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RIVETING: N. Srikanth as Brihannala (left) and Arjuna.
RIVETING: N. Srikanth as Brihannala (left) and Arjuna.

RUPA SRIKANTH

NATYARANGAM N. Srikanth employed Stree Vesham, recitation, Bharata Nrityam and mono-acting to portray Arjuna.

Whenever there is thunder and rain, I think of Arjuna!” says the grandmother to her grandchild. Pat comes the question, “Who is Arjuna?”

Thus unfolds the story of Arjuna through the narration of the grandmother against a background of rain, an electricity breakdown and ‘no television’.

There were new techniques aplenty in N. Srikanth’s presentation on ‘Arjuna’ at Natyarangam’s ‘Bharatham-Mahabhaaratham’ fest.

Contemporising the narration was only one of them, Stree Vesham, recitation, Bharata Nrityam, mono-acting technique and dramatic finishes in nritta a la Kathak, being the others.

One also learnt to expect the unexpected. When one expected to a see a valiant warrior, Arjuna, one only saw Brihannala, the beautiful eunuch. When one expected Arjuna to be visualised through music and dance, it was recounted through poetic verse (written by Prof. S. Raghuraman).

Impeccable timing

And when one expected artistic visuals to enumerate Arjuna’s many romantic involvements, it was baldly delivered with sarcasm and humour.

Being a natural performer that he is, Srikanth was able to pull off this off-beat show with élan. His impeccable timing in the pure dance passages, in acting and in costume changes also enhanced the delivery.

Srikanth chose Bharata Nrithyam to portray Brihannala as a graceful, feminine dancer. Having been trained in female impersonation in the Bhagavatamela tradition, the portrayal came with a touch of maturity.

A chellenge all the way

The best however was the Arjuna introduction that was done through verse.

The strong current that ran through this segment of alternating verse and theermanams somehow underlined the masculinity of the protagonist, Arjuna.

The timing in this piece was crucial and Srikanth enjoyed the challenge.

Set to a melodious soundscape (K. Hariprasad) with beautiful and unusual choices, such as Nagaswaravalli for Brihannala’s lasya-filled nritta and Yamuna Kalyani for the wedding song, the presentation was also enhanced by razor-sharp rhythm (Aswathy- nattuvangam, N. Ramakrishnan-mridangam). It was a solo masterpiece but for the over-long Khandava forest-episode and the not-so-effective Viswaroopa.

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