It was enthralling to watch Pt. Birju Maharaj and Padma Subrahmanyam share the stage for a performance.
There was a great deal of excitement in the packed hall in Chennai. The expectations from the rasikas were high, as they wanted to savour the creative spark that would be ignited when two legends came together on stage. The legends in question? Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj and Bharatanatyam exponent Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam.
Amid thunderous applause, the two dancers entered the stage to verses of ‘Boo Sukhtam’ and Adi Sankara’s ‘Gangashtakam’ as an acknowledgement of the environmental catastrophe in Uttarakhand. A small prayer to Lord Ganesha by Padma was followed by the Kathak maestro enthralling us with Bols and Taans.
His comparison of the rhythmic pattern to Radha and Krishna, where each beat of a taal is like Radha, and the ending sam that is a personification of Krishna, made for a unique experience
Pt. Birju Maharaj was in top form as he depicted the difference between the sounds of flying birds and ducks quacking, or two women speaking at different speeds and so on, with deft footwork and abhinaya.
When the maestro explored Krishna’s antics and the gopis lifting their ghoonghat (pallu), the viewer forgot his age and could only see the innocence and charm of the child as portrayed by him.
Padma also rose to the challenge by performing a full length varnam - the 'kuyil paatu' of Subramanya Bharati. The ease with which she changed character from the nayika to the king, spoke of her expertise and was a delight to watch.
The musical aspect
Both these artists are also accomplished musicians, and to showcase this aspect, they took turns to sing the ashtapadis, ‘Yahi Madhava’ and ‘Priye Charusheelae.’
A thillana tuned by Padma in raga Harini was presented by their disciples, Gayathri Kannan and Shaswathi Sen with flourish.
The orchestral team consisted of Gayathri Kannan and Radhika Muthukumar on the vocals, Vijay Raghavan on the mridangam, Karthik on the ghatam, Pathanjali on the flute and Kannan on the maduraveena for Bharatanatyam. For the Kathak part, it was Biswajit Pal on the tabla, Chandrachoor Bhattacharya on the sitar, Anirban Bhattacharya (vocal) and Shaswathi wielding the cymbals.
All good things must come to an end, and as an avid rasika of these legends, I just wanted more. Some other time, some other platform perhaps… for these geniuses can never disappoint you; they can only leave you asking for more.