The silent pause preceding Kaikeyi's demand was easily one of the best moments in the Dhananjayans' performance.
The riveting performances by V.P. Dhananjayan, Shanta Dhananjayan and their students reaffirmed their reputation as artists par excellence and worthy natyacharyas. After the invocatory number, the next piece Nrittaswaravali had dancers Venkatakrishnan and Pavitra Srinivasan display their rhythmic prowess. Their bright smiles, straight posture and vigour brought liveliness to the evening. Complex jatis to the various nadais formed the fabric of the Nrittaswaravali.
In the latter half of the evening, the glory of Siva's dance was essayed by Lavanya Raghuraman for ‘Adidum Arasae’. With her big eyes and a charming stage presence, she brought home all the dimensions of Siva's dance as envisaged by the poet. The sollukattu with the Nandi motif caught one's attention for its aptness.
Another strong display of rhythm was to be seen in the Nrittangaharam, the concluding number in Behag and Khanda Ekam by Lavanya, Divya and Vedakrishnan. These numbers revealed the panache of the dancers and reinforced the dynamism of the evening. The vocalist for the second half was Vanathi, and the cymbals were wielded by Shanta Dhananjayan.
The limelight of the evening was the enactment from the Ramayana. ‘Sita Rama Katha' from the Ramanatakam by Arunachala Kavi was positioned as the core piece. Here, Shanta Dhananjayan as Kooni (Manthara), Divya Shivsunder as Kaikeyi and V.P. Dhananjayan as Dasaratha enthralled the audience with their dramatic portrayal.
The succinct Patra pravesha for the maid Manthara established her diabolical intent, and simultaneously threw light on Kaikeyi, who was still unsullied by the dreams of power. With her rolling eyes, frowning brow and a positively evil grimace, Shanta Dhananjayan got under the skin of the character.
She was the villain incarnate with the bent back and the hand on the hip as she steadily corroded the best of Kaikeyi and in its place carved out a woman intent only on the coronation of her son. At times cajoling and at others manipulating, Shanta’s performance carried the audience. The stage was now set for Dasaratha to meet his nemesis. In his realistic performance as the king, Dhananjayan also incorporated some small touches that enhanced the content. The sidling movement of the feet, the pole axed fall, and especially the nippy shifting of moods from anger to disgust completed the high drama. Divya matched her teachers’ spirited delineation and portrayed the heartless Kaikeyi convincingly.
Sashidharan’s clear diction and his expressive singing pooled with the strong nattuvangam of Gopukiran for this part of the recital. Kalaiarasan’s fluid violin, Sunil Kumar‘s trills on the flute and Ramesh Babu’s proficient mridangam play were big pluses.
Yet, the moment of silence which preceded Kaikeyi’s demand was easily one of the best moments in the recital where body language and sentiment spoke more than words or song.