between a mother tutoring her child-son to take his first steps, the artiste gave a mind-boggling presentation both in terms of dance and mime.
The jubilation at Ayodhya for Rama pattabhishekam was subtly spoken through garlands arranged in a circle spanning the floor of the stage which was a commendable piece of artistic innovation. Satyanarayana Raju’s virtuosity came to the fore in the roles of Mandara and Shabari which he etched out in abhinaya with élan. The overt changeover of a character was through draping an angavastra, be it a male or female role which was markedly theatrical in solo Bharatanatyam. From the Bharata episode onwards it was intense as far as emotional quotient goes, but the music and corresponding songs was set to slow pace, and seemed a wee bit dragging, despite remarkable expressiveness. To top it, the nritta element was toned down making all the episodes abhinaya-centric. Interspersing these episodes with at least one slightly druta kalai song and dance would have broken the monotony. However, the interlacing of tanam at many a place was a redeeming feature and a very unique one at that. The Kathakali stances portraying Ravana are worth a mention. One could not but get diverted by the sonorous rendition of the vocalist-cum-music composer B.S. Srivatsa who breathed life into the song and the presentation. Prabha on the nattuvangam had precious little to do. Flute by Ravichandra was compelling while Lingaraju on the mridanga lent his best.