Beauty lies in description

Natyacharya Dhananjayan at a Bharatakalanjali workshop in Chennai   | Photo Credit: S.R. Raghunathan

Little Krishna is found stealing butter from someone’s house. The visual presentation begins by describing Krishna, his entry into the house, the soft, delicious butter, the Gopi coming in and catching him red-handed and Krishna pleading innocence. Finally, either Krishna escapes or the Gopi ends up giving him more butter.

In the sanchari workshop held recently at Bharatakalanjali for students and teachers, veteran artist V. P. Dhananjayan had much more to add to this scene. He introduced a conversation between Krishna and the Gopi, where little Krishna reasons why he was found in that particular place. Krishna says, “I was following a baby deer, and unknowingly entered the house thinking it was my own. I saw the deer entering the butter pot and was searching for it.” This makes the communication simple and beautiful and serves the purpose of the presentation .

“This is what many dancers lack. They do not research the subject as much as is required. A lot of it depends on how accurately one is able to describe the situation. The smallest of details add to its richness,” pointed out the eminent artist. “Like the words in poetry, the sancharis enable a dancer to bring out myriad shades.”

Sanchari comes from the root word sanchara meaning traverse or navigate. For Dhananjayan, his association with two art forms, Kathakali and Bharatantyam has widened his perception . “I was one of the first to implement sancharis in a Bharatanatyam choreography. Earlier, dancers restricted themselves to padarthabhinaya or lyrical meaning. My Atana Varnam was a path-breaking choreography that brought me both praise and criticism. I felt it was necessary and for the audience to have a better understanding.”

On how one develops sanchari skills? Dhananjayan replied, , “From Nature. Look at the cow, it eats and leisurely chews it later. Grasp all that you see and hear. You can use them when needed.”

A free-flowing, five-day session provided ample scope to the participants to discuss and learn how to frame and plan a sanchari, its nuances and what makes it fulfilling. Many discussed the challenges they faced to understand a piece or perform it on stage.

Dhananjayan was assisted by his son Satyajit. Explaining how one can systematically draw the attention of the viewer, Satyajit depicted a sanchari of a hunter, sharpening his arrow against a rock when there are no animals around. Satyajit pointed out that a dancer should keep in mind how the hunter would handle the bow and arrows and, how to use trigger moments with small tirmanams to capture viewers’ attention. Dhananjayan gave a humorous touch by drawing parallels between an arrow and the strings of a veena.

One does not often find the rasa of laughter or hasya in a Bharatanatyam repertoire. Dhananjayan said, “It might be entertaining but it has to be used carefully. This isn’t a stand-up comedy and hasya has limited scope in Bharatanatyam. We cannot give vent to attahasitam or vigorous laughter.”

During the course of his sessions, he stressed on the importance of reading and how it expands the imagination.

Another important tool was to write down every sentence to be depicted in a language one is comfortable with and then enact it. An exercise on the nava or nine rasas based on verses from Soundarya Lahiri was a good inclusion at the workshop.

According to Dhananjayan, “The aim of natya is not just entertainment but education and upliftment as well. And for that messengers need to be well equipped.”

So, can any dancer do a sanchari and expect it to work well? Does it depend on natural talent or perseverance?

Dhananjayan replied, “The method of understanding can be taught, the tools can be provided but ultimately it is the student who needs to bring out the meaning, appropriately and aesthetically. Instead of being too adventurous one can think of silence, that too is communicative!”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 1:37:26 AM |

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