ANJANA RAJAN

Dhananjayan and Shanta captured through abhinaya the different moods Jaya Deva has created in his Ashtapadi verses.

Shanta and V.P.Dhananjayan drew an eager audience one Sunday morning when they gave a performance as part of the lecture-performance series. In a brief talk before the dance began, Guru Dhananjayan, known for his plainspeak, reiterated some of the issues he has raised over the years relating to artistes and their relationship to their art.

Use `Natya'

Among the highlights was his suggestion that Indian artistes use terms appropriate to the Indian context. Thus, he said, classical dancers should use the word `natya,' since `dance' connotes everything from disco jiving to Western ballet to folk traditions of the world. He also advocated `Samskritam' over Sanskrit. The idea made sense when he said `Sanskrit' as if to rhyme with "bans writ," as it is often pronounced. The performance was based on Jayadeva's Gita Govind, one of the favourite Sanskrit kavyas of all time. Dhananjayan pointed out the "imaginary nature" of the story, established by Jayadeva in the first stanza, "Meghair medhuram ambaram" wherein Krishna is referred to as a child and Radha commissioned to escort him through the dark forest. The rest of the epic is her dream of Krishna as the perfect lover.The veteran appealed to teachers "not to try Ashtapadi on children of seven or eight" but wait till they were 17, except the Dasavatara Ashtapadi, which is devotional and theatrical in nature. The duo's performance began with this composition, which exemplified their approach to choreography for a pair, dancing in tandem as well as in contrast to each other. The music for this piece was set in ragamalika by Guru C.V. Chandrasekhar.Shanta Dhananjayan's solos, "Raase Harimiha" in which Radha tells her sakhi she cannot forget Krishna's playful teasing, and "Pashyati dishi dishi" in which the sakhi apprises Krishna of Radha's plight, exemplified the consideration of `auchityam' or propriety in depicting Sringara rasa. The latter, a dance composition of Rukmini Devi Arundale, was set to Ahiri raga. Vocalist Preethy Mahesh excelled in this, as in the earlier Bageshri rendition. V.P.Dhananjayan's histrionic ability had full play in the depiction of "purusha viraha," or pangs of separation suffered by a man, in "Maamiyam chalita." Enhanced as it was by the Kathakali touch that has long been his abhinaya trademark, the Ashtapadi verse raised some sympathetic laughs as the image of Krishna appeared, a worried, repentant lover wondering how Radha is faring.

Another challenge

Dhananjayan took up another challenge by depicting Radha in "Nibhrita nikunja," in which she recalls her first tryst with Krishna and gives vent to all the emotions associated with a young woman.The programme was bolstered by fine singing by Preethi Mahesh and Sashidharan, along with nattuvangam by the Dhananjayans' disciple Sreelatha Vinod, mridangam by Ramesh Babu, violin by Kalaiarasan and tanpura by Lakshminarayanan.It was pleasant to watch the silver haired duo in action, with no attempt to hide their age. Kalakshetra's uncompromising approach to technique was reflected in the adavu combinations. The closing nrittaswaravali was at once ornamental and simple, its medium pace perhaps the only concession to advancing years.