‘Penmai Sudar,' by Parvati Ravi Ghantasala, was a visual treat. U. Shrinivas' mandolin was enchanting, and Unnikrishnan's fulfilling.
Parvathi Ravi Gantasala's dance ballet ‘Penmai Sudar' depicted five women representing great qualities, Sita (patience), Andal (perseverence), Manimekalai (mercy), Avvaiyar (intelligence) and Queen Chennamma (bravery) as part of Tirupur Shanmukhananda Sabha's ‘Isai Amudham 2012.' Parvathi had chosen characters from the puranas, literature and history.
Sita and Andal have been depicted quite often on stage. But Manimekalai and Avvaiyar, though well-known, have rarely been heroines of dance ballets.
Madhavi's daughter Manimekalai became an ascetic and dedicated her life to feeding people with the divine ‘Amudha Surabhi', thus becoming a living symbol of mercy.
Avvaiyar's intelligence was so highly respected by the kings that King Athiyaman gifted her the rare and invaluable gooseberry he got as a gift. The fruit was supposed to give one longer life. He thought she deserved to live longer.
Parvathi had also included the historic incident concerning Chennamma, the queen of Keladi (a state in Karnataka) who had fought with Aurangazeb's forces in order to protect Shivaji's son, to whom she had given refuge.
These episodes were not very colourful as it is difficult to present Manimekalai (an ascetic), Avvayar (an old lady) and Keladi Chennamma (a warrior) as attractive characters in a dance drama.
Moreover, when experienced dancers play the lead roles against much younger male dancers, the appeal is certainly reduced. However, Bhavajan as Hanuman and Sivakumar as Ravana were impressive. The music and the script helped lift the performance.
The enchanting mandolin recital by U. Shrinivas to the accompaniment of V.V. Srinivasa Rao on the violin, Tiruchi Hari Kumar on the mridangam and Guruprasad on the ghatam drew a large crowd. The soft notes in Thodi wafted through and he began with Patnam Subramania Iyer's varnam, ‘Era Naa Pai.'
‘Sidhi Vinaayakam Seveham' in Mohana Kalyani and ‘Evarani Nirnayinchiriraa' in Devamruthavarshini were brisk with lively swaraprastaras. The delicate beauty of Mayamalavagowla was brought out during the alapana preceding ‘Tulasidhalamula.' Ahiri was melodious and soft and Mysore Vasudevachar's ‘Bhajare Maanasa Sri Raghuveeram' appeared majestically. During the brilliant Ragam Tanam Pallavi in the Ghana ragas, (Nattai, Gowla, Arabhi, Varali, Sri) each raga stood out in all its grandeur. The animated swarakalpana session became magical with the wonderful support of the accompanists. The bonhomie on the stage was a delight to watch. During the thani, Harikumar proved to be a power house of energy and Guruprasad wove sharp and distinct patterns on his ghatam. Shrinivas presented some of the popular songs before winding up.
P. Unnikrishnan was at his melodic best though he did not make any attempt to introduce anything new. Saveri, Sriranjani, Kalyanavasantham, Kunthalavarali and Thodi brought in the various moods and made the concert truly fulfilling. The briga-rich delineations of the ragas filled the rasikas with pleasure as well as admiration. The intricacies of the raga danced forth during the niraval for ‘Vel Maruvum Amala Kara Kamalaa' (‘Karthikeya Gaangeya'). Ace violinist R.K. Sriram Kumar's depth and expertise were evident when he depicted the ragas and followed the vocalist with sensitive understanding. Solo percussionist K.V. Prasad's mridangam was lively and enjoyable as he offered stiff competition to himself. As expected, Unnikrishnan satisfied the audience with a generous gift of lighter songs.
During the earlier slots, students of Srutilaya from Tirupur, Sneha from Coimbatore and Aadharshini sang enthusiastically.