Versatile Devadasi dancer Saride Manikyamma was remembered and honoured through a dance tribute.
The effort was most commendable. Suvarchala Devi, a faculty in Andhra Natyam at the Telugu University chose to pay tributes to her little known guru in her own sweet way.
The venue was the varsity auditorium. The guests who graced it were scholars in performing arts or litterateurs and all those who shared similar feelings of love and veneration for guru Nataraja Ramakrishna and an obscure lady (mother/grandmother) who found shelter in his home, Saride Manikyamma. Those honoured in memory of Manikyamma were two other temple dancers — now expert gurus — of Mummidivaram (East Godavari)!
The audience were treated to a few dance presentations by Satvika (Suvarchala's daughter) that were culled out of Adhyatimaka Ramayanam kirtanas, popularised by Saride Manikyamma. The young dancer showed promise especially on the abhinaya front and though her footwork and hasthabhinaya were what was missing was vigour in executing the adavus. She also needs to take up more stage space and not confine herself to centre stage with minimal movements to either side. If she is able to put a little more energy into her footwork and her stances as she danced, Satvika would definitely turn out to be an artiste of quality. Guru Kalakrishna's nattuvangam was perfect. Sharada Reddy on the vocal, Subbalakshmi on the violin, Balaramamurthy on the mridangam were all up to the mark.
Suvarchala took to just abhinaya in seated posture to a Kshetrayya padam — Yetuvanti vaade vaadu… rendered by vocalist Radhika Krishna. The dancer's maturity came to the fore in varied facial expressions as well as gestures, as in the line kutila kuntali… Suvarchala was able to give more than half-a-dozen expressions without a repetition; that's something to write home about. The abhinaya sans natya was a show of the devadasi tradition as it existed then.
A video presentation of Saride Manikyamma's life (she was a versatile devadasi of Ballipadu Madanagopalaswami temple in West Godavari, in good old days) was rather fragmented due to lack of proper pictures and technology. Yet it was informative and interesting to note certain important incidents in the life of this great artiste and her contribution to natyam. It was touching to see the old lady sing her song as she emoted through abhinaya – the audience couldn't help but sigh at the loss of such a superbly sensitive art and artiste.