The Durbar tana varnam exhibited the growth of Kiran Rajagopalan as an accomplished dancer.
As Kiran Rajagopalan completes five years in India as a full-time student of Bharatanatyam, training under dancer-teacher A. Lakshman and abhinaya-specialist Bragha Bessell alongside a post graduate qualification, one can certify that he has crossed over from being an outsider trying to get in the door of the artists’ world, to an insider whose artistic journey has begun. He had previously learnt Bharatanatyam in North America from Asha Prem, Prasanna Kasthuri and Sujatha Srinivasan.
Kiran’s involvement began with the repertoire - the first was a viruttam, ‘Manamayakkum Isai’ (ragamalika) by Oothukadu Venkatasubbaiyer that draws a beautiful picture of Krishna playing the flute on the banks of the Yamuna, liking him to a king seated on a throne surrounded by adoring people and dancing courtesans.
Kiran’s best however was the Darbar tana varnam, ‘Daari Teliyaka,’ in Khanda jathi ata tala (14 beats) composed by Patnam Subramania Iyer. He was inspired to learn it after watching Vilasini Natyam artist Swapna Sundari’s performance. It must have been a challenge as nayika bhava is a litmus test for a male dancer. Kiran’s portrayal of a hurt and betrayed heroine was restrained yet clear as he got across the message of sarcasm and anger effectively. He plunged unexplored depths with his involvement; this is where Kiran the student began his journey as an artist.
The euphoria was sadly short-lived. As much as Kiran climbed up on the skill scale in the varnam, the greater was his fall in the Devagandhari kriti, ‘Enneramum’ (Adi, Gopalakrishna Bharathi) choreographed by dancer-teacher Sujatha Srinivasan, in which his engagement was negligible. Emoting every word does not constitute good abhinaya as he must well know; it is the mood that is important.
Kiran’s nritta has always been painstaking -- his style is clean with no evidence of shortcuts. The thillana (Hindolam with a ragamalika charana, Adi, K.N. Dandayudhapani Pillai) was especially good in terms of Kiran’s sustained energy and correct finishes.
A. Lakshman’s skills with the nattuvangam and timekeeping have improved over the years. With a fresh dose of confidence, he has taken to adding intonations in the jathi rendering. He had a supportive team in K. Hariprasad (vocal) and Nellai D. Kannan (mridangist), the former helping with cues and the latter guiding him through rhythmic forays. Hariprasad was melodious as evident in his Arabhi (‘Mahadevasutha Maham,’ Adi, Dr. Balamuralikrishna) warm up, though the chauka kala varnam proved a bit uncomfortable; R. Kalaiarasan (violin) was a steady source of melody while Kannan’s bright play enlivened the performance.