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Updated: January 10, 2013 20:38 IST

Dancers, mind your diction

S. Sivakumar
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V.A.K. Ranga Rao presenting lecture demonstration at German Hall in Chennai. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
V.A.K. Ranga Rao presenting lecture demonstration at German Hall in Chennai. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

V.A.K. Ranga Rao cited examples to drive home the point.

The contribution of Annamayya, Kshetrayya and Sarangapani to natya was dealt with at length by Dr. V.A.K. Ranga Rao, who presented a lecture-demonstration on the subject for the Indian Fine Arts Society at Balamandir German Hall.

The Telugu Academy, Hyderabad, mentions the period of Annamayya as 1408 to 1503; another places his year of birth as 1424. Kshetrayya was a 17th century poet whereas Sarangapani belonged to the 19th century. Certain historical facts about Kshetrayya are contained in his songs. Sarangapani was an officer in the service of the Government and he started making his compositions only after 1857. All this becomes relevant as the period during which the vaggeyakaras lived and their life style would help in appreciating their work better, observed Rao, who launched into his presentation after thanking all his gurus, especially Malladi Rmakrishna Sastry and Arudhragaru.

Annamayya’s songs had certain (lakshanas) traits. For instance, they did not have anupallavi. “I skimmed through 12,000 of his compositions and came across something that resembled an anupallavi in four of five,” he said. However, this Padha Kavitha Pithamaha had the habit of composing three charanams. Kshetrayya on the other hand had lent distinct form to the anupallavi. In all his songs, about 60 to 70, the anupallavi becomes very important, musically. Ranga Rao cited examples to show that how in Kshetrayya’s songs the anupallavi and pallavi could change places. He was strongly against the practice of starting the song from the anupallavi. “The composer has commenced the song at the pallavi and we need to respect his sentiments,” he asserted.

Annamayya, he said, had only two concerns. One, dealing with all aspects of the love that existed between Venkateswara and Padmavathi and the other uplift of the mass through his music. Kshetrayya touched a chord in the heart of the listener. His descriptions of the sexual response of the male and the female are statements of art, rich in their amorous elements. “Please understand that what we find here is not the mere physical rapture that is manifested but the composers’ preoccupation with the state of mind of the one in love or the one pining for love.”

Sarangapani was adept at dealing with the mundane (samaanya). His songs talk of the women’s life in terms of her avarice, her libidinousness, her unfettered behaviour and so on. Even though some women made themselves available for money they had some norms too.

Coming to dancers, his complaint was that he never heard the sound of the anklets. He had heard it during the time of Bala even for songs portraying pathos. Dancers ought to exercise abundant care in getting to the proper text, proper pronunciation and proper splitting of words (Padha chedha) that would convey the correct meaning. He gave fitting examples here. Panneeru during those days would not have meant rose water. It could have only meant cool water (himambavu) i.e. dew, which is melted snow. The recommendation in this context was only for drinking cool water when one is suffering from viraha. In the familiar ‘Paluku tenela Talli’ it is wrong to display early morning when this line is uttered; one ought to paint a picture of sun already having risen.

In another song the words ‘Alakala Kulukula’ do not mean lovely hair but feigned indifference or anger. In yet another line in a different song, ‘Apakeerthi Kodi Katti’ is depicted as the tying of the flag which in effect gives a Tamil meaning to a Telugu word (the word kodi). Some dancers even have had the temerity to change the word Ayyayo to Ammamo in a Kshtetrayya Padam on the grounds that it would be inauspicious.

His constant reiterative plea was this: dancers incorporate Telugu terms according to their whims and fancies. This should stop. They should refer to the lexicon (nigandu). This may mean extra effort but this would help them communicate in a better way to the audience, through their abhinaya.


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