How does the cycle of Karma affect the lives of all beings? Upon whom does the burden of our actions fall? The law of Dharma which dictates the inexorable nature of retribution for one’s deeds, formed the leitmotif of Urmila Satyanarayana’s ‘Apurva Purva’ performed at The Narada Gana Sabha.
The Krishna avatara comes to an end in the episode where a hunter mistakes Krishna’s foot for a deer and shoots a fatal arrow. The hunter is horrified at this turn of events, whereupon Krishna consoles him by imparting the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita through many tales. This, in a nutshell, was the storyline.
Krishna, as the voice of righteousness, the hunter as the one seeking absolution, Vaali, Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Kuchela, Draupadi and Devaki, were some characters in the telling of Apurva. With costume, hair style and jewellery designed to resemble Krishna’s persona, Urmila presented close to an hour and a half of continuous dancing with dramatic effect.
Despite the solemnity of the main story, the artist’s visualisation of the central character, Krishna, and his smiling acceptance of fate uplifted the tone of the dancing. The composition took care in interlacing a variety of emotions that made it engrossing. The hunter’s initial euphoria at setting out and his horror on discovering the fatal accident established the focus of the presentation.
Rama’s surreptitious defeat of Vaali highlighted the reason for the mishap in Krishna’s incarnation. Similarly, other anecdotes were narrated with ample histrionics to correlate the turn of events in each tale and highlight the cause and effect connections.
A major factor in the presentation was the close harmony of dance and music. Swamimalai S.K. Suresh, who was responsible for the music composition and the fluid singing, was also at the helm with his steady nattuvangam. The other members of the orchestra -- Dhananjayan on the mridangam, Kalaiarasan on the violin and Devarajan on the flute -- blended their inputs with those of the dancer. Mellifluous swaras in ragas such as Keeravani, Revati and Desh lent their hue to the artist’s expressive depictions. Lyrics for the dancing were provided by Shatavadhani Ganesh.
If energetic moves, adavus and postures formed the framework of the dancing, facial expressions, hand gestures and relevant poses depicting the mythic deities fleshed out the roles. A sari-style screen as a backdrop, the image of a tree beamed onto it and a seat were stage props that were skilfully used to show Krishna and his situation at one corner of the stage. Sensitive use of the lighting effects added to the performance.
This did not mean the presentation was without imperfections. Some depictions could have been described in brevity for better impact. For example the Vaali episode could have been trimmed since this was dealt with twice. Also, minute details in episodes like that of Devaki meandered away and certainly the seat upon which Krishna sat could have been given a more artistic touch. Nevertheless, for a first time presentation this was endowed with the asset of artistry to evolve commendably.
In all, Urmila’s seamless natyam linking one parable to another gave the production its core strength.