‘Samaagam,’ a union of Bharatanatyam and Kathak, actually worked due to its excellent planning and execution. It was conceived by senior Kathak and Bharatanatyam dancer-teacher cum-storyteller Rajashree Shirke and presented by Pavitra Bhat (disciple of Deepak Mazumdar and Anitha Guha) and Radhika Shirke (disciple and daughter-in-law of Rajashree) at the Yagnaraman Sri Krishna Gana Sabha July Fest 2011.
Though each style had its moment in the sun, the poetry was in their coming together. There was superb coordination between all the artists, but the perfectly tuned pitch and the unexpected take-offs made stars of G. Srikanth (Carnatic vocal), Sashidhar (flute), Manoj Desai (harmonium and Hindustani vocal) and Aniruddha Shirke (pakhawaj and tabla).
Radhika and Pavitra sparkled in their presentations. The fiery footwork in the Jhaptal improvisation and the short nritta sequences including the twirling chakkardar parans, belied Radhika’s petite frame. Her biggest commendation is the pristine clarity of every beat as she navigated through the 10-beat cycle to the accompaniment of the lehra or the refrain that served as reference points in the cycle.
There were a couple of emotive adventures in the Kathak segment: the ‘suffering in separation’ heroine in Sant Meerabai’s ‘Matvaro Badal Aayo Re’ could have been more subtle, whereas the kavit in teen taal, ‘Bhado nishi’ describing an amorous encounter between Krishna and Radha had the right balance of romance and rhythm. Guru Rajashree was the anchor of the segment.
The multi-lingual kriti, ‘Om Shambho Mahadeva,’ in Revathi, Adi tala, had been fashioned as a varnam with teermanams and sancharis interspersed in between the lyric.
Guided by Guru Deepak who has an unusual but not unwelcome practice of using informal wooden sticks to the metal cymbals to keep the rhythm, Pavitra displayed good definition and geometry in his movements. His footwork was commendable, but the bent knees facing frontwards mar the picture at times. The rhythms were kept simple, sometimes too simple, but Pavitra gave them depth with his hard-hitting style. The stories were convincingly portrayed, the best being the Kama episode.
Srikanth and Sashidhar surpassed themselves here, while Muruganandam (violin) and Dakshinamurthy (mridangam) provided able support.
Besides the opening prayers to Ganesa, Aranga Puja sloka, Sabha Lakshana sloka and Pushpanjali that melded into one whole with the singers alternating, the joint ventures comprised a Gujarati bhajan, ‘Bhaje Vraje Kamandanam’ in ragamalika and talamalika, tuned by Aniruddha and Srikanth, and a tarana-thillana (Hindustani Bhairavi with its corresponding Carnatic, Sindu Bhairavi) in chatusra eka tala. The former alternated between a romantic and devotional mood, with unobtrusive ease. And in the latter, when the music soared and the dance followed in perfect synchrony, melody, mood and simplicity were all that mattered.