The annual Parampara festival of Raja Radha Reddy in New Delhi brought improvisation to the fore as dancers and musicians explored new dimensions.
Raja Radha Reddy's annual Parampara festival at New Delhi's Kamani auditorium, featuring twin dance/music recitals daily, had as its thematic thrust the Gita statement "Sambhavami Yuge Yuge" - divine Krishna's pronouncement to Arjuna and mankind that from time to time he will manifest to re-establish the rule of dharma on an evil-threatened earth. Whether the concluding note each evening with dancer and musician performing together lived up to the hyped "awesome twosome" title or not, it certainly gave `manodharma' and improvised creativity more chance for expression than the usually structured fare. When art paramparas as family traditions are dwindling, the Reddys set a fine example with daughters following in the footsteps of the three adults. The highlight of the evening was Yamini's duet with father Raja in the Subhapantuvarali hymn to Shiva extolling the "Advaitabhaskaram, Ardhanariswaram and Navarasamanoramam" deity, the choreography of alternating expression and shared rhythm effortlessly coordinated. Raja Radha Reddy in the Kannada Gaula "Natavarataruni" portraying Krishna as Rasavilasapurusha continued with the Gitopadesh Krishna. The God's Cosmic identity was skilfully suggested through Radha's (as Arjun) abhinaya. Substituting for the temporarily out-of-commission vocalist Sai Bhavani, Hyderabad's V.K. Venkateswara, though short in experience and ability to play with the musical line, sang tunefully, his melodic Bihag, Darbari Kanada, Durga and Hamsadhwani in Gitopadesh also endowed with virtues of clear Sanskrit diction.
The Bangalore-based Kumudini Lakhia-trained Kathak couple, Nirupama and Rajendra, despite a last-minute loose arrangement with the singer for the evening, saw Hindustani vocalist Sarathi Chatterjee come into his own in the rendition evoking Meera's madhura bhakti in "Alire mere nainana bana pade". The suggested meaning (bhaavaartha) made for an unusual dance interpretation of Meera, even with Krishna residing within her forever aching for his presence. Rajendra, as Krishna, remained a hovering though unseen (by Meera) presence. Despite the much-tried items of "Yugal" and "Sringar Rama" based on Praveen Rao's music, the couple rendering these items and "Ta Dha" had the audience eating out of their hands with Nirupama's sensuous charm and grace and the excellent presentation unity. If Yella Venkateshwara Rao's mridangam, despite the over-stretched solo, in its breathtaking tonal and arithmetical combinations woven into Khanda Chapu tala mesmerised, even more praiseworthy was the emotional slant given to rhythm in different arrangements of tisram, chatusram, khandam, misram and sankeernam as accompaniment for navarasa, with dancer Ananda Shankar giving convincing improvised interpretation for each mood. Vocalist Venumadhav in briefest of alaps caught ripples of Nattai, Athana, Mohanam, Vasanta, Sahana ragas. But Ananda's solo of Swati Tirunal's ragamalika "Bhavayami Raghuramam" with dramatised narratives of landmark episodes from the Ramayana, in the Kuchipudi-like jet speed for the teermanams, did not allow for the weight and linear geometry of Kalakshetra Bharatanatyam (her alma mater) to be articulated. With her Kuchipudi involvement, Ananda unconsciously tends to keep the two feet too far apart in the araimandi and kudittu-mettu portions. Madhavi Mudgal and Madhup Mudgal with Arushi, Madhavi's niece now partnering her teacher in duets, represented the other family with art as a legacy. Madhavi's Odissi was accompanied by over-shrill and unusually below-standard male/female singing by Poornachandra Majhi and Manikuntala Bhowmick, even though Arushi and Madhavi combined adequately in the pallavi in Tilak Kamod. The best item was the Jayadeva ashtapadi "Kshanamadhuna Narayanamanugatamanusara Radhike", a loving Krishna urging Radha to join him in quenching love's ardour. Seated correctly on the side with an opposite spot for the dancer, Madhup's deep-voiced weight in the thumri singing saw the Nayika's ache for the beloved during the rains in "Bairana Barkha Ritu Aayi" come off better in Madhavi's abhinaya than the Bhairavi Khandita, which lacked bite. Full marks to the Reddys as teachers. All students - grace abounding Shallu Jindal, who rendered the item on Saraswati, and the strong dancer Shloka Vaidyalingam, who presented the varnam "Saami nee rammanave", came off as fine performers. Exemplary coordination and technique characterised the performance by the student group from Natya Tarangini.