Uttaraa's annual celebration was a combination of postural perfection and rhythmic precision. Ranee Kumar
Photo: Satish H.
PICTURE PERFECT The dance ballet `Devi Mahatmyam' gave a three-pronged approach to the legend.
When guru Geetha Ganesan presents her pupils in solo or ballet, it is sure to be to a shower of superlatives. Be it rhythmic precision, postural perfection or mnemonic perseverance, there is a benchmark eminence among all. The Devi Mahatmyam dance ballet, presented as a part of Uttaraa Centre for Performing Arts' annual celebrations at Bhavan's auditorium, is a pointer to this.
With bi-lingual lyrics culled out of Durga Saptashati and bhajans of Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamy, the ballet traces three aspects of the divine mother who is the creative, preservative and destructive force in the universe. There is a three-pronged approach to the mythological story with each female force, viz. Mahamaaya (Mahalaxmi), Mahakaali and Mahasaraswathi (Chandi) destroying the three gunas (qualities) within mankind tamas, rajas and satva. The three qualities are allegorised in demons like Madhu-Kaitabha, Mahishasura and Shumbha-Nishumba. The annihilation of the daityas is the victory of the pure over the impure.
The three-fold story unveils with young dancers extolling the mother goddess. An eye-catching scene reveals Mahavishnu in deep slumber (yoga nidra) upon a serpent on the waters of the milky ocean with Brahma, sitting close to his navel in a yogic stance. The demonic duo (Madhu-Kaitabha) pounce on Brahma who invokes the soul within Mahavishnu to rid the menace.
Susmita and Shweta looked and played their part with gusto. The lovely Devi Mahamaaya emerges from nowhere. The entire scene was so beautifully contrived that it took the audience' breath away.
Suvarchala with large looming eyes and a sweet, tender countenance looked compelling as Devi throughout the play. Her eyes were able to reflect benign charm at devotees, flashes of anger at the asuras, a limpid smile at Shiva as the situation demanded. Her heaving chest in the aftermath of slaying the demons was a delicate indication of physical exertion in the wake of a combat (divine force versus demonic might).
The Mahakali-Mahishasura episode is a more potent one with Indra and the male trinity pleading with the Devi to relieve the world of this powerful asura, impressively portrayed by Haritha. The Devi comes in her fearful dark form riding a lion (a cute child dancer camouflaged in a lion's costume).
Annihilation of the demon
Gita Krishna takes over from Suvarchala at this point. A harsh, menacing dance follows the annihilation of Mahishasura. Haritha gave the right expression to the bull-demon. Gita as Kali, painted black with protruding canines and an attire that is reminiscent of Kali (ruling deity of the dark world) was not only striking but also gave a sterling performance. The arsenal of weapons of the Devi held out on either side by little dancers hidden behind the main goddess in a single file made a perfect picture. The Shumbha-Nishumba (Vasundhara and Haritha) battle with the goddess who is shown having a tough time vanquishing these two heady demons again with the help of the dark female energy was also well done.
The most appreciative part of this complex theme was its simplification keeping the soul intact. The tradition of eulogizing the deity whose mythology is being recreated and ending the ballet with a lullaby to the goddess followed by an aarathi (waving of lights) dance is worthy of praise. The aarathi dance by a large group of child and young dancers to a seated Rajarajeswari went like an intricate kolam (muggu/rangoli) with dancers moving in tandem in perfect sync. It was indeed a wonder to watch the youngest in the group get into an accurate step with the changing partner as one group moved giving way to another. Kudos to the guru for such an accomplishment.
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