Delhi audiences saw a number of young Bharatanatyam dancers from southern cities
Meenakshi Srinivasan has a lot going for her — an impressive stage presence, analytical mind with an ability to introduce items herself, clean dance profile with an effortless tone to movement and capacity for involved interpretative dance. At Habitat’s Stein auditorium, her recital “Madhuram Madhavam” built round Krishna began with an invocatory Perialwar verse. The central piece, the varnam woven round verses from Nachiyar Tirumozhi “Aatkollavendum Aiyanne” in ragamalika portrayed saint-poet Andal declaring to the Lord her deep unrequited longing for him. With time running out she implores Manmatha, the dark clouds and the Lord’s conch, as messengers, to convey to Krishna the fire and urgency of her feelings. Very expressive, Meenakshi’s rhythmic interludes, given clarity with tala sense and cleanly articulated araimandi, set too fast a pace — missing out on contrasting nectarine slower mood savouring. The hectic pace with the mincing nadai, with feather-light foot contact, never saw the assertive Bharatanatyam lilt in gait. Holding each moment is also necessary instead of a flurry of motions. In the Meera bhajan in Misra Kamas, acquired from Jamuna Krishnan, Meera, feeling the Lord’s presence in every flower wishes she were a fish in water kissing the Lord’s feet, a cuckoo singing to him as he grazed the cows or a pearl resting forever on his chest.
This poetic lyric was followed by the Gita Govinda ashtapadi “Kuru Yadunandana”, which for this critic fell short of convincingly projecting Radha basking in the after-glow of love, demanding that Krishna repair her disarrayed look with smudged eyes, and undone hair — it is Radha after merging her identity in complete union asking back for her individuality before the ‘lila’ starts all over again. Tillana in Sindhu Bhairavi in which choreography was inspired by Raas movement concluded with a moving Kulasekhara Alwar verse. Melodious, (but still not like live performance) taped music had H. Hariprasad’s vocal, Jayashree providing nattuvangam, Kalaiarasan on violin and Devakrishna on mridangam.
Dancers from Bengaluru
At the Andhra Bhavan, Bangalore’s dancer Satyanarayana Raju’s Samskriti sponsored a three-day event featuring young dancers of his city. The threesome Aparna (Radha Sridhar and Satyanarayana’s disciple), Medha (Purnima Ashok’s student), and Aditi (Satyanarayana’s disciple) performed together. With Srivatsa’s full-throated competent singing, Aditi and Aparna began with pushpanjali in Gambhiranattai. The generally neat geometry of lines, for enhanced effect needed a constant kshipta knee-bend araimandi (occasionally slipped into forward knee bend) and jumps more gracefully rendered.
The Ganapati invocation “Pranamami Siddhivinayaka” by Medha communicated well the qualities of the majestic elephantine tread and large flapping ears. The hymn to Saraswati in Saraswati raga saw the three dancers in neat formations, their diagonal hand stretches exploring different levels, an occasional sukhalasya and a rare image of the Goddess of speech blessing the bhakta with a silver tongue. The “Pradosha Samayati Parashiva Tandava” visualising the Sandhya Tandav of Shiva with urdhva tandav poses and the vigour of Shiva captured in full leg stretches was well rehearsed, with the Nandichol “Nam dhit tom nom” syllables woven in. The dancers, by spreading out more, using the full expanse of the performance space, would have given movements a greater sense of amplitude. All the youngsters have the foundation to build on with greater experience.
Sriranjani (Bangalore’s Sandhya Kiran and Kiran Subramaniam’s disciple) possesses the aptitude for total immersion in the dance as clearly brought out in the Lalgudi Charukesi varnam “Innum en manam teriyadawarpol”. The few teermanams had the stamp of Kiran’s mridangam expertise, though nattuvangam required greater tautness. In the pallavi and anupallavi segments, the episodic narrative sancharis woven in did not quite fit the meaning of the sahitya, where it is ‘Manamohana’ Krishna, the charmer who is the object of the gopi/nayika’s adoration, and Krishna’s rescue of Draupadi or Prahalad strike an entirely different tone — apart from inducing the vocalist into a taanam rendition when the scenes are enacted, diverting from the integrity of the Lalgudi composition. The best of the dancer’s abhinaya exultation was in the Kamas javali “Era Ra Ra”, the uninhibited sringar giving the love call to “Marajanaka sukumara sundara” very convincing. A Maharajapuram Santanam tillana in Shivaranjani completed the recital. One must commend the mridangam by Lingaraj. On flute, providing a fine Valachi alap to Dwarki Krishnaswamy’s composition was Raghuraman while nattuvangam was by Shakuntala.
The second evening’s vibrant male group comprised Mithunshyam, Madhuchandra and Srinivasan. After pushpanjali, the Revati “Mahadeva Shiva Shambho”, with the Natesha kavutvam, Shiva epithets from Rudrachamakam spun into the choreography, saw the participants enjoying performing. The Kanaka Dasa bhajan “Baagilannu teradu…” with the Gajendramoksha, Prahladavijayam and Draupadi samrakshanam sequences was very dramatic, Mithunshyam as the wily Shakuni, Srinivasan as distressed Draupadi and Madhuchandra in the more sobre roles well chosen and rendered. The Balamurali tillana in Brindavani had the three dancers together after a solo korvai each.
Purnima Ashok a senior dancer, following her guru V.P. Dhananjayan, named the Papanasam Sivan varnam in Nattakuranji as Nrityopaharam. A confident and poised performer, the pallavi line “Saami naan undan adimai enru ulagamellam ariyume” (That I am your devoted servant is universally known) one felt, the interpretative attitude called for greater humility and submission. The provenance of the varnam being Chidambaram, it is the dancing Shiva who needed interpretative emphasis with a passing reference to the Ardhanariswara idea. Teermanams needed immaculate nattuvangam precision. “Itu sahasamulu” the Swati Tirunal javali wherein the nayika, as a shrinking violet before the advancing Nayaka, pleads for more time before maturing into a fit love companion, and the Oothukadu song in folk style, “Veshamakkara Kannan” were performed with communicative élan. The fine Balamurali tillana in Behag saw excellent mridangam support.
Intelligently conceived, Tyagaraja Vaibhavam with three finished dancers Satyanaryana Raju, Saundarya Srivatsa and Subhashini Vasant, showed how far Bharatanatyam had come from the days when Balasaraswati with horror exclaimed “They are now dancing to Tyagaraja kritis too.” Post-pushpanjali in Nagaswarawali came the Tyagaraja kriti “Sri Ganapati nee sevimparare” in raga Saurashtram, the three dancers moving with perfect technique and expressional felicity. Tall and statuesque, with clean stretches, Saundarya gave a moving interpretation of Tyagaraja’s Kalyani kriti “Niditsala Sukhama?” — “Can riches compete with the joy of serving Lord Rama, singing his praises,” Tyagaraja asks after rejecting the summons from the king.
All three dancers used the beauty of “Nada-tanumanisham Shankaram” in Chittaranjani wherein homage is offered to Shankara who wears ‘Nada’ as his body — who has mastery over the Sama Veda from which have come the swaras Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni. Each swara is the sound from Nature’s creatures — all shown in the interpretation, with solfa passages woven in for nritta. Satyanaryana showed his abhinaya prowess in the Kamboji “Ma Janaki” wherein Sita is extolled as the virtuous one who paved the way for Rama’s greatness — waiting to be rescued by Rama after destroying Ravana, whereas one burning look from her chaste eyes would have rendered the demon to ashes. Salient bits of a Reetigowla kirtana were woven into the rendition for choreography.
It was Krishna homage by Subhashini in “Ganamurte” where the charmer with the flute, who manifested as Narasimha, who got the better of Narakasura is visualised. The marathon Sri raga “Endaro Mahanubhavulu” with all the solfa passages was done with great flair by the three dancers, with Satyanarayana rendering the Shabari episode which he does with such aplomb. Vocal support by a classical musician like Srivatsa enhanced the excellent effort. Organiser Usha R.K. deserves kudos for helping select the kirtanas. Dr. Sunil Kothari and dancer Pratibha Prahlad were also honoured for their contribution to the dance.
With reference to the story “Gala with tala” carried in Friday Review, February 8, noted Kuchipudi dancer Deepika Reddy’s guru is Vempati Chinna Satyam, and not Kishore Mosalikanti as mentioned. The error is regretted.