PREVIEW Padma Subrahmanyam brings back ‘Viralimalai Kuravanji’.

It is a Kuravanji most people remember, considering that three leading lights of classical dance -- Padma Subrahmanyam, Sudharani Raghupathi and Chitra Visveswaran – came together to create something memorable. Now, ‘Viralimalai Kuravanji’ that’s being mounted on July 13, 6.45 p.m., at Narada Gana Sabha, brings together stalwarts Padma Subrahmanyam, Priyadarsini Govind, Shobhana and Vineeth, who bring back this much loved production in today’s context.

‘Viralimalai Kuravanji’ hopes to raise funds for the Bharata Ilango Foundation for Asian Culture (BIFAC), that’s spearheaded by Dr Padma Subrahmanyam. The foundation seeks to be a ‘cultural corridor to regenerate and revitalise the Asian countries through research and dance.’ The government has donated five acres of land at Pattipulam Village on the ECR, for this project. BIFAC will be a research centre for the performing arts and a centre where artists and scholars can interact and strengthen the shared cultural links.

“It was my late sister-in-law, Shyamala Balakrishna, who did the research for Kuravanji,” says Padma. “Those days, there was no facility for recording. So she learnt and memorised the songs by going to Viralimalai (a town near Tiruchi where the Shanmuganathar Temple, a renowned seat of Bharatanatyam, is located) and staying with the last group of Devadasis who had danced there.” Padma remembers Annamma and Mohanama, who helped Shyamala. This was first produced by Nrithyodaya.

“The first time we did this, my vaadhyar, Ramiah Pillai, set it to dance. I played the Kurathi. During the inauguration of this production, I remember we had brought ‘Viralimalai’ Annamma and the Kurathi’s entrance was as she had taught it. She taught me some rare nuances that I use even today-- like neck movements.” The music is significant, says Padma, as it is pre-Tyagaraja, and uses rare ragas.

The new production will essentially be the same as the earlier one, except for Tiruppugazh that “we will perform in between. In the end, to tie up the foundation’s mission, we will all be on stage for ‘Jai Jai Bharatha’.”

Padma is grateful to Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who was keen on this idea. “She not only gave us land on lease, but also made a personal donation of Rs. 27 lakhs,” says Padma.

The production is 90 minutes long without a break. “I am not too fond of intervals. The lyrics have a lot of scope for hasya, exaggeration and moments of fun. The costume and sets are simple.” Padma has chosen ‘Viralimalai Kuravanji’ as the vehicle for her project as it offers “scope for all of us to dance together.”

Dr. Gayathri Kannan will handle nattuvangam and vocals, with support from Radhika Muthukrishnan, Kannan plays the veena, G. Vijayaraghavan is on the mridangam, on the violin is Kandadevi Vijayaraghavan and N. Sundar, tabla and morsing. .

TICKETS

Nrithyodaya Chennai and The Shriram Group present Viralimalai Kuravanji. The Hindu is the media partner.

Donor passes (Rs. 3,000, Rs. 3,000, Rs. 2,000, Rs. 1,000, Rs. 500 and Rs. 250) are available at Narada Gana Sabha, Shanthi Dance Needs, Giri Trading Agency, Rangachari Cloth Store, Sri Krishna Sweets and Nuts & Spices.

Online passes: bookmyshow.com; eventjini.com. Available at the venue too.