THEMATIC Artists presented ‘Sarvam Brahmamayam.' P.S. Krishnamurthi

K alpadruma offered a weekend of ‘thematic' events at the Sivagami Petatchi auditorium which included a vocal recital by Sikkil Gurucharan, a group dance choreographed by Priya Murle, and a concert by S. Sowmya.

Umayalpuram Sivaraman described, at great length, background of his musical programme which he had christened ‘Sarvam Brahma-mayam.' Quoting from the Upanishads, he dedicated the feature to Nadabrahmam, the essence of Carnatic music. G.S. Mani made an eclectic selection of kritis for the occasion.

Gurucharan volunteered to sing them on the stage. He attempted to lend his otherwise conventional kutcheri an appropriate aura of solemnity with a protracted viruttam in Hamsadhwani in Sanskrit and Tamil, ending with the words ‘Aham brahmam,' leading to ‘Vinayakuni', Veenai Kuppier's composition in Adi talam. He went on to sing compositions in praise of various deities.

Inspiring moments

With his powerful voice and high sruti, the vocalist could reach out well, but could have avoided unwanted decibel level. Not that there weren't several moments of inspired singing -- Dikshitar's songs (Hariharaputam and Sri Jalandhara) and Tyagaraja's Gowlipantu number (Theratiyagaradha) were rendered with spirit and dignity. The competent build-up in the niraval and manodharma sancharas in the charanam lines of Ramakathasudha (Madhyamavati), during which the aesthetic co-ordination among the artists on the stage stood out, added worth to the concert.

T.K. Ramanujacharyulu (violin) could give apt rejoinders to the phrases, with with precision in timing and accuracy in note. Sivaraman on the mridangam expectedly came out with original sollukatus in the tani and provided stimulating support. E.M. Subramanyam's ghatam was a faithful mirror to the mridangam during the tani.

At the end of the day, one was still mystified as to what was so thematic about the programme.

That Carnatic music (in particular) is divine and steeped in Brahman is ingrained in our minds from infancy, and to present it as a theme borders on truism.

High philosophy

Priya Murle choreographed and presented a dance feature delineating the ‘navabhakti bhava' (the nine forms of devotion to god), for Shree Bharatalaya. She also participated with seven other dancers -- Priya Dikshit, Aiswarya Kartik, Preeti Ramprasad, T.M. Sridevi, Suchitra Ramaswamy, Deepti Ravichandran and Aparajita Rao.

In the Sixth Discourse of the Seventh Book of the Srimad Bhagavatam, to the question of his father Hiranyakasipu, as to what worthy lesson he has learnt in his gurukula, Prahlada responds ‘Sravanam, Keertanam, Vishno: Smaranam, Padasevanam, Archanam, Vandanam, Dasyam, Sakhyam, Atma nivedanam, - tan manye adheetam, uttamam...' (Listening, Glorying, Meditation, Bowing to His feet, Worshipping, Saluting, Service, Comradeship, Surrender - offering all these to Vishnu are what I rank as supremely worthwhile activities.)

It was this profound concept that the dancers attempted to portray. The overall feeling was that dedicated and painstaking work had gone into the essay. Sincerity and commitment were palpable in every item presented over 90 minutes.

A neat invocation with the dancers clad in raiment which was brilliant without being garish, executing precise graceful movements, augured a wholesome fare. Taking each bhava in order, Priya presented a piece from Swati Tirunal for Sravanam, following it with extracts from Appar, Purandaradasa and Andal for Keertanam.

The appearance of the cheerful dancers breezing on to the stage with flowers and garlands injected a stimulating dose of energy while serving to evoke the concept of Archanam. Besides Sundarar, the episode of Krishna and Kuchela as innocent brahmachari boys at the hermitage of their guru Sandeepani, getting caught in the rain as they go collecting faggot, touchingly depicted Sakhyam. Avoiding the commonly adopted style of the dancer switching roles between the two characters, Priya Murle aesthetically chose to portray the whole incident from the point of view of Kuchela. Her use of a Surdas number (for Atmanivedanam) touched the heartstrings.

The surrender of Vibheeshana (from Kamba Ramayana) was another feather in Priya Murle's cap of creativity, showing as it did the depth of utter surrender. The item which did not register aptly was Smaranam. A lower speed in the music and dance, and perhaps a different lyric could have enhanced the profundity that was called for.

Able support

The music team comprising G. Srikant (vocal), Sashirekha Balasubramanian (nattuvangam), Nellai Kannan (mridangam) and Sathish Kumar (violin) made useful contribution. Srikant has a full voice, with a commendable range. Eschewing the melodrama in his excursions one felt, would add to its attractiveness.

There were several passages in which the mridangam was intrusive; more restraint in loudness could have made the watchers imbibe more of the dance, which was after all, the main feature.

Compering was competent, but the accompaniments of the violin and the sollukattu in the background occluded the message effectively, without adding to the artistic content.