Textbook araimandi, perfect alignment of feet and taut nritta made ‘Param-The Ultimate’ an attention-grabber.VIDYA SARANYAN

Sheela Unnikrishnan’s ‘Param – The Ultimate,’ a thematic Margam performance, was an ‘attention grabber’ with vivid costume, light effects and high energy Bharatanatyam. Presented by the students of Sridevi Nrithyalaya, the clockwork synchronisation of the sequences indicated that the teacher and the 34 girls on stage had put in a tremendous amount of effort to bring this Saivaite subject to fruition.

Grooming young girls into smiling and confident performers is no mean task and presenting so many well trained dancers on stage was a challenge well met by Sheela. In this context, her style seems to accentuate dramatic flourishes in both rhythm and emotive expression. While this was largely agreeable, there were places where a moderate treatment would have elevated the level of dancing instead of the hyperbole mode.

The assets here were the textbook araimandi, the straight line alignment of feet and taut execution of nritta displayed by all the dancers. Meticulous attention to detail was reflected in the aharya, group formations and particularly, in many aspects of the choreography. A noteworthy aspect was the expression of bhava through the eyes by even the junior members of the group.

The invocatory number in Karnataka Suddha Saveri was followed by a Khambodi lyric, a swarajathi in Surutti and then the varnam in Mohanam. The varnam written by Prof. Raghuraman was a real test of the dancers’ stamina, sense of tala and role play. The robust jatis were executed with sincerity. But the latter jatis became too prolonged and after a point, turned into loud thumping with staccato moves. Some pruning here would have enhanced the aesthetics without bringing down the joie de vivre.

On a similar note, for the lyric focussing on Pillai Tamizh, the green make-up for the three little girls could have been dispensed with as it made look like Meenakshi.

Sheela employed innovative imagery for the songs ‘Teruvil Vaarano’ and ‘Ardhanareeswaram.’ The situation of the lovelorn nayika in the spotlight was enacted with a single dancer in the front and by a small group in the background without disturbing the thread of communication. The deliberate absence of salangai was a tactic that provided serenity in the Khamas padam.

However the next item, a Bharatiar poem to portray Kali performing her dance of destruction, was an over the top depiction and strongly reminded one of some ‘Amman’ films. A pity since the other segments had elements of drama but they were executed on classical lines.

Thillana in Ritigowla was a graceful display of melody and rhythm with body sways and picturesque group designs. The recorded music with Kuldeep Pai’s singing and music direction, nattuvangam by Sheela, mridangam by Guru Bharadwaj, violin by Embar Kannan and veena by Bhavani Prasad highlighted the performance.