Dancing to the gods

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REVIEW The students and teachers of Kalakshetra presented Gopalaka Pahimam Anisham with great compassion and elegance

A10-day festival of music and dance (Sangeetha Seva and Nrithya Seva) highlighted the annual Brahmotsava in the ISKCON temple at the Hare Krishna Hill this year. Dancers of Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Kathak drawn from different states offered their arts, not just to human audiences but to the very gods who were brought from the temple into the open air theatre where the artistes performed. It was in this rare ambience that students and teachers of Kalakshetra brought a 19{+t}{+h}century composer to life in an evocative ballet, depicting the sublime relation of Krishna to his bhakthas who were all the recipients of his benediction. Whether it was Yashoda, Radha, Rukmini, Draupadi or his friend Sudhama, the poet envisaged a mystical relationship that bonded these devotees with the divine. Swati Tirunal’s memorable “Gopalaka Pahimam Anisham” was presented with compassion and elegance to explore the multifaceted nature of Krishna and his “leelas.”

Swati Tirunal, the maharaja turned musician, was an artiste who could touch the right chord in his listeners. He extols his favourite god in a thousand ways, with a thousand names.

“Bhujaga Raja Shayanaa..” he exclaims to convey a panoramic view of the ocean where the creator of the universe is reclining on that king of serpents, Anantha. Just as the refrain of “Anisham” at the end of every stanza stresses not only the never ending cry of the human being for his protection, but also reveals his eternal compassion for those who seek his refuge. Swati Tirunal was no ordinary musician. He was an inspired artist who combined deep spirituality with his musical compositions like this one. The Kalakshetra alumni, led by Haripadman, were equally inspired while presenting their understanding of the great composer.

Trained by the veteran disciple of Rukmini Devi, Balagopalan, to play the inimitable role of Hanuman in the Ramayana seriies, Haripadman has blossomed into a dancer/choreographer reminiscent of the old school. He has already made his stamp as an excellent disciple of his guru while enacting that role in the final episodes of Ramayana where he steals the show as Rama’s never failing messenger. Now, teamed with wife Divya and five year old prodigy son, Abhinav Shankara, he transformed a simple krithi into a divine experience, supported by the musical brilliance of Jyothishmathi Sheejith and an excellent team of accompanists.

Whether it was Krishna teasing his foster mother Yashoda to whom he revealed the entire universe in his mouth; or a simple cowherd who engaged in a celestial union with the gopikas with his heavenly music, or a godly ruler in the kingdom of Dwaraka who accepted a handful of beaten rice from his friend of younger days; or, even a divine charioteer who taught the supreme lessons of life to a dejected Arjuna on the field of battle — all these facets of Krishna were captured to perfection in a well-crafted dance drama. Haripadman excelled himself in the role of Sudhama where he displayed his finely honed skills as a stage performer as well. He was supported by wife Divya who managed the role of Krishna – with a single peacock feather perched on her head! A touch of Rukmini Devi who used the least stage props in her dance dramas.

Haripadman has clearly imbibed all the subtle nuances of the great maestro’s art. “Gopalaka Pahimam, Anisham…” said it all. It reminded the audience that evening of a stately monarch who not only ruled a great kingdom but also left a legacy to the world of music. The dance made the music more poignant and significant. The dancer made it come to life.




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