Namrata Tiwari’s performance had all the signs of an assiduous training, Probal Gupta’s performance was innovative and evocative

The weekly Wednesday programme of the Department of Kannada and Culture featured a Bharatanatya performance by Namrata Tiwari on July 16, supported by Suma Nagesh (nattuvanga), Ramesh Chadaga (vocal), Natraj Murthy (violin) and Ramesh (mridanga).

The young dancer, who had her initial training under Indira P.P. Bora, is now a disciple of Prof. M.R. Krishnamurthy. The success of the performance owed much to the assiduous training imparted by her mentors, and to representative choice of vintage pieces imbued with a subdued lustre. The alarippu, followed by the complex and demanding “Sakhiye inda velayil” in Anandabhairavi, and the padam in Suruti, “Indendu Vachithivira”, remained true to the traditional format, a balanced amalgam of technique and aesthetics.

The two best items of the evening were probably the kriti in Kalyani set to rupaka tala, “Varijakshi Kamakshi Vagadheeswari”, incorporating simple but attractive choreography, and the tillana in Hindolam, adi tala. Also included was the ashtapadi, “Haririha Mugdhavadhu” in Panthuvarali. The artistes confidence, commitment and equanimity in the face of two abrupt power outages at the beginning, and the loss of an ornament sometime later, were her palpable strengths. However, greater finesse in the pure dance routines, especially the faster passages, and more involvement in abhinaya, in items such as the padam portraying the khanditha nayika, need to be developed.

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Probal Gupta, a disciple of the late Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty and FACT Padmanabhan, presented a Kathakali recital on July 18, organised by Bangalore Lalitha Kala Parishath.

Deviating from the basic dance drama structure of Kathakali plays which have a number of actors assaying different roles, Probal Gupta presented a series of solo items culled from the traditional repertoire for female characters or streevesham, which he collectively termed a margam. Resplendent in a gold costume, he opened with the invocatory thodayam, with lyrics beginning “Hariharavidhinutha” by Kottayathu Thampuran. The padam “Saamyamakannorudyaanam” in Poorvi Kalyani raga, from Unnayi Warrier’s Nalacharitham Day 2, expressing the newly wed Damayanthi’s delight in the beauty of a garden . The sari nritta, a pure dance item - in this instance Sundarimaarmani from Baanayuddham, set to Yadukala Kamboji raga and chempada tala - followed. The most elaborate item was an episode from Kottayathu Thampuran’s “Kirmeeravadham”, in which the rakshasi Simhika, disguised as the beautiful damsel Lalitha, entices an unsuspecting Panchali to the forest. The concluding Dhanyaasi, corresponding to the mangalam, traditionally performed by a male pacha character, was adapted here to streevesham.

Probal Gupta, dancing to recorded music due to practical constraints, was naturally restricted in the improvisational aspects, crucial to a Kathakali performance. It was sometimes to the detriment of the exquisite lasya typified by female characters. Enacting the role of Lalitha, the artiste however provided glimpses into the sublime quality of the abhinaya in Kathakali. The presentation as a whole balanced the narrative, emotive and nritta elements, and as an attempt to introduce a magnificent art form to new audiences, it was innovative and evocative.