Nrithya Pillai’s dance recital was marked by scrupulous adherence to tradition

A Bharathanatyam recital by Nrithya Pillai, exponent of the Vazhuvoor bani, was organised recently by Sai Arts International, Bangalore.

The performance began with ‘Kapali Ni Dayanidhi’, paying obeisance to Shiva the cosmic dancer, with the tisra alaripu woven into the item. Also depicted were the attributes of the Lord, the churning of the ocean of milk, and the emergence of the deadly poison, which Shiva swallows and earns the appellation ‘Neelakanta’.

The focal point of the evening, the varna ‘Samiyai Azhaithu Vadi’ in Khamas raga and adi tala composed by Ponnayya Pillai, bore testament to the artiste’s training and dedication, and was marked by scrupulous adherence to tradition. The most notable feature of the piece was the sequence of exquisite jathis with complex rhythms affixed to each line of the sahithya, presented with light-footed accuracy and elegance of movement. The role of the nayika, coaxing, cajoling and bribing the sakhi to bring Lord Sundareswara of Madurai to her, carried varied shades of bashfulness, longing, and despair. The description of the deity clad in tiger skins and adorned with snakes rather than silks and jewels, the visualisation of union with the Lord, and the agony inflicted by Manmatha’s arrows found ample emphasis and expression, though a little more intensity in the abhinaya would have evenly balanced the different components of the beautifully choreographed and presented item. The charanam was a coalescence of grace and pace, culminating in the sakhi departing with the heroine’s message for the Lord.

Purandaradasa’s ‘Innudaya Barade’ set to Kalyanavasantham raga and khanda chapu thala was the vehicle for an evocative depiction of the devotee’s plea for mercy. The pursuit of wordly pleasures and the dominance of ego were effectively communicated, and the concluding vision of Lord Vishnu, leading to total surrender and oneness, was laced with emotion. The Kannada javali ‘Sako Ninna Sneha’ in Kapi raga portrayed a khanditha nayika, venting her ire on the erring hero who steals away in the dead of night for a tryst with the other woman. She is nonchalant in her accusations, and firmly turns him out of the house, despite the remorse she feels immediately afterwards, an engaging interpretation of the text. A tillana in Surutti raga and adi thala, composed by Samu Nattuvanar, the last item of the evening, was replete with energetic and crisp footwork and punctuated with beautifully held poses.

While melodious vocalisation by Roshni Ganesh, vibrant nattuvanga by Jayakamala Padian, and excellent accompaniment by Dr. Natarajamurthy (violin), Mahesh Swamy (flute) and Narayanaswamy (mridanga), provided outstanding support to the lead artiste, a slightly lower volume would have further enhanced the impact.