In her signature style, Malavika Sarukkai transported the audience to a state of bliss.
Malavika Sarukkai’s performance transcended the realms of the physical to a state of bliss, where along with the dancer, the viewer too was transported to the portals of Ananda.
It would be superfluous to speak of clean, geometric lines, symmetry, chiselled features and a sculpturesque figure about which enough has been written. Needless to say, Malavika’s signature style was there in this recital too. But it was the artistic expression that went beyond the form into abstraction at the metaphysical level throughout that held the audience spellbound.
The evening started with ‘Stithi Gati’ in raga Madhuvanti, the music for which was composed by Prof. C. V. Chandrasekar. The dancer portrayed the contrast between stillness and movement. She moved around to portray Gati with nritta movements, culminating in static poses to show stillness. Even as one wondered whether only static poses were enough to show stillness, the realisation dawned as the performance progressed that the core of the artistic expression for the evening rested on stithi and gati. Malavika spoke of stillness through movement.
Malavika painted the space with a montage of images transporting the audience to Vrindavan. The cold breeze of Sharad rithu carried the mesmerising sound of the flute to the gopis who are engrossed in their daily chores. There were little vignettes of abhinaya of one gopi putting a child to sleep, another in the midst of romantic dalliance, and yet another stringing flowers to adorn herself! They leave behind the world of Maya to the soulful sound of the flute and celebrate with total abandonment, joy and ecstasy to join the Paramatma.
In a stunning tapestry of movement portraying the Raas, Malavika made circumambulatory movements, where Radha, Krishna and other Gopis appeared one after the other, reaching a crescendo when the personal became the collective, form became formless… it was a continuous flow of energy – in total communion with Raas.
The pinnacle of the evening was her portrayal of Andal to the verses, ‘Varanamaayiram’ from Nachiar Tirumozhi.’ It was, by far, the best delineation I have seen so far. So significant was her performance that she took the fore without physically occupying it!
Coming back to the sthayi bhava of the numerous ‘sleep postures,’ Malavika performed the sancharis of the verses almost in a state of trance. Even as one expected her to break into nritta for the lines ‘Maddalam Kotta,’ she surprised us with total stillness, where one felt that even one slight movement would have broken her reverie.
The Tulsidas bhajan ‘Tumak Chalat,’ set to music by D. V. Paluskar, conveyed spiritual bliss, where one realised that Malavika was not just depicting a shift of characters from Krishna to Rama in this song. Her portrayal led one to experience the final mergence with the Formless, where words and form seem insignificant. At one point, when she asked the audience through her gestures whether they were able to hear the sound of the anklet, they almost whispered, ‘Yes’!
The audience understood the spiritual connect that Malavika displayed, so much so even the applause was with a touch of reverence, without disturbing the mood of the evening.
The performance gained in stature with Nandini Anand’s soft, melodious voice, non-obtrusive sounds on the cymbals of Srilata, Nellai Balaji on the mridangam and Srilakshmi Venkatramani on the violin.