Geometric symmetry of movement etched clean lines, angles and curves, buttressed by precise and controlled footwork.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations, in collaboration with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore, presented a Bharathanatya recital by Narthaki Nataraj recently as part of the Horizon series.

The performance commenced with the sloka beginning ‘Manikyaveenam’, the preface to Kalidasa’s immortal paean to Devi, ‘Shyamala Dandakam’. While each epithet in the verse was elucidated succinctly, and punctuated with statuesque poses, the detailed elaboration of the term ‘Komalaangeem,’ was an exquisite evocation of the beauty of the Goddess from head to toe. A brief nritta interlude led to ‘Sri Rajarajeshwari’ in Ramamanohari raga, which was a further tribute to the various attributes of Devi in her multiple manifestations.

The focal point of the evening was the timeless classic, Ponnaiah Pillai’s varna ‘Mohamana’ set to Bhairavi raga and rupaka thala. The nayika, imploring Lord Thyagesa of Thiruvarur to deliver her from the agony of separation finds everyday chores intolerable. Sancharis elaborating her obsession included, among others, the representation of the sound of waves as pounding the eardrums, and the breeze as akin to the hissing of snakes, so excruciating is her suffering. Geometric symmetry of movement in the jathis etched clean lines, angles and curves, buttressed by precise and controlled footwork. The charanam, depicting Manmatha gleefully showering arrows on the distraught heroine, was replete with rich imagery. The item performed at a sedate yet vibrant tempo, was an exposition of consummate technical skill, laya expertise and subdued emoting.

The javali ‘Swamirada’, depicting a light-hearted chiding for a lack of commitment and a false display of affection, was followed by one of the highlights of the recital, an exquisite enactment of Subrahmanya Bharathi’s celebrated ragamalika ‘Chinnanchiru Kiliye’. Brimming with joy, wonder and fascination, the item testified to remarkable internalisation of the theme and a refined histrionic sensibility.

The concluding segment, performed to instrumental music, portrayed the child being bathed, dressed and fed, and put to bed, in a series of enchanting sequences suffused with finely nuanced abhinaya. The artiste’s grip over the medium was manifest in the concluding thillana in Mandari raga and adi thala, a compact yet convincing display of rhythmic expertise, vigour and agility combined with gentle grace.

The choice of items in the performance and their interpretation testified to steadfast adherence to tradition and the dictates of classicism, accentuated by a mellow pace. Excellent accompaniment and support was provided by a live orchestra comprising K.S.Balakrishnan (nattuvanaga), Randhini Aravind (vocal), Naagai S. Narayanan (mridanga), and Devaraj (flute).