While the ‘jugalbandi' of Bombay Jayashri and Priyadarshini Govind was a class affair, Pallavi Saran Mathur needed a bit more staying power.
When a musician of the calibre of Bombay Jayashri and a dancer like Priyadarsini Govind decide to coordinate and harmonise their artistic imagination in a melodic/visual journey, it can only be a unique experience for the audience — and so it was, a unique Bharatanatyam evening at the Habitat Centre's Stein auditorium. The starting prayer to Kartikeya based on Tirrupugazh verses “Eruvai, karuvai, tanile, uruvai” in Behag, in the unusual intermeshing of word, melody and rhythm, set the tone for the recital. The climax was the marathon Shyama Sastry swarajati in Bhairavi, “Amba Kamakshi”, which in every way lived up to the artistic effulgence of the vaggeyekara's musical creation, in the manner in which both dance and music seemed to merge in one journey of seeking inner fulfilment.
The sonorous recitative start with the dhyana shloka of Lalita Sahasranamam “Sindhooraaruna vigrahaam trinayanaam” had already ushered in the meditative quiet and in the detailed description of Goddess Kanchi Kamakshi, the cross pollination between singer and dancer was such that Jayashri's music seemed to evoke visual images while Priyadarshini's dance interpretation acquired a special musicality. In the high point “Shivashankari, Parameshwari, Bhairavi” line, attitudes expressing both the benign and the ferocious aspects of the Devi and the intensity and silence evoked by the performance created a rare artistic throb. Balakrishnan's nattuvangam, with the teermanams (as is the trend today) composed by mridangist Shaktivel Muruganandam, Raghuraman on flute and Srikanth on violin, added up to a strong team of accompanists.
After such an unforgettable experience, the Jayadeva ashtapadi in Karna Ranjani appeared over-dramatised, in portraying Radha's anguished jealousy at Krishna's sporting with the gopis, in “Rase Harimiha vihita vilasam”, the rendition losing out on lyricism and subtlety. With the other interpretative item, a Dharmapuri Subbarayar javali in Kapi, “Parulanna mata namma voddu prana nayaka”, Priyadarshini was on strong terrain, and the experienced nayika cleverly persuading the nayaka not to be misled by the poisoned talk of the other woman was communicated with abhinaya finesse, Jayashri's involved singing adding considerably to the conviction of the message.
The pure rhythm item, a combination of swaras, taanam, multiplicity of ragas, in its multi-pacing created an expansive canvas for abstract music and movement, which in Priyadarshini's dance acquires a specially chiselled profile.
Intelligent and talented Pallavi Saran Mathur, diligently trained by Guru Sonal Mansingh, has all the potential for a bright future in Bharatanatyam. With an excellent feel for rhythm and fractional intervals of a tala, she also is into her own choreography. There is however a restless profusion about her dance and movements which need more of staying power and a stillness which should come with the years. Selecting a theme on an abstract phenomenon like ‘Omkaara', exploring the mystic web of Indian metaphysics, posed a challenge for the choreographer to translate into dance images.
The original vibration of all time emanating from latent divinity, manifesting as Aum incorporating the energies of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, in nrityanjali set to Valaji ragam and Adi talam, took on a strong rhythmic resonance, “Taritajam ritajham tajham” which, while well executed, with R. Keshavan's added nattuvangam punch (a bit too loud), did not quite fit in with the mood of quietude, which the subject demanded.
The varnam in Latangi “Nee manam erangi vandarulvai Neelamayil vaahanane” a composition of Andavan Pichchai, is a fervent call to the Lord of ‘Omkaara' Kartikeya, the rider of the peacock, who rescued his own father Lord Shiva when the latter's knowledge completely forsook him, by teaching him the Pranava Mantra. The interpretative passages revolved round Kartikeya's unusual birth, his love for the “kaavadi”and his destruction of the asura. He is described as flanked by Devayani and Valli his consorts. The rhythmic interludes were set by mridangist R. Sriganesh.
Pallavi's abhinaya is more dramatic than internalised and tends to be monochromatic in repeated musical lines, the mukhabhinaya sans subtle variety. Notwithstanding the correctness, thinning out the movement choreography in the teermanams too would emphasise the linear statuesque dignity of Bharatanatyam more. Balamurali's “Omkaara Kaarini” in Lavangi and Maha Vaidyanatha Shivam's fine Poorvi tillana (with rhythmic flourishes deftly woven into fractional points of the tala) embodying the seven musical notes as manifestations of the divine were wise choices reinforcing the mystic concept. K. Venkateshwaran (vocal), VSK Annadorai (violin) and K. Raghuraman (flute) gave good support. Sriganesh's mridangam accompaniment had tonal melody. With a certain minimalism quelling restless exuberance, Pallavi's dance will have a greater impact.