Review The recipients of the Sangeet Natak Akademi's Yuva Puraskar mostly lived up to their titles. LEELA VENKATARAMAN

By the wise move of raising the age for the Yuva Puraskar awardees, SNA has rescued this event from the feel of yet-evolving greenhorns being prematurely conferred the Bismillah Khan distinction. In a generally satisfying level of professionalism in the week long festival, N. Panchapakesan Srikanth's stree vesha excerpts from Bhagavata Mela Natakam held the audience (unfortunately depleted due to the clash with the Kathak Kendra festival next door) utterly spellbound with the mastery over the Bharatanatyam idiom, replete with winsome appeal and abhinaya subtlety. The supreme feminine charm of the opening Patra Pravesh of Queen Chandramati (wife of King Harishchandra) “Vedale mu Chandramati”, was followed by the charm of the sringara daru, the wife persuading a loving husband to instantly capture for her the leaping gazelle (“Mrigamu kavala meeku ippudu”). The concluding scene of Chandramati anxiously warning her son Lohitas to guard himself from the lurking perils of the forest, and reminiscing after he leaves on the tender memories of the son's growing years, to the shattering tragedy of being informed of his death from snake bite — the performance moving from the tenderness of vatsalya to the hopelessness of grief — captured the essence of mood and character in searing clarity, the economy of expression without one exaggerated move exhibiting the ultimate in internaliaed satvik depth. And what moving music, whether an Athana, Kamboji or Reetigowla with a traditional Bhagavata Mela vocalist and a sensitive team of musicians!

Knocking at the doors of fame for a while, P. Praveen Kumar's Bharatanatyam perfection and control, imbibed under gurus Srimati Narmada and now C.V. Chandrasekhar, found full scope to blossom, in the opening pushpanjali in Gambhira Nattai with the invocation verses added, followed by the excellently choreographed majesty of the Shiva stuti — Gopalakrishna Bharati's “Tatai enru aduwar” in Sindhu Bhairavi. But the crowning performance came in the Sarangapani javali in Kalyani “Chittikavesita neevanti” portraying a slighted Krishna's bravado — his advances being turned down by a nayika — that he has but to snap his fingers for countless women to come rushing to his side. Praveen's interpretative dance has evolved. Srivatsa sang well with Sri Ganesh (mridangam) and Rajat Prasanna (flute) providing right support.

Arushi Mudgal's talents, all too well known to the Delhi audiences, proved that whether it is depicting the union of Shiva/Parvati based on verses set to music by Mukul Shivputra or Salabeg's “Janano” addressing Jagannatha, or presenting her own choreography to music composed by father Madhup Mudgal, she is a talent deserving of the award. Costume, wings led by Madhavi Mudgal, tuneful singing with verbal clarity by vocalist sister Sawani, tonally melodic pakhawaj, flute and sitar were all of a piece.

One enjoyed the typical regional flavour of Kuchipudi Yakshagana presented by Yeleswarapu Srinivasalu with the bristling energy of the wings right from the Ambaparaku prayer song sung by VSP Sastry with the nattuvangam by Sutradhar Chinta Ravi Balakrishna. After the accents of the rhythmic syllables in tarangam with dancing feet planted on the rim of the brass plate competently rendered, the dramatic Hiranyakashipu/Prahlada encounter accompanied by the energetic tones of Athana, Arabhi, Kamboji and finally Surati with a belligerent Hiranyakashipu contrasting with the unruffled composure of Prahlada, and the concluding Narasimhavatar scene saw Yeleswarapu as Hiranyakashipu going from swagger and boastful anger to wonder, and finally fear. Sathyanarayana on mridangam, P. Anjaneyalu's violin and Harnath Sastry's morsing with flute by Kumar Babu gave fine support.

Naren Barua's Sattriya presentation began with “Deva Vandana” in raga Syam and the khol beginning with Hari bol and epithets like “Devaki Nandanaya, Sri Vasudeva Nanda Gopala, Pankajanetraya” all interpreted with sensitivity before showing baby Krishna being carried away to Gokul. Bahar Nritya, derived from Madhavadeva's jhumura Bhojana Vyavahara, came next in Vasanta raga, with Ramdani the rhythm part followed by Gitar Nach — with other talas added to the customary Chuta tal and Parital. “Hua re Brindavane he haro Hari” in the squatting, spiralling movements and the interesting elaborations spun round the idea of Krishna as “Apara roopa roope” found the dancer in fine touch.

Bringing out in a telling manner the emotional contrasts of Balarama was Kathakali dancer Kalamandalam M. Amaljith, now with International Centre for Kathakali — the excerpt presented being from Subhadraharanam with an enraged Balarama accosting brother Krishna of having plotted in Arjuna's elopement with sister Subhadra, till won over on seeing the total lack of violence in the way Arjuna has overcome opponents while carrying away Subhadra. Balarama's belligerence and the calm Krishna whose dialogue is set to raga Neelambari, showed the polarities which Kathakali revels in.

Awarded for Creative and Experimental Dance, Madhu Natraj's “Vajra” proved somewhat disappointing, the entire treatment a blend of neatly performed Kathak and Contemporary Dance sequences, Kalari and somewhat amateurish Thang Ta sword play. The problem lay in overstretching a theme to the point of losing its emphasis, becoming repetitive. Expressive body language should have conveyed without so many writings on the screen and the tantrik geometrical designs.

Pallabi De, a disciple of Kalashram, was not at her best in Kathak with little inspirational support from the overloud singing and too many off-key sitar notes. Clearly not in peak physical condition, post-operation, she should have desisted from not being able to give her best for the occasion.