Deepa Mahadevan’s ‘Maiyal’ explores the many shades of shringara

The young Bharatanatyam dancer used the Krishna-gopika bond and well-knit pieces to depict the emotion

May 12, 2023 05:37 pm | Updated 05:43 pm IST

Maiyal, the thematic Bharatanatyam performance by Deepa Mahadevan at NGS on May 6, 2023.

Maiyal, the thematic Bharatanatyam performance by Deepa Mahadevan at NGS on May 6, 2023. | Photo Credit: SRINATH M

Deepa Mahadevan’s solo production ‘Maiyal’ examined love mainly through the lens of an enraged nayika, who wishes to claim ownership over her lover Krishna. While the performance featured a few popular pieces, it was anchored by a Tamil composition of Deepa’s guru Madurai R. Muralidharan, which stood out for its simplicity and directness.

As the performance progressed, various shades of shringara could be perceived. Deepa commenced her recital by engaging with explicit eroticism, characteristic of Ashtapadis, gradually moving on to depict the khandita nayika, who is exasperated by her lover’s multiple romantic affairs.

Deepa Mahadevan explores  love through her thematic solo

Deepa Mahadevan explores love through her thematic solo | Photo Credit: SRINATH M

Vibrant jathis

Madurai R. Muralidharan, known for his laya discipline played a pivotal role on the nattuvangam. The lengthy item was punctuated by some of his signature jathis that were packed with generous bursts of energy. Muralidharan’s nritta portions are demanding and are designed to be ostentatious.

Deepa sincerely attempted to visually bring out the potency of these jathis through her impressive footwork and adherence to tala. She conjured up images of heroism and awe through episodes such as the lifting of the Govardhana hill and Vamana encompassing the universe with his strides, with her considerable effort to strike these difficult poses.

The customisation of the lyrics and music aided the dancer to steer the presentation, showcasing her unique strengths. Towards the end, Deepa even managed to fit in a folkish tune to portray Krishna’s assurance of unconditional love to an already wedded gopika.

Deepa Mahadevan impresses with her footwork and expression

Deepa Mahadevan impresses with her footwork and expression | Photo Credit: SRINATH M

Srikanth Gopalakrishnan and his team of musicians uplifted the show with their pleasing musical support. While narration proves to be a useful tool for the audience to understand the subject, it could have been relegated only to the beginning. Providing explanations while the piece is still being presented disrupts the flow of the recital. Deepa must, however, be commended for her stamina as she never stepped off the stage during the ninety-minute-long presentation.

Even though the story was built admirably, the theme ‘Maiyal’ is a much-explored one, especially using Krishna. Given that the idea of the performance was to question societal expectations of love, one could not help but feel that the dancer played it safe by sticking to the Paramatma-Jivatma trope, which is often seen. Perhaps in the next edition of ‘Maiyal’, Deepa could delve into other narratives associated with this loaded Tamil word.

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