"My guru was like a bee collecting honey from different flowers, he took the best from the different vidwans," said Sri Nedunuri Krishnamurthy

Kalakshetra wore a look of festivity and anticipation on Wednesday, the first day of Svanubha 2012. With performances by Carnatic giants like Nedunuri R. Krishnamurthy, students from over 30 schools and colleges gathered at the Rukmini Devi Arangam couldn’t have asked for a grander opening day.

Kalakshetra students took the stage first with a Raas Leela. The kummi dance with Lord Krishna playing and dancing among them was a visual delight.

Then came the doyen. Sri Nedunuri, accompanied by Malladi Ravikumar, H.N. Bhaskar, M.L.N. Raju and Dr. S. Karthick transported the gathering to another era altogether. T.M. Krishna put the richness of Sri Nedunuri’s musical tradition in perspective - “Neduneri Sir’s Guru Shri Pinaka Panigaru is turning 100 tomorrow. We are indeed honoured to have him with us.”

Sri Nedunuri’s repertoire comprised of Shree Guru Paalame; A tarangam in Ragam Khamas, Taalam Aadi; a composition of Sadguru Narayana Teertha. This was followed by ‘Janaki Ramana and Maatangi Shri Rajarajeshwari.

The main Raaga of the concert was Karaharapriya, rendered in Saumitri Bhagyame, Taalam Aadi. He concluded with Aadi Deva Paramatma, Sindubhairavi, Taalam Aadi.

Ever a student of the art

Answering questions from the audience, Sri Nedunuri said, “Raga gnanam is God’s gift. Sometimes amateurs sing better than professionals. Selection of the Guru is also very important. We have been singing for 60 years now; we still don’t know anything. That is art.”

“My guru was like a bee collecting honey from different flowers, he took the best from the different vidwans,” he added.

The Anjika Manipuri dance troupe began with a Dasavataram presentation from Gita Govindam followed by a dynamically choreographed Pung Cholam dance. After that rhythmic piece, the subtlety of dancers was brought out in the sankeertan, a ritualistic prelude to the Raas. The Vasanth raas was followed by the Raas leela. This had the Sakhis gliding gracefully on to the stage in glittering garbs. The end pose was a tableau of devotion when the deities came alive in the dancers, what with floral offerings and aarthi. The concluding piece was the Dhol cholam, with acrobatic one-legged pirouettes, which wowed the young audience.

“I am a western music student but I love watching all forms of Dance. I think the experience of Svanubhava will help me develop my skills.” said Maya of KFI School.

A perspective on temples

The post lunch session began with a lecture presentation by Dr. Chithra Madhavan on ‘Temples as social, economic and cultural centres’. She retold the story of our ‘stones’ set one upon the other by skilled and unskilled labourers that resulted in unparalleled sculpture art.

Dr. Chitra presented slides on ancient temples that had college, hostel and hospital facilities, making them not only places of worship but hubs of learning, social convenience and a source of economy over the centuries.

Temple precincts provide employment for vendors, the Sthala vriksham or the temple tree has medicinal values and the temple tank provides for water harvesting. Sangeetham and Natyam are mandatory part of Shodacha upacharam.

Temple architecture has been a passion since the age of 13, Dr. Chithra said in response to a question. “The growth of temples is need-based and the influx of people contributed to its hugeness. Besides artistes, it is the duty of all architects and historians to resurrect temples. The crux is to involve the local people.”

Topped off with theatre

The last session of the day, Land of Ashes – a theatre presentation by Indianostrum was, as introduced by T.M. Krishna, “spectacular and riveting.” Using a black drape to cover the depth of the stage, the actors could depict the locales of the Mandapam camp of Rameshwaram, Jaffna, Sri Lankan village of Valvattuthurai and others. The viewers could well identify with the lands of strife.

Actor Cordis Paldano, playing the character of Le Bomb, Gunduvedi and others provided comic relief and had the audience in splits.

The director, Koumarane Velavan, was glad that he could present the place at the same venue where the idea had germinated.

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