Age has not withered Sudharani Raghupathy’s passion for the art

 Creative Sudharani Raghupathy.

Creative Sudharani Raghupathy.

Who presents an invocatory piece for 20 minutes, adding sancharis to it and treating it almost like a varnam? Sudharani Raghupathy chose to do so, bringing to life Adi Shankara’s stutis on Vinayaka, Muruga and Saraswati. She used warm images such as a mother feeding a hungry child and the father indulgently looking at his son’s moon-like belly to portray Vinayaka. With delectable music, the unhurried piece was a surprise, and as every mudra unfolded (some were unusual like the ‘steeple’ mudra), one gained new perspectives into old stories.

Well into her 75th year as a Bharatanatyam dancer and marking 52 years as a guru, having founded Shree Bharatalaya in 1970, Sudharani represents an era when Bharatanatyam was softer, more graceful, happy, and perhaps less restrained.

Sudharani and A. Lakshmanaswamy’s ‘Bharatarangam… movement to stillness’ for Federation of City Sabhas was an enjoyable experience. The dancers, from different generations and banis, complemented each other, while retaining their individuality.

The best piece was the Ashtapadi ‘Yahi Madhava’, once a favourite of Bharatanatyam dancers. Radha is distressed after waiting all night, and when Krishna shows up, she rebuffs him. The older style of abhinaya was not shallow, but not intense either. It was not a question of interpreting the lyrics faithfully, but how they saw the nayika — not as a mature, brooding woman, but as a young, innocent, happy-go-lucky girl.

Sudharani’s Radha was spirited, loving Krishna despite his faults. Having lost all hope of meeting him, she stares in disbelief when he appears.

When he pleads his love for her, she says, ‘Go to girls of your age, who are pining for you. I am older than you, I have grey hair.’ She suspects him of being with other women and breaks down, flicking her tears on him angrily. She tells him ‘we have grown apart just like two entwined threads coming apart,’ and symbolically hands him one. Eventually, she capitulates, making a show of weighing her options and reluctantly agreeing, while smiling secretly inside. It was funny, it was poignant, and it was fresh.

Innovative and unusual

Sudharani’s introduction of Krishna in this piece was novel — as a narrator — through the pages of a history book, marking his leelas chronologically.

Swati Tirunal’s ‘Chaliye kunjan’ was unusual too. The Hindi bhajan was interspersed with a thillana in the same Brindavanasaranga raga, adi tala (Vidwan Madurai N. Krishnan). A gopi’s invitation to Krishna in the bhajan was re-interpreted as a gopi reminiscing about Krishna and their play. Lakshmanaswamy was Krishna, performing the thillana. The gopi realises his true identity and prostrates. That’s where the recital ended.

Lakshmanaswamy had his share of the limelight. His energy and agile nritta came to the fore in the Pushpanjali, ‘Sankara Sri Giri’ and in the thillana. His rhythmic sense was put to test in Swati Tirunal’s Hindi bhajan describing Shiva's cosmic dance, and his emoting skills tested while playing Krishna in ‘Yahi’ to Sudharani’s Radha.

This team was one of the few with a live orchestra this season. Priya Murle’s flat-pitched cymbals and even-toned recitations soothed, even as she ably kept the orchestral team together. The musicians’ contribution was immense: Nandini Anand (vocal), Prof. Dr. Kandadevi S. Vijayaraghavan (violin), K.S.R. Aniruddha (percussion), B. Muthukumar (flute) and Anjali Srinivasan (veena). Sudharani proved that passion for the arts does not wither with age. It matures like fine wine.

The Chennai-based writer reviews classical dance.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2022 1:47:33 pm |