Praveen and Aishwarya chose a selection from history and poetry to showcase social relationships.
Praveen Kumar and Aishwarya Nityananda strung together extracts from the tales of Chandalika and Asoka, and lines from Subramania Bharati for their interpretation of ‘Loka Bandhavyam: Man and Society’ for Natyarangam Baandhava Bharatham festival. The dancing met with all the requirements of worthy Bharatanatyam, namely symmetrical skill, stamina and dramatic flair. More because of the manner of envisaging the theme, the presentation came across as a sober canvas with a few light moments to relieve the monotone effect.
The opening lyric in Rasikapriya gave an introduction of the network of relationships in society. This piece incorporated swift movements where the two dancers mimed several interchanges - for example those between a man and woman, teacher and student, etc.
The ideal attitude towards fellow human beings was the focus of the next number, in which the dancers recounted the episode where the Buddha’s disciple Ananda demonstrated, not just in deed but through action, the reach of amity. The original music and words of Tagore brought a unique flavour into play eloquently. Aishwarya’s depiction of the so-called outcast woman was moving while Praveen Kumar’s characterisation of the noble monk brought a fine touch of dignity to the situation.
The portrayal of Man and Society was the segment where despite the best of intentions, the dancing could not hold visual interest for long. Elements such as the performance of the fighting scene which had more noise than punch, the too subdued reaction of Asoka while surveying the ravages on the battlefield, and the rushed images of the reforms definitely did not help matters. Further, lack of attention to detail such as the drooping and bent blade of Asoka, the Victor, also diluted credibility here. For quite a while, the dancer who took centre stage had little to do beside merely nod his head, while the other dancer who was really active was placed off-centre. This too contributed to the slump in momentum.
Happily, the last scene depicting Bharati’s ‘Bharatadesam Endru’ in ragamalika was quite another story as it benefitted from a smoother narration. One could sense that the dancers exuded affinity with the theme this time. The illustrations of the current social set-up such as the fight for the Chair by the political candidates offered a slice of the dancers’ own commentary and carried a note of honesty. Praveen and Aishwarya expressed the spirit of brotherhood through the Sanskrit lyric, ‘Maitreem Bhajatha’ by the Kanchi Paramacharya convincingly.
Nattuvangam, morsing and selected rhythmic effects by Prasanna Kumar, melodic vocal music by Vasudha Balakrishna, strong mridangam play by Srihari Rangaswamy and tuneful notes on the flute by Narasimhamurthy enhanced the production.