The essence of the bard’s kritis came into focus in Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala’s ‘Tyagaraja Bhakti Manjari'
The kritis of Tyagaraja are unsurpassed for their majestic arrangement of verse and theme that celebrates the Supreme Being in his various forms. Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala’s school of dance, Kalapradarshini, collated well-known kritis of the saint-poet for her production, ‘Tyagaraja Bhakti Manjari.’
The presentation had an easy appeal that cut across barriers of language and highlighted the basic meaning of the kritis with clarity. With devotion being the common thread, the selection of lyrics carried an assortment of topics on quite a few deities, philosophy and also those that narrated tales of the Puranas.
Effective use of certain tactics amplified the dramatic interest at specific points as well as the broad attraction of the whole presentation as for example, the arrival of the divine couple from the front of the stage, the grand representation of Lord Venkateswara, and five manifestations of Lord Siva.
Thematic productions always need strong orchestral support for best results, and this one featured Hariprasad (vocals) in fine form as also Jaikrishnan on the nattuvangam and Kandadevi Vijayaraghavan on the violin.
With a wide range of ragas such as Saurashtram, Devagandhari, Mohanam and Sahana put forth with alacrity, the audience also had an aural treat. While the pleasant nature and synchronised efforts of the dancing ensured quick comprehension, the glitzy motifs on the costume distracted from the gravity of the theme.
Initially, Parvathi’s role was similar to that of a Sutradhar where she highlighted the main points of the bard’s words. Typically, ‘Sree Ganapathy’ formed the introductory number where five dancers praised the elephant god to which the teacher added her inputs briefly.
In subsequent songs, especially ‘Tera Tiyaga,’ Parvathi went solo to describe the connotations of the ‘curtain’ with her refined abhinaya and stressed the mystic nature of illusion which befuddled the human soul. The culmination of this kriti showed the pose of the Lord of The Seven Hills giving benedictions for the charanam.
The melodious ‘Ksheera Sagara Sayana’ provided a good canvas for the dancers to enact many tales efficiently. The acme of the performance was the granting of the vision of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana for ‘Nannu Palimpa’ following the quick rendering of ‘Nagumomu.’
The homework in integration of music and choreography was commendable with striking tableaus that caught drama in movement at places. One felt that the overall reach would have been sharper but for the uneven manner of mixing of solo and dramatic depictions.
Stretches of dance drama type of performances interspersed with solo abhinaya delineations could have been configured more smoothly, for the sthayi bhava of devotion to take better effect. Having said that, the colourful dancing of ‘Tyagaraja Bhakti Manjari’ succeeded in creating a joyful atmosphere of religious enthusiasm and devotion.