Vyjayantimala Bali's expressive face and child-like enthusiasm made for an endearing picture.
It was a full house for Dr. Vyjayantimala Bali's Bharatanatyam recital. The yesteryear star, now well past 70, continues to draw crowds for her adherence to the Thanjavur bani handed down to her by guru K.P. Kittappa Pillai. Her expressive face and child-like enthusiasm besides a studied diligence make for an endearing picture.
The recital re-confirmed two well-known facts - the timeless appeal of the margam and the added rasa of superlative music for dance. Somehow, the margam seems to unravel a dancer's talent like no thematic production can. The legendary artist Balasaraswati in her wisdom compared the margam to a temple - you enter through the gopuram (Alarippu)... and end with the final burning of the camphor (tillana) accompanied by ‘din and bustle’.
There was warmth in Vyjayantimala's margam that began with the paasuram of the day, ‘Mayanai’. Having played Andal for many decades, the dancer was able to get into the saint poet's skin right away and bring in a feeling of devotion for the ‘enchanter’ Krishna. The excitement was also visible in her skips around the stage denoting the ‘cowherd' and when she went door to door calling her friends to perform the Pavai Nombu, the feeling of involvement was complete.
A rare swarajathi (‘Kaana Aavalaanane’, Khambodi, Rupakam, Thanjavur Quartet) presented in a traditional choreography (guru Kittappa Pillai) was a treat. The short teermanams with clever sollus and usi usage spoke volumes of the choreographer's imagination. Excellent time-keeping, a straight back and perfect finishes of the kita-thaka-tha-ri-ki-ta-thom adavus were the dancer's contribution. The lovelorn nayika became an anguished and sometimes disbelieving woman in Vyjayantimala's involved delineation.
There were two stars on stage that evening, Vyjayantimala Bali, and her youngest associate 16-year old Anahita Ravindran (vocal), who, together with satellite stars Kandadevi S. Vijayaraghavan (violin), Adyar Balu (mridangam) and Gayathri Sashidharan (nattuvangam), created a memorable confluence of the performing arts. Their invocation, ‘Chintittavar nenjil' (Nattai, Adi, Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi) established their credentials as an ace group of musicians. The vocalist, a disciple of Chitravina Ravikiran, had an acid test in the Krishna Karnamrita excerpt where a conversation between Krishna and a cheeky gopi was tuned in 12 ragams by her guru! Vijayaraghavan led the youngster with a paternal hand as she navigated the treacherous path successfully. The dancer scored an ace with this humorous piece as she switched effortlessly between a seemingly innocent gopi and a patient Krishna on the other side of a closed door. A Madhyamavathi Mangalam (Rupakam, Tanjore Quartet) on Goddess Meenakshi filled with beautiful images of Devi was a wonderful end to the satisfying show.