THEMATIC Padma Subrahmanyam's ‘Pannum Bharatamum' is as fresh and lively as it was when it was first staged in 1984. VIDYA SARANYAN
A glittering visual configuration that stirred the consciousness, ‘Pannum Bharatamum' was a dance feature on the Thevaram. Choreographed and presented by veteran dancer Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and her disciples, it was organised by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha for the Yagnaraman July Fest.
The production featuring select works of Tamil Saivaite saints Appar, Tirugnanasambandar, Sundarar and Manickavachagar, has grown from strength to strength in more ways than one since it was first staged in 1984.
Not surprisingly, the choreography and the performance boasted of different planes of interpretation. A master of bhava, Padma demonstrated just how hyperbole and subtlety, humour and solemnity can accentuate the sacred voices. The extensive artistic and scholastic skills of the veteran dancer streamed the Thevaram into a wholesome experience of rasa.
Split second timing and coordination by dancers Aparna, Swati, Nivedita, Mahati Kannan, Ramya, Srinidhi, Anugraha and Neeraja emphasised their effervescent dancing. The group's seamless integration of adavus and charis underscored their teacher's well-known viewpoint in dance. While their costumes were colourful, the multiplicity in designs jarred.
For the most part, the programme was charted so that a group piece was alternated with a solo number by Padma. The initial piece ‘Purvarangam' performed by the entire group was followed by Appar's words which recounted how he quelled the five senses to seat Lord Siva in his heart.
In the next number, one could only marvel at the innumerable ways Padma coaxed the stubborn parrot, fondly addressed as ‘madakiliye' by Tirugnanasambandar, in Suddha Saveri. This piece has been performed by the dancer numerous times before, yet it retained its sparkle so that the anticipation held sway for the audience until the parrot finally uttered the sacred name.
Memories of Padma taking wing with the unique karnas to depict the parrot, came together with that evening's exposition of the maiden's attempts to hear her beloved's name. Typical of her approach, here too one saw Padma's diversity of emotions, ranging from wonder and fear to love and devotion, adding strength and patina.
Resplendent in her white and gold costume, Padma's specialised body stances brought home the majesty of Siva, who burnt Tripura with his third eye and as the one who showered his grace on the true devotee for Sundaramurthy's Thevaram.
Among the many depictions, ‘Sambho Mahadeva' struck a special note. This Sundarar lyric that came at the tail end saw the veteran dancer pour out the frustrations of the bhakta. She confronted a God who remained deaf to repeated pleas for salvation. Even as her body language outlined that this was no meek or humble missive, the rasika was made clearly alive of the extraordinary familiarity of Sundarar for whom Siva was an inseparable friend.
Another solo number that struck a poignant note was in Kaapi, performed by Mahati Kannan whose eloquent eyes outlined the naiveté of the girl who is mesmerised by Siva as the alms seeker. The superb quality of music in the form of vocals and nattuvangam of Gayatri and Radhika, and sensitive music by veena vidwan Kannan added to the flamboyance of the evening, especially as the orchestra gallantly followed the doyenne's improvisations.