Sri Bhakta Andal is an aural and visual treat.
Music and histrionics made Sri Bhakta Andal, the story of the composer of Tiruppavai, a memorable experience. A supreme devotee of Krishna, she wanted to unite with Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. An incarnation of Bhudevi, she merges with the deity at the temple in the presence of her father Periyazhwar. The metamorphosis of Vishnuchitar as Periyazhwar and the role played by his wife, the episodes involving the Pandya King and the appearance of Kodhai in the garden were beautifully captured.
The artists of Nadaga Kavalar Kalaikoodam excelled in the presentation. Periyazhwar’s outburst on seeing the garland he has made (untouched by Kodhai) slipping from Ranganatha’s shoulders, for instance. The song “Shenbaga malligaiyodu senkazhuneer iruvaatchi yena…” in S.N. Surendar’s voice was moving. Periyazhwar is delighted when young Kodhai brings her garland and the Lord accepts it with the words, “Soodi kodutha Nachiyar Em Aandaal, Emmai aandaal.” The curtain came down with ‘Pallandu…’ One section of the celestial drama is over leaving Periyazhwar to continue his service to Ranganatha.
Script by Ngerkoil Krishnan was gripping. Stage scene artist Chockalingam’s dramascope scene settings were a feast to the viewers’ eyes. K.R.S. Kumar as producer and director had taken care to manoeuvre quick scene changes, trick shots etc. just as his guru the late R.S. Manohar had done. He mentions Guna, Saidai Kumar and Mano among those who helped him behind the stage. Live re-recording by Alex on key board and Sridhar as sound engineer did a good job. The period costume and make-up spoke volumes of the effort taken.
Jayanthi as Andal, brought the character alive through her acting and singing. In an aside, Jayanthi said that this was an award for her continuous visit to the Krishna temple in Gopalapuram in the month of Margazhi. “For the past ten years it has been my practice to be at the shrine between 3.15 and 6 a.m., singing hymns and worshipping the deity. It is a privilege to play the role of Andal,” she said.
Six-year old R. Saravana Kumar captivated the audience as child Kodhai and lending voice to two of her friends.
A delectable highlight was the five-minute screening of the pictures of 108 Divya Desams through LCD projector. The play offered a wholesome aesthetic and spiritual experience. It may be appropriate to stage the show in temples and schools; if needed it may be tailored to suit the forum.