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Bhakti dominates

Chitra Visweswaran... fleet-footed.

WHY ARE the senior dancers switching from the mundane emotions of life to bhakti? Does it pose a greater challenge for them? ``Namamritha Sagaram," a thematic presentation by Chitra Visweswaran in Bharat Kalachar consisted of three kritis of Papanasam Sivan in praise of Krishna.

The members of the orchestra were: R.Visweswaran, vocal, assisted by Sushanth performing Nattuvangam, Sukanya Ravindar (mridangam), Jagadish Janardhanan (flute), T. Saravanan, violin Veeramani, special sound-effects Parthasarathy, and lighting design, Murali.

``Namam ondre podhaadho" in Karaharapriya ragam, Adi talam was the devotional opening number. Chitra in a tasteful costume of gray and red established the sthayi bhava of the evening with a small rendition of a namavali in front of a beautiful Krishna idol adorned with lamps.

A marathon item was a Dasaavataar kirtana in ragamalika, Adi talam, Yashoda Baala Leela Vinola. This was choreographed like a varnam, the swara patterns of which were added on by Visweswaran.

Kiran and Sandhya... couple with innovative ideas.

A surprise element in the Matsya avataar was its enactment in a theermanam to the accompaniment of sollus. The Narasimha avatar in Todi ragam was illustrated in vivid detail, with the lighting effects adding to the drama. Vamana avatar in Nattakurinji was also notable for the portrayal and the excellent singing.

Chitra was very light on her feet and seemed to enjoy performing nritta for the swara interludes. Her enthusiastic nattuvanar was good but needs to be more assertive. The pick of the lot though was ``Srinivasa Thiru Venkatamudaiyay" in Hamsanandi ragam, Adi talam, a kriti describing the miracle that Krishna wrought on Draupadi. Here, Chitra was at her histrionic best. An added dimension was the music. Visweswaran's soulful singing and Saravanan's musical interludes further heightened the dramatic vastraharan scene, and Draupadi's final surrender. The dice game and Draupadi's humiliation formed part of the narration, but it was the bhakti aspect that dominated. As was the case with the entire programme.

Touch of novelty

Here is a dancing couple with innovative ideas. Kiran Subramanyam and Sandhya from Bangalore have both trained by Padmini Ravi and the Dhananjayans. They presented an evening of contemporary compositions in Bharat Kalachar, to a small but appreciative audience. Their style was traditional Bharatanatyam, with a whiff of the novel in nritta and in presentation. Striking was their treatment of a devarnama by Vyasaraaya in Yaman ragam, misra chapu talam. Two perspectives on sringara were represented vis-a-vis Krishna in Krishna ``Nee Begane Baro."

Kiran handled the vatsalya sringara, the father-son role, while Sandhya performed the rati-sringara aspect. The pallavi and anupallavi sections were performed together, on either side of the stage, but the lines in the charanam were handled separately, one dancer at a time. It made for a multi-dimensional view of the composition; the only flaw being Kiran's inconsistency with his image of a child. Another point of interest was ``Kapali nee," a kriti on Lord Shiva in Paalini ragam, Adi talam, a composition of Lalitha Shivakumar. The dancers entered performing a theermanam depicting Siva and Parvathi, the former adorned with skulls and seated next to Parvathi. It created an instant impact, the show that gradually picked up, together with the lighting effects. Kiran's azhutam was impressive, as was his technique.

Sandhya, refreshingly simple on stage, has a totally different style; hers is softer approach which borders on carelessness at times. They seem to have taken the Tandava-Lasya roles to heart! The space management between the two requires some thought especially when they perform nritta together to avoid those near misses. Kalaiarasan on the violin was the guiding light for the orchestra that was headed by nattuvanar Ramya Janakiraman. Vanathi Raghuraman, vocalist, had some trouble with the higher octaves. Good percussion support came from Vedakrishnan on the mridangam, and Prasanna on the morsing, konnakkol and ganjira. Sandhya performed two padams, one in Kalyani ragam on Sharadha Devi, and the other as a nayika reliving her trysts with Muruga in Maduvanti ragam. The latter had a more involved delineation. The couple ended with a crisp thillana in Simhendramadhyamam ragam, Adi talam by Madurai N. Krishnan. They shone well in nritta, but could get more intense with the emotive aspects.

Refined expression

This programme can easily be rated as one of the finest of the season. Skill and soul both combined to create a memorable experience. Anuradha and Sridhar from Bangalore presented a tableau of the Ramayana in Bharatanatyam from Rama's birth until his reunion with Sita, after her rescue from Lanka. The composition was a kirtana by Mysore C. Rangayya in ragamalika, khanda chapu talam, with changes in certain swaras to suit the situation. The music aspect was melodious and non-intrusive.

The professional orchestra from Bangalore consisted of: Balasubramania Sharma (vocal), nattuvangam, kanjira, morsing and maddalam, Prasanna Kumar, flute Muralidhar, violin J. K. Sridhar, and mridangam V. R. Chandrasekhar.

It was a well-balanced presentation in terms of nritta and the abhinaya content. The abhinaya was not just play-acting; it genuinely reflected the mood of the moment. The two dancers handled the entire gamut of characters with the ease of long practice.

Sridhar and Anuradha... well-balanced presentation.

The nritta component was no less. The sahitya was interspersed with swaras, and each one of them comprised fst paced jathi korvais executed with unerring precision. Even the simple arudi was effectively performed with the araimandi and samapada sthanakas distinctly alternated. More important, there was dignity and refinement in every aspect.

Having said all this, how different can one person's version of the oft-repeated classic be? Portrayals differ from artiste to artiste, but here there were some distinctions in emphasis too. An unusual delineation was that of Shabari. This episode, Sridhar believes, is the high point of the whole epic, both sociologically and philosophically, as in an old tribal lady being able to reach the king, on the one side, and a humble bhakta reaching the Ultimate, on the other. Shabari awaits Rama observing the same rituals for 13 years.

The expression on her face when she spots Rama and her tender and reverent hospitality towards him denoted an involvement that surpassed mere performance.

Sridhar as Shabari tends to Rama, and finally dies at his feet. This whole episode in Kapi raga added a spiritual dimension that was inspiring.

Sridhar as Mantara with the hunched back looked suitably evil, but it was his portrayal of Dasaratha that stood out.

The gradual change from a cheerful monarch to a shocked husband when he hears Kaikeyi's cruel words, to an angry man when he realises her selfishness, and finally as a heart broken father when he apprehends Rama's inevitable separation from him, was beautifully portrayed. This scene enacted in Subha Pantuvarali ragam, was an intense depiction. Anuradha donned the role of Kaikeyi. There were also moments of tenderness like when Rama helps Sita drape her coarse garments around her before setting out for the forest, which made the characters more human. No wonder there was a deafening applause at the end of the programme. Anuradha and Sridhar certainly deserved it.


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