THEMATIC Mallika Sarabhai's Sampradayam fell short of expectations. Leela Venkataraman

N obody can accuse dancer-choreographer-actor Mallika Sarabhai of being predictable. Her choice of converting ‘Sampradayam,' the event she choreographed for Darpana Performing Group, into a bhajan-mandali evening was true to type – evoking sharp reactions both for and against Bharatanatyam danced to bhajans.

It was a typical bhajan-mandali on a raised platform on the stage comprising cymbals, light percussion and singing. Whether it was Lord Muruga being taken in a procession, or Kavadi wielding devotees dancing and pirouetting in joy, it was all done to bhajans. This is the kind of performance, particularly in the open, which large audiences of devotees will relish.

Nobody says that Margam alone should find expression on the Academy stage or that original presentations are unwelcome. But as one who has witnessed some fine Darpana productions, what this critic found disappointing were the long gaps between appearances with only singing filling the space. One had higher expectations from both the choreography and the quality of the performers. With all the warmth and bonhomie such events may evoke, how do they become art fare for a platform such as that of the Academy?