As the curtains went up on Monday morning at the Krishna Gana Sabha, all one saw on the stage was a robust peacock strutting around wide-eyed and smitten with its unfurled plume. With Lord Shanmukha mount on its back, they set sail to Kailasam to meet lord Shiva. Opening her performance with the traditional ‘Shanmukha Kauthvam’, Nrithya Pillai sizzled and dazzled from the go. Set to Ragam Shanmukhapriya and Mohanam, interspersed with the Chatusra Allaripu, with powerful Nattuvangam by Jayashri Ramnath and some excellent flute by Devaraj, the opening was thoroughly enjoyable.
Following that with ‘Manavi chekona raada’ a traditional Tanjore quartet Varnam set to Raagam Shankarabharanam with liberal Jatis choreographed by Ramaiah Pillai, “We do it different in our style”, Nrithya announced with an air of pride before she began. It couldn’t have been better placed coming from the great granddaughter of Vuzhavoraar and granddaughter of Swamimalai Rajarathnam Pillai. While her Nritta sequences were well-timed with clear lines and arresting teermanams, Nrithya could have been better in her abhinaya. Repetitive sancharis added to her hunched shoulders and an unknown haste seemed to limit her performance. The Nayika’s pining for Lord Brihadeeshwara was satisfactory at its best. If Roshni Ganesh would have got the sahityam right with her beautiful voice, Lord Brihadeeshwara would have voluntarily arrived at the nayika’s appeal. She effortlessly harped on ‘Panta milara’ for long, not realizing her mispronunciation and the Lord didn’t seem enough pleased. At some point the mridangam player seemed to fall asleep.
After an unimpressive attempt at an Annamayya keertana and a Kannada Javali, Nritya went ahead to perform a Tillana composed by Samu Nattuvanar, the grandfather of Ramaiah Pillai. Legend goes that the Nattuvanar composed this overnight in the honour of Chamarajenda Wodeyar of Mysore. Bright and vivacious, Nritya bounced back to her true self that had simmered in the two earlier pieces. Nritya has an enviable lineage to flaunt, an excellent stage presence and a distinct style of her own, unlike many other youngsters of the Vuzhavoor baani. If she can polish her act, she could easily be one of the big names to look forward to in the coming years.
(Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and Culture critic)