Srekala Bharat, a disciple of renowned Guru K.J. Sarasa, presented a new choreographic piece, 'Varahi Vandhal,' based on a composition of Dr. Rukmini Ramani (daughter of legendary composer Papanasam Sivan). The best part of the 75-minute show was the rich musical score tuned with inputs from the composer, vocalist (Bhavani S. Kishore Kumar) and other artists. The dance however was hampered by poor visualisation and disappointing bhava or expressions that did not go beyond the literal.
The Anjali (Valachi) gave a brisk opening to the recital. It was followed by descriptive lyrics on Goddess Varahi who is worshipped as a re-incarnation of Goddess Durga with a human body, eight arms, a boar-head and three eyes. The lyric were interspersed with a short Namavalli, jatis and a Mallari (Gambhira Nattai). The use of different ragams for description of various facets (beauty- Varali, limbs and valour- sollukattu style of rendering, compassion-Sahana) made the composition more colourful, but there ended the colour.
With such a long invocatory piece, the expression of awe alone is not enough. The literal translation of the lyric was another limiting factor. One needs to craft the music and dance so that they are in harmony and enrich each other. This effort did not seem to go together.
The varnam 'Amma Bhuvana Mohini' (Gambhira Nattai, Adi) was a Tamil translation of Dr. Balamuralikrishna's Gambhira Nattai varnam 'Amma Ananda Dayini' by Rukmini Ramani. (The original was composed as a tana varnam and expanded into a pada varnam at the request of Padma Subrahmanyam).
The varnam had some layering in the line 'Sri Rajarajeshwari,' where the singer presented the sahitya in three speeds to denote horse riding and the fight with the asuras Chanda and Munda. This was shown well as was the nritta. Srekala's footwork was rather impressive as was her azutham.
The delineation of the Abhirama Bhattar story and one of a devotee who wants a child had some clarity. The latter story was a ragamalika add-on to the varnam, but played out as one continuous whole.
A folk piece -- a story that devotee tells her daughter, about Varahi as a farmers' Goddess -- and a short tillana (Durga, Adi, Bhavani S. Kishore Kumar) completed the repertoire. The musicians included a tuneful violinist (Hemamalini), an attentive mridangam vidwan (M. Dhananjayan) and a hardworking nattuvanar (Padma Raghavan).
It is time dancers see the value of 'outsourcing' choreography rather than come up with such drab stuff.