In coordination and technical excellence, the troupe presenting Andal Charitram lived up to expectations.
Kalakshetra presented "Andal Charitram," a dance-drama produced by Rukmini Devi Arundale in 1961. Known for a stirring devotional ambience created by the tasteful amalgam of music, movement, form and colour, Kalakshetra productions are looked forward to by aesthetes. Although at two-and-a-half hours, the production was uncompromising to the commuting exigencies of an urban audience, the current troupe, under the direction of Leela Samson, largely lived up to expectations. The neat adavus and group coordination, not forgetting details such as kicking up the heels when walking, the `kuluku' of Bharatanatyam, the deep square araimandi, were a treat. As was the authentic music, composed by Papanasam Sivan. The dancers negotiated the performance area with ease. The unhurried start, with traditional verses sung from behind the curtain, set the tone. Rukmini Devi's genius for group formations was visible in the variety introduced in the scenes with Andal and her sakhis, where six dancers were divided into all possible numerical combinations. Also, no monotony was allowed to settle while conveying the content of the lyrics.
Theatrical devicesSome dancers performed mime while others did nritta. Or the sakhis became a mimed echo, so to speak, of the heroine. Theatrical devices like the tiraseela were made use of, but there was no recourse to `special effects' like flashing lights, extra cymbals and the like, since drama was inherent in the ragas and in facial expressions. Indu Mohan made an adorable Andal, sustaining the character well. Sheejit Krishna as her father Periazhwar too was convincing. Shaly, who appeared as his wife in the early scenes, and Narendran, in the brief but all-important cameo of Maha Vishnu, added the subtle touches that lend depth to a large production. Some of the technical excellence one associates with Kalakshetra were, however, missing in a few of the other characters, as in the tiraseela that sagged, or a murumandi less than perfect. The sakhis often looked blank, as if only waiting for the next cue.Jyotsna Menon provided spirited nattuvangam. Vocalists Jyothismathi and Mangalam Shankar sustained the singing admirably, though the notebooks in their hands were obviously a concession to modern times. Anil Kumar on the mridangam, Sashidhar on the flute and Srinivasan on the violin sustained the tempo. One wondered if something could be done to adjust the placement in the last scene for different auditoriums. In this hall, all some spectators got as a finale was the backs of the dancers, bowing towards the shrine and blocking a view of Lord Vishnu and Andal.