In ‘Prakruthi-Manushya,’ Renjith and Vijna were brisk and stayed true to the lyrical score. Dignified role play marked the performances of Sreelatha Vinod and Athena Madhu in ‘Griha Baandhavam.’ Rupa Srikanth

As much as the dancers brought to life different human relationships in Natyarangam’s ‘Baandhava Bharatham’, the introductory lectures delivered everyday by Dr. Sudha Seshayyan, a medical doctor, administrator and an authority on Tamil and Sanskrit literature and the puranas, brought new perspectives to these relationships through little-known anecdotes and mythological references.

Renjith and Vijna’s Bharatanatyam recital on ‘Prakruthi-Manushya’ Baandhava (Nature-Man relationship) underlined an important principle that despite Bharatanatyam being a visual art, it is the music that makes the biggest difference.

The musical score in this instance was most inspiring, lyrical and airy, with the mood being highlighted rather than the words. It was composed by senior dancer-musician-guru Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar and performed with great sensitivity by K. Hariprasad (vocal), Kandadevi S. Vijayaraghavan (violin), Srutisagar (flute), K.P. Ramesh Babu (percussion) and Gireesh Menon (nattuvangam).

Inspired by the beautiful, dancing swaras, the dancers responded with a well-rehearsed and most importantly, a well-thought out show.

The awakening of the Pure Consciousness in raga Jog, was conceived as a slow progression in music and movements, from the bare raga explored in relative silence, to a brisk tanam with percussion and ending in a rather ponderous theermanam in which steps were performed for the first part of the tala cycle, leaving large blanks of space in silence.

Complemented with sumptuous yellow lights (Murugan, Madhusudanan), the effect was ethereal.

The subsequent creation of the Panchabhootha, the five elements, was another masterful segment with ragas Nalinakanti, Brindavanasaranga, Revathi, Amritavarshini and Bahudari, employed as lilting swaras or just the Sanskrit name sung in the raga, often accompanied by low-pitched rendering of sollus.

The dancing couple was brisk, well-coordinated and covered the stage space without being too obvious, staying true to the poetic music.

Renjith and Vijna’s style was not about sophistication but about the enthusiasm and warmth they brought to their roles. The result was visually elevating scenes that flowed logically. Thus the discovery of the five senses by early man was dramatic and logical at the same time, peppered with a bit of theatrical mime for a comical twist. Early man and woman discover chemistry, and civilisation begins...

It was after this that one felt a certain indulgence creep in, when scenes were longer than necessary and ennui built up. Objective editing would have kept the recital crisp.

Lesson to be learned

Bharatanatyam dancers and sisters-in-law – Sreelatha Vinod and Athena Madhu – showed enough harmony to be role models for their theme, ‘Griha Baandhavam’ (Relationships at home) as they navigated stories from the Puranas and history to underline sacrifices people made for each other in families. Stories of Bhishma and Shantanu, Humayun and Babar, Karna and Kunti, Rama and Lakshmana, Ravana and Vibheeshana, and Bhagiratha and his ancestors, deserve full marks for their appropriateness and for their sincere representation. They were couched within a conversation between grandfather and grandson that served as a cohesive link between the episodes. The dancers were dignified in their role play and displayed excellent co-ordination; yet there was a sense of heaviness that ran through the production.

There were a couple of reasons that could have led to this - one being the many examples leading to a case of a content-heavy programme. The other could be the music that was largely lyric-based, and gave little room for enjoying the tunes as swaras, tanams, or just alapanas.

There was also a sense of predictability in the visualisation - most episodes commenced with a tillana-like sequence that was set to rhythmic beats before the actual enactment of the story.

There were some instances that caught the eye and spoke volumes of the dancers’ sincerity.

The story of Bhishma was interestingly told with suspenseful pauses that gave nothing away while the highlight of the Humayun-Babar story was the split-second timing of the father’s death and the son coming [back] to life. The best was when Lakshmana came back to life on the battlefield. He resumed his role of the angry young man so effortlessly, as if taking up from where he had left off. Rama saw this angry energy and for once did not try to calm him, he was so happy.

There was a powerful lesson to be learnt from the grandfather-father angle, something that had a take-home value. The finale was interesting with the ‘happy home’ vignettes, but these moments were not enough to salvage the recital.

The dancers were accompanied by Roshini Ganesh (vocal), Jayashree Ramesh (nattuvangam), Vedakrishnaram (mridangam), Kalaiarasan (violin), Chaithanya (flute) and Sasirekha Raammohan (voice-overs).