Bharatanatyam dancer Mithun Shyam’s recent performance in New Delhi was spirited to the core

It is surprising how many good male dancers are sprouting in the Bharatanatyam field. For this development, one has to thank late Rukmini Devi who introduced the male dancer as a performer in his own right, and not as one who impersonated the female dancer. A disciple of Padmini Ramachandran of the Vazhuvoor school, settled in Bangalore, Mithun Shyam gave a spirited recital at the India International Centre, New Delhi, the entire performance from start to finish governed by a high level energy which kept the audience, (pitifully thin with the rains doing no favour by keeping even the willing few away), totally interested. The selection of items and the manner in which tonal changes were brought into the designing of each number saved even oft-repeated items from evoking a sense of déjà vu.

The Mallari entrance on to the stage, while full of verve settled down to a perfect nattuvangam, mridangam and dance rhythm synchronisation only after a few seconds, for at first the dancer seemed out of step. This happened in a few other places too, mainly because the very loud though excellent mridangam by Tanjavur Kesavan, Guru Padmini’s enthusiastic nattuvangam at high decibel level, with the singing layam, in the totality of sound, lost clarity with the dancer missing impeccable footwork rhythm. But Mithun’s Bharatanatyam in the linear dimensions of movement ïn the misra Alarippu with the background singing of Tirruppugazh in Shanmukhapriya, were very correct and he has a more than usual ability for communicating emotion, which became clear in the very opening Chamarajendra Wodeyar composition in Athana “Simana Ganapatim Bhaje ham”, which in the Navarasa passage set to a changed raga, portrayed fleeting, but vivid glimpses of each mood. This opening was also a sanctifying of performance space in the “Jaya Jaya Rangaadi Devi “.

Mithun, in true traditional margam style, performed a shabdam, which hardly any dancer today does. A ragamalika in praise of Goddess Saraswati, “Saraswatiye nada tanmani”, in ragas like Kamboji and Suratti, delighted while capturing images of the Goddess of learning.

Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Charukesi varnam “Ïnnum en manam ariyaadavarpol..” was very intelligently choreographed for a male dancer, with the sahitya imagined as addressed by a fellow cowherd, expressing his feelings of ire, and friendship for his lifelong companion Krishna. The frozen postures interpreting the line “Kuzhaloodum azhaga Kanna” and the manner in which movement later on covered the entire stage expanse, and the Krishna/Sudhama episode strung into the “Ün Naadagamellam” (referring to Krishna the eternal prankster) were evocatively rendered, with the dancer switching from Sudama to Krishna and vice versa very convincingly. With taanam flourishes injected to show the scene of Krishna and companions on the swing and interspersed teermanams, there were constantly changing strains in the rendition.

“Yaro var Yaro”Arunachala Kavirayar’s composition from Rama Natakam describing Rama’s reactions to his first glimpse of Sita on the terrace of the Mithila palace, in the interpretative range showed a dancer with a bright future. The Swati Tirunal Shiva Stotram in Hamsanandi, “Sankara Sri Giri...” was adorned by very melodic accompaniment on the flute by Raghuraman, and this item was a good contrast to the introspective quality of the earlier abhinaya piece.

The finale with Lalgudi Jayaraman’s tillana in Tilang, had a very dramatic rhythmic prelude after which came the nritta and then the prayer to Kartikeya. Ramesh Janaka, an experienced singer, was not very clear in diction in places. It is a pity that these youngsters not known to the Delhi audience, do not attract the type of audience they should.