Performance ‘Laya Ritu Mala,’ aesthetically wove in two classical systems and six dance forms. Nita Vidyarthi

‘Laya Ritu Mala,’ presented at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre, ICCR, Kolkata by Layavinyas, is an aesthetic expression of the pulse of Indian classical music and dance through the interplay of notes, talas, melody and drum beats of Hindustani and Carnatic systems and the emotions, realised by the flavour of the moods or rasas and the aesthetic relish of the ragas. They are not divorced from Nature and are the ebb and flow of the seasons marked by their own music and festivals.

It was conceived and composed by the 43year-old mridangam vidwan, Narayan Shankar, founder of Layavinyas. The renowned Kolkata-based percussionist, who trained under Late L.V. Vaidyanathan and later by Velukutty Nair, experiments with percussions and melody, juxtaposing Hindustani and Carnatic traditions with other systems such as the Blues and Jazz to produce original compositions of fascinating melody. The only Carnatic Fusion organisation founded in 1990 has artists who are mostly city-based South Indian musicians, together with some from the North Indian styles.

With his musical architecture of the two major styles, Shankar has produced classical pieces, that please the ear with every kind of artifice and this time he has woven in the classical dances to present a variegated and fascinating rhythm-music-dance production of the six seasons, supported by a team of efficient young musicians and dancers of the city.

Brilliant portrayal

The musical ensemble at one corner of the stage ushered in the first season, ‘Grishma’ (Summer) with a prelude, by playing a brief kutcheri. Amidst the chrome-yellow, and orange-red illumination projected on the screen placed behind the stage, appeared Kolkata’s acclaimed Kathakali dancer, Kalamandalam V.R. Venkit, in vibrant costume on the elevated platform behind to portray the scorching Grishma Ritu in a brilliant performance set to taal Chempada (adi talam) and in Khambodi. He depicted the plight of man: tired, wiping sweat with his angavastram, and the restlessness of thirsty animals. The movement of the snake needs special mention as does the Chenda. The item was a visual delight and the lighting was the best of the evening.

With lightning, a blue and white opulent backdrop, the changing regularity of the ghatam, a lovely rhythmic effect with pauses and rests between beats, the predominant violin and continuous fingering of the drone achieved a sense of falling rain – where rhythm and melody were in conversation with the dancers. As the music poured, Kathak dancer Souvik Chakravarty in duet with Poulami Basu tried their best to capture the mood of Varsha with raga Megh (Hindustani), Rupak taal (7 beats) and Brindavani (Carnatic) in Misra Chapu. Souvik presented some fine footwork and steady thaats even though he was not at his best. Poulami looked good as the peacock, but her chakkars need to be more steady.

The seasoned Odissi dancer Rina Jana in golden yellow (the golden harvest) ushered in the much loved Sharat (Autumn) ritu to welcome Goddess Durga after killing the Mahisasura and celebrating Durga puja. She began with nritta, punctuated with pallavi, sensuous andolans depicting harvesting and pounding of rice that changed to a couple of preliminary ‘Rook-maar’ movements of Mayurbhanj Chhau as Mahisasuramardini. The powerful raga Durga (Hindustani), taal Dadra and Sudha Saveri (Carnatic) adi talam, Misra-gathi (24 beats) were the perfect choices for this enjoyable piece.

To the recitation of Tagore’s “Hai Hemanta Lakhi Tomar Aanchal Keno Dhaka,” Manipuri dancer Parna Chakravarty presented Hemanta, the grim Ritu, with some graceful chalis and bhangis even though the choreography was repetitive. Her languls demand steadiness (or is it the otherwise slippery stage?). The music set to Kaushiki Dhwani (Hindustani), Rupak taal (note the otherwise innovative composition unlikely in Manipuri presentations), raga Mandu (Carnatic), misra chapu, was magnificent and the best composition in the whole production. The pung (a Manipuri percussion instrument) was an interesting entrant. Shankar must be lauded for conceiving such a captivating rhythm and melody.

While the drummers were on a flight of fancy, the instrumentalists were carrying on a rhythmic conversation with the percussion player at the melodic level and all the time at the deepest level of the formation was the dance, selecting the tone of the melody in play and its dominating note.

The maroon-red phanek (skirt) of this dancer jarred and did not go with the sombre season. A grey or silver-steel grey would have been a better choice. All other dancers had a fine sense of colour in accordance with the respective season excepting this one.

Sangeetha Venkit presented a seasoned Mohiniyattom, portraying Sheeth ritu (Winter) with the fine beats of the ghatam and the edakka. Daughter of Kalamandalam Venkit, Sangeetha has a stunning stage presence and her abhinaya of the rituals of the ‘Thiruvathira’ festival (such as shivering, when stepping in coldwater for bathing) showed maturity. Set to Carnatic raga Kanada, Khanda Jathi-Triputha taal, she concluded with a skilful pallavi.

Holding a ‘Thirusila,’ entered the dancing Bharatanatyam duo, Milan Adhikary and Shouraja Thakur, to bring in the flamboyance of (Spring) Vasanta with fine footwork and graceful stretched hastas in joyous coordination set to raga Vasantha. The charming number embraced Shringar rasa with the lovely flute enhancing the appeal. Both are fine dancers and were delightful to watch.

At this point all the dancers, depicting each season entered in reverse order, finally breaking into a celebration together with the merriment ending in a final frieze. The idea goes against Nature as the cycle of seasons are natural processes and are irreversible. The aesthetic pleasure, especially the music composition, the high point of the wonderful production was mildly tarnished by the final idea of reversibility.

The overall choreography was by Abhoy Pal and light design by Mohan G. Kutty. N. Shankar was on the mridangam and Konnakkol, Nataraj Radhakrishnan on Carnatic violin, Kalamandalam Gopa Kumar on chenda and edakka, Brojen Singh on pung, P.V.Sairam on ghatam, R. Srinivasan taal support, Uttam Mondal on pakhawaj, Partha Sarkar on flute, Joy Guha on mandolin and Arindam Chakravarty on tabla.