Mohiniyattom, by definition, is graceful and sinuous, and Gopika Verma’s performance for Sri Krishna Gana Sabha bore this. She began her performance with a Cholkettu in Chakravaham to which she had choreographed various rhythmic patterns in the pallavi. The invocatory slokam was in praise of Ganesha and the undulating gait of the elephant as Gopika exited the stage was beautifully performed.
The following abhinaya pieces were all compositions of Maharaja Swati Tirunal. The first of these was ‘Bhogindra Sayinam’, a keerthanam in praise of Lord Padmanabha reclining on the serpent. Gopika elaborated the story of the sage Divakara who, seeing the interest of a little child in his daily prayers, allows the child to help him. The child swallows the very Saligramam that the sage uses for his prayers. When the sage slaps the child in anger, the child disappears and the sage realises the child is none other than Lord Padmanabha. The rest of the story takes the sage to Ananthapura where the ‘uppu manga’ that he offered to the deity is still offered in prayers at the temple till today.
Gopika also described the way untouchables were allowed into the temple premises by the then ruler. Her abhinaya while depicting the untouchable who saw Lord Padmanabha through each of the three doors of the sanctum sanctorum for the first time, was very apt and touching. Indeed, the entire performance was marked by highly imaginative abhinaya, performed in a detailed and down-to-earth manner that was easily understandable, though connoisseurs of subtle abhinaya may have found parts of it too graphic.
Even the concept of birth and death being the same, as depicted in the bhajan ‘Visweswara Darshanakara, Chal Man Tum Kashi’ was laid out in detail, with the abhinaya taking us through the life of a man from birth through his growing up years and aging to finally burning at a pyre and turning into ashes. The graphic detail came through well, however, in the depiction of the containing of Ganga in all her tumultuous glory within the locks of Siva’s hair.
‘Ramyanayoru Purushan’ narrated the dream of the heroine where she had a nocturnal visitor whom she identifies as Lord Padmanabha after considering that Cupid was not as handsome, that there was no third eye (Haran) and that Soman’s face had too many blemishes. Gopika concluded her performance with a tillana in Bhoopalam choreographed by her teacher Kalamandalam Sugandhi and a slokam on Ayyappa.
The musical accompaniment for the performance was extremely melodious. Sudev Warrier’s voice enhanced the emotion in the dance and he immersed himself completely in the music. M.S. Sukhi on the mridangam was excellent, lending life to the traditionally unhurried pace of the nritta without being overpowering. Jaishankar on the edakkai and Vinod Kumar on the violin provided the musical background while the several stories were elaborated. Vipina Ramachandran wielded the cymbals.