Shobanaa Bhalchandra will present ‘Paatti Sonna Kathaigal’ on August 22 to mark the 25th anniversary of her dance school

That the classical genre is far from rigid is being proved by the many unconventional and thought-provoking thematic performances that crowd the city’s cultural calendar.

In keeping with the spirit of the time, Bharatanatyam dancer Shobanaa Bhalchandra’s ‘Paatti Sonna Kathaigal’ will have an unusual protagonist — a grandmother. The performance on August 22 (7.30 p.m.) at The Music Academy will mark the 25th anniversary of her dance school Tharanginee. “For the past few years I was thinking of doing something to tell children that classical dance compositions are not only about a forlorn nayika or one who is steeped in sringara rasa or someone waiting endlessly for the hero to return. It’s challenging and exciting to explore the classical realm. As you delve deeper you realise there’s no dearth of ideas. And that the form lends beautifully to your imagination and creativity,” says Shobanaa, a student of the Dhananjayans and Kalanidhi Narayanan.

Youngest of the Trio Sisters of Chennai, she has conceived and choreographed quite a few dance productions including the well-received solo presentation ‘Meera’, set to songs from the classic Indian musical.

Her latest ‘Paatti Sonna Kathaigal’ will be presented by a 35-member troupe that will take up three stories that have messages or morals for children subtly woven into them.

The first one is the popular story of how some hungry birds get caught in the net laid by a hunter as they swoop down to pick at the grains. When they find it difficult to break free, they decide to fly together with the net. “It’s a lovely story of strength in togetherness,” points out Shobanaa. “In a tech-driven world, children are getting extremely isolated and self-absorbed and I feel they need to be made aware of real-world values to enjoy life in the true sense. I hardly see children spending time with their grandmothers and patiently listening to stories, while much of the elders’ time is taken away by TV serials. I have grown up on grandma stories, tales that are embedded in my mind. ‘Paatti Sonna Kathaigal’ is an effort to recreate the images of an era gone by,” adds Shobanaa.

The second story in the performance about monkeys has a touch of humour while the third talks about how a ruler should be. The lyrics have been penned by Revathi Sankaran.

The production will also be performed in a few city schools — Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Rajaji Vidyashram (August 26), Chettinad Vidyashram (August 28), Chennai Public School (August 29), Chinmaya Vidyalaya (August 30), V-Excel Educational Trust (August 30) and Vidya Mandir, Mylapore (September 2) — to make it an inclusive work. “Children’s responses will complete the purpose of my project — of touching lives through art,” smiles Shobanaa.