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Experimenting with tradition

P.K. Ajith Kumar
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Dance The staging of the Mohiniyattam ballet ‘Amba Shikhandi' at Kozhikode was a refreshing experience. P.K. Ajith Kumar

Amba is one character from the Mahabharata who has proved ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'

Recently, at Chinmayanjali Auditorium in Kozhikode, Amba's tale was given a refreshingly different treatment by a group of Mohiniyattam dancers, led by mother-daughter duo of Kalamandalam Saraswathy and Aswathy V. Nair. It was a successful premiere of their Mohiniyattam ballet ‘Amba Shikhandi', in front of a packed, appreciative audience.

Etching various characters

In their production ‘Amba Shikhandi,' the mother-daughter duo incorporated the best of lasya even as they brought out the varied emotions of several characters in a drama . It would not have been easy to conceive such a drama in Mohiniyattam. To execute it with such finesse deserves much credit.

The show opened with the three sisters, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, playing in their garden. The introduction of the trio was one of the several neatly choreographed pieces in the production. At the ‘swayamvara,' the sisters are taken away by force by Bheeshma, who wants them to marry King Vichitraveerya.

While Ambika and Ambalika wed him, Amba refuses, saying she is in love with Salva. However, with both Vichitraveerya and, later, Bheeshma refusing to marry her, Amba embarks on a mission to take revenge against Bheeshma.

The tale was narrated with skill by the fairly large cast. Aswathy stood out as Amba. She may be a Bharatanatyam dancer primarily, but showed she was quite at home with Mohiniyattam too. Her skills in abhinaya helped her enact Amba's sorrow and rage with conviction. Saraswathy's Bheeshma also merits mention. Divya Chandran as Salva too did a fine job. They were well- supported by Anjana Ashokan, Namitha Bose, Swathi Krishna, S. Anjana and Veena Nair.

The ballet was adapted from Olappamanna's attakatha, ‘Amba', with additional lyrics by Payyannur Madhavan. It was composed by Vayala Rajendran.

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