Spectators simply loved the spirited Bharatanatyam recital of Meenakshi Srinivasan and SBKK's performance on Krishna
Stage presence along with a capacity for deep involvement are the apparent hallmarks of Meenakshi Srinivasan's Bharatanatyam recital, as witnessed at the India International Centre in New Delhi. Trained under Alarmel Valli, Meenakshi has evolved while imbibing her guru's grace, but happily without trying to be a clone of the teacher's style and approach. Right from the start with the Muttuswami Dikshitar kriti in Kedaram, “Ananda Natana Prakasham”, one could sense the dancer's concern more with catching the all encompassing nature of Shivahood, rather than treat the lyric as a mere portrayal of the persona of Shiva. A dancer with Meenakshi's movement finish and emotive involvement was bound to make an impression in the demanding navaragamalika varnam of Dandayudapani Pillai, “Sakhiye endan saamiyai azhaittodi vaa” woven round the conventional love-smitten nayika pleading with the friend to hasten to fetch her Lord Nataraja to her. While the dancer had the most accomplished singer Hariprasad from Kalakshetra as vocalist, and a nattuvangam specialist like Jayashree Ramanath whose utterance of teermanams had spirited clarity without theatrics, with both mridangist R. Karthikeyan and violinist R. Kalaiarasan of a piece in matching competence, Meenakshi needs to retain a sense of proportion in the needlessly spun out interpretative passages and the overlong teermanam links between the interpretative parts. The very first statement spun into a dialogue between the nayika pleading with the sakhi to fetch the Lord (which is all that the musical line says), the sakhi showing fear at having to approach the unconventionally turned out Shiva with ashes and matted locks and snakes as garland and the nayika reassuring her by recounting his compassionate side, was a case in point of a musical line being pulled out of context with a prolonged subtext. In an already long varnam, to-the-point interpretation is what is needed instead of narratives being woven in. So too, the contemporary love for nritta sequences spread over several avartans of tala, interferes with the step by step build-up of mood in a varnam. The musical statement which came off with pithy but effective communication was describing Shiva as Muruga's father, who as a mendicant Bhikshatanar roams with a begging bowl, and who hides Devi in one half of his body. The Jayadeva ashtapadi “Nijagada sa Yadunandane kreedati Hridayanandane” in Hariprasad's score in Behag was evocatively sung, and equally effective was Meenakishi's interpretation. Very different from the swadheenapatika basking in the glory of after-love, the Patnam Subramaniaiyer javali in Kamas “Appudu manasu niluchunate” set to dance by Braga Bessal showed the frisky nayika confessing that to control her mind and behaviour and be composed with the handsome young Lord Venkateswara in front of her was asking for too much. Rajkumar Bharati's tillana with homage to the Motherland made a good finale. That the audience was with the dancer was obvious.
Shri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra's performance of Krishna during the Janmashtami season was out to prove that the spirit of its just departed founder Sumitra Charat Ram would be borne out in full in the Kendra's work. As the curtain rose to the chant of the “Charanakamala…” hymn in Malkauns enveloping the auditorium, the Krishna myth began to unfold, scene following scene in well rehearsed smoothness. Some new touches added to the usual fare. One was “Devaiya, matwala jogi dwar me mere aya hai” (song attributed to Surdas) wherein at three simultaneous levels the scene catches gopis joyously announcing the arrival at Nanda's door of a hermit (Shiva — appearing on a raised level of the stage) asking to see the child Krishna to bless him, and a worried Yashoda wondering about her child's safety with this strange looking phenomenon. The butter thief lila-s were the limp part of the production, lacking conviction.
The Radha/Krishna dialogue was the best part, Shiburam Mahanta as Krishna and Akansha as Radha looking the parts and combining well with songs like “Boojhat Shyam Kaun tu Gori” and the Radhika Ashtakam and Raas Lila scene convincingly visualised. The second half with the Kurukshetra war scenes, with Krishna the Statesman (Rajkumar Sharma fitted the bill commendably) urging the Pandavas to victory through his plans, was fast and effective. The bed of arrows for Karna was another cleverly devised sequence.
Late Keshav Kothari's sets, Shobha Deepak Singh's organisation and direction with excellent costumes and lighting, and choreography by Shashidharan Nair, Shobha Deepak Singh assisted by Raj Kumar Sharma, have together created regaling fare — popular without being populist.