Mudra 2012, a national fete dedicated to Indian classical dance, featured stellar performances by some of the best dancers in the country.
The ninth edition of Mudra, the national dance festival hosted by Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuarm, was a tribute to the late guru of Kuchipudi, the legendary Vempatti Chinna Satyam. The festival brought together artistes from across India and had performances of Kuchipudi, Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattom, Manipuri, Odissi and Kathak.
The festival opened with a Kuchipudi performance by senior artiste Vyjayanthi Kashi. She began her recital with a salutation to Goddess Bala Tripurasundari, the presiding deity of Kuchipudi village. Ardhanarishwara, symbolising the amalgam of the male-female and the creative and destructive forces in nature, provided the medium to demonstrate the lasya and thandava aspects of Kuchipudi through jathis. Choosing an episode from ‘Parijathapaharanam’ and by portraying Satyabhama, Vyjayanthi presented a Daruvu from the Kuchipudi Yakshagana tradition. Expressive recounting of ‘Kaaliyamardhanam’, ‘Poothanamoksham’ and ‘Dashavatharam’ stood out in the tharangam ‘Pahi pahi Jaganmohana Krishna’.
Vempatti Chinna Satyam’s disciple of 20 years, Madhavapeddi Murthy, presented items that were choreographed by the guru. A Ganesha stuti composed by M.Balamuralikrishna was followed by an ashtapadi, ‘Sanchadadhara’. The Annamacharya kriti ‘Paluku thenela thalli pavalinchunu’ was treated with the tenderness that the theme deserves. The tarangam ‘Neela megha shareera’ delineated Krishna’s pranks and culminated in an elaborate display of pada bhedas. Murthy focussed his performance on female-oriented themes, which, to the students in the audience, was an opportunity to observe the handling of the subject by a male dancer, as was how Kuchipudi originally used to be.
Divyasena was the surprise package of the festival in her debut performance in Kerala. Opening with a Ganesha stuti, Divya moved on to the varnam ‘Angayar kanni’, a Lalgudi composition in praise of Goddess Meenakshi. Imaginative jathis and a vivid delineation of the Navarasas portrayed as episodes in mythology related to the Devi, were enjoyable. A Pattabhiramayya javali in Chenchurutti and a Balamuralikrishna thillana in Behag brought the recital to a scintillating finish.
Shaly Vijayan’s performance was in keeping with the Kalakshetra tradition. The varnam she presented – ‘Sami nine kori nanura’, in praise of Lord Brihadeeswara, is a composition attributed to Ponnaiah Pillai, handed over to Kalakshetra by Pandanallur Swaminatha Pillai.
Seetha Sasidharan, a disciple of the Dhananjayans, was one of the younger dancers at the fete. Her main piece was Nrityopaharam (the equivalent to varnam) with ‘Mohana Krishna’, a beautiful composition of V.P. Dhanajayan in praise of Lord Guruvayoorappan. Describing the enchanting form of Krishna and narrating his miraculous deeds, the piece moved on to the charanam, which illuminates the Lord’s preference for Poonthanam’s simple devotion over Melpathur’s arrogant erudition. Seetha concluded her recital with a thillana in Nagaswaravali, choreographed by Satyajit.
The Kalakshetra-original varnam, ‘Roopamu joochi’ in Thodi, choreographed by Rukmini Devi Arundale, was the central piece by Parvathy Syam. It is dedicated to Lord Nataraja and portrays the nayika enjoying the splendid beauty of the Lord. ‘Kanden kanden Sitaye kanden’, depicting Hanuman’s devotion to Lord Rama, also went down well with the audience.
Danseuse Ranjana Gauhar’s opening piece was ‘Vishweswar darsan kar’, a Swati Tirunal composition set to music, though it was different from the popular Sindhubhairavi version. The abhinaya skills of the dancer were projected through the ashtapadi ‘Rathi sukha sare’, where the sakhi persuades Radha to give up her anger and go to Krishna who is waiting for her.
Another piece that saw a beautiful blend of both the nritta and the nritya was ‘Dancing footsteps in the rain’, built around the Mira Bhajan ‘Barse badariyaa sawan ki.’ Set to raag Megh, the charanam ‘Nanhi nanhi boondhen’ had enjoyable footwork and movements.
Manjushree Panda and Raminder Khurana also presented numbers from the repertoire, their main pieces being Navarasa and Pallavi, respectively.
Bimbavathi Devi, a young ambassador of Manipuri, brought on stage the legacy of her parents, gurus Bipin Singh and Kalavathi Devi. She began her recital with Krishna Roop Varnan, originally choreographed by her father. ‘Abhisarika’ portrayed Radha’s desperation to meet Krishna. While these two items were based on lasya of Manipuri, the Siva stuti, composed by Bimbavathi, was an example of its thandava characteristic, distinctive by the change of costume as well. The show concluded with the Dasavathara of Jayadeva.
Kathak was represented by Sushmita Banerjee of the Lucknow Gharana. ‘Shiva Vandana’ was followed by Natvari Nritya. The Ganga Avataran in which Sushmita used the bells of her anklets to good effect to convey the flow of the river, narrated the story of Ganga’s descent to the earth. The Tukra, Parana and Tora illustrated the nritta features of Kathak. An area which is of special interest to Sushmita is the thumri and she did full justice to ‘Kanha mein tose hari’ and to the Mira bhajan ‘Payoji mein ne Ram ratan’.
The compositions, themes, talas and ragas used by danseuse Deepthi Omcheri Bhalla were all quintessentially Malayalam and spoke of the extensive research done by the artiste and her mother, Leela Omcheri.
The salutation to Ganesha was accompanied by the beat of the edakka in Chembada tala. Select lines from Kumaran Asan’s ‘Veena poovu’ was treated with the required subtlety. An ancient composition on Adi Kesava Perumal of Thiruvattar and another early work on Ardhanareeswara by an unknown author were both stellar examples of skilful choreography and expert execution. The former piece had delineations on the ‘leelas’ of the Lord and a depiction of the ten avatars. The latter, which describes Shiva- Parvathy, stood out for the exposition of the thandava and lasya aspects of dance.
‘Janani Jagatkarini’, Gopika Varma’s thematic presentation, was a eulogy to the mother. She began with Sankaracharya’s ‘Mathru panchakam’. The varnam on Attukal Devi ‘Sree Jagadambike Annapoorne’ was especially composed for the occasion. The rendition underlined Gopika’s deep involvement with her art and highlighted her exceptional talent in abhinaya. Equally evocative was the interpretation of Tagore’s ‘Karnakunti Samvad’ translated into Malayalam by G. Sankara Kurup. Gopika’s enacting of Kunti’s confession to Karna and the circumstances that caused her to give up her first-born was a study in histrionics. The thillana by Lalgudi Jayaraman in praise of the Parashakthi and ‘Vande Maataram’ brought the curtain down on a memorable performance and to Mudra 2012.