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Poetry in dance

PRABAL GUPTA
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DANCE Lasya Kavya, a film on Alarmvel Valli, captures the journey of the renowned dancer

Meticulous and dedicatedAlarmel ValliPhoto: R. Ravindran
Meticulous and dedicatedAlarmel ValliPhoto: R. Ravindran

“Lasya Kavya”, a film on the journey of the danseuse Alarmel Valli, was screened recently as part of Ashish Khokar's Dance Discourse. The film, by Sankalp Meshram, a main stream film director, captures the journey of this renowned dancer, quite lyrically. The opening shot of the film has the artiste applying alta and the mudras commence with the beautiful lotus, her hands caressing her tresses as bees hum over it. Beautiful coordination of scenes, and linking them aesthetically makes for the evocative aspect of the film. “When I dance, I feel I am a poet, a painter,” she says, settling down by the seashore. The film juxtaposes beautiful dance sequences of Valli starting with a jatiswaram at the onset of the film, with the Tanjore Quatret varnam, and Madhurastakam or a thillana for a foreign audience, finally receiving standing ovation for her poetic artistry. Neat adavus and thattametus, perfect geometrical lines, ably managing the architecture of the proscenium, finest abhinaya – the rasikas admire all this with admiration.

The film has renowned artistes like Bombay Jayshree, , Dr. Nagaswamy and Arun Khopkar praising Valli's innate knowledge in the field of dance, along with her understanding of music, particularly javalis and padams, which she learnt under T. Mukta and T. Brinda. Valli reminisces the Sunday afternoons that she spent with these two musicians, which helped her grasp the inner virtuosity of dance with music as its soul. Valli's entire body dances to the rhythm of music, and it seems like “Poetry in Motion”, a term so synonymous with her. Valli is trained under gurus Subbaraiya Pillai and Chokkalingam Pillai in the Pandanallur style. Taking the viewers to her childhood, there is her grandfather who recites the works of Shakespeare and Keats to her. The film captures hours and years of dedicated practice, her meticulousness while choreographing a varnam or Kalidasa's work and the manner in which she translates the words into the language of visual choreographyPoetry with its metaphoric qualities definitely enhance the choreographic brilliance, as poet Arundhati Subramanium recalls. As she recited a poem in English, Valli built a highly innovative tapestry with her dance movements, she explains.

The 77-minute film showcased Valli's Arangetram, receiving the Padmabhushan from President APJ Abdul Kalam, in class with her students etc. With lovely text by Bhaskar Ghosh, the film is a must watch for all art rasikas.

PRABAL GUPTA

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