Dance

Bharathiyar’s poems depicted through Bharatanatayam

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A New Jersey-based choreographer is exploring the timelessness of the poet’s work and philosophy through Bharatanatyam

Penn veeram (women’s strength) is a trope that poet Subramania Bharathiyar often wove his beautiful prose around. The complex psyche of women has always been a point of interest to the legendary poet. So, it is not surprising that his poems are universal and reflective of current society. But how does poetry, as a medium, attain physical form to spread a message? This is what Katha Nrityam tries to crack — interspersed with storytelling and the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam, poems of the iconic poet will come alive this weekend, through a presentation that attempts to hold a mirror to society.

Conceptualised by New Jersey-based dancer and choreographer Ramya Ramnarayan, the performance is a collaboration with poet-scholar Isaikavi Ramanan and musician and great-grandson of Bharathiyar, Rajkumar Bharathi. Says Ramya, “I feel it’s important that art be used as a medium to reflect current society. Bharathiyar was way ahead of his time. He was someone who presented us with profound poetry, in very simple language. And so, his reach was phenomenal. His works have been visited and revisited multiple times. That’s why I decided to throw light on this composer, but from a different lens.” Considering the extensive research done on the poet by Isaikavi Ramanan, a collaboration, Ramya felt, was natural and inevitable. As for Rajkumar Bharathi, she says, “None other than him is the right person to devise the mood through music. He not only knows Bharathi’s work but also knows the sensibilities of Bharatanatyam.”

The structure of the 90-minute-long performance follows the traditional course of ‘margam’. However, the narrative segues in and out of dance, and shuttles between prose and music as well.

The concept behind the performance comes from the fact that Bharathi was a staunch proponent of women — through his work, he extensively spoke about how they are torch-bearers of society. Even at a time when common readers were deep in the shackles of patriarchy, he would drop refreshing ideas. This is a prominent reason behind his continued relevance even today. “I feel that this relevance should be reminded repeatedly, not just in India, but in the West as well,” she says.

The performance also trails poetry that shared similar sensibilities and thought processes, and resonates with Bharathi. Contemporary poets who came after Bharathiyar also make their appearance. Every song travels through at least one work of a poet other than Bharathiyar. “The first song talks about thamizh thai, the next song is based on the work ‘kannan en kadhalan’ that talks about the several forms of kannan [God]. He says that the women who speak about Lord Krishna, are not subservient to him. They question him and foster an equal partnership. This is also something that women need to be reminded of. We don’t have to be creative about bringing such characters. They were spoken of much earlier, by poets like Bharathi,” says Ramya. The performance ends with a reflection of the poet in the form of a thillana, and his composition shakthi koothu.

Katha Nrityam will be performed on January 2 at 7.30 pm at Karthik Fine Arts, Mylapore and on January 3 at 7.30 pm at Bharat Kalachar, T Nagar. Tickets can be purchased at the venue.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 12:28:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/bharathiyars-poems-depicted-through-bharatanatayam/article30433559.ece

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