Exploring hasya rasa in Bharatanatyam

Bragha Bessell, well-known Bharatanatyam teacher and performer, presented an interesting lec-dem ‘Humour in Bharatanatyam’ at the Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall recently. It was organised by Natyarangam.

“ We can find humour in everything, if we are listening to things around us,” she said. Bragha chose to broadly classify her presentation into four points — humour as envisaged by the poet and inherent in the lyrics, humour arising out of a situation, the context, and adding humour through imaginative choreography.

She presented traditional pieces such as ‘Etthai kandu,’ ‘Thaaye Yasodha,’ ‘Vazhi maraithu’ with beautiful and humorous interpretations. Her performances were preceded by an explanation of the song.

“When it comes to humour, the context is very important,” she said. Though humour was inherent in the pieces Bragha chose, in some she instilled and gave them a new dimension as in ‘Vazhi maraithu’, which is often rendered in the form of desperation and devotion. Adding humour to such pieces proved that the emotion is there in everything.

Padam and javali

Bragha’s way of presenting ‘Oh my lovely lalana,’ a javali in Kharaharapriya, composed by Karur Sivaramayya in the early 1800s, with lyrics both in Telugu and English, was amusing. Her interpretation of the lines ‘Kodi mathi paaynthitra’ from Muthollaiyiram in Tamil literature — portraying a war elephant refusing to enter the kingdom for fear of being trolled by his fellow female elephants for his broken tusk and dirty feet, evoked laughter. Bragha thanked Tamil scholar Prof. S. Raghuraman for selecting the lines.

She then presented a Kshetrayya padam in which the nayaki scolds the rooster for crowing early and untimely, which forces Krishna to leave in exasperation. Her way of ending the padam by shooing the rooster away to the backstage was hilarious.

The highlight of the evening was the padam ‘Yenna naan seidhuvitten’ in ragamalika. The portrayal of the mischievous little Krishna stealing butter, caught red-handed by a gopi, and claiming that he was searching for a missing calf inside the pot of butter, was enjoyable.

Her imagery of another padam on Krishna — ‘Chittika vesite’ in Kalyani had humour in her portrayal of Krishna’s reaction after his ego was bruised.

She also presented a javali ‘Apudu manasu’ by Patnam Subramania Iyer in Khamas in which the exuberant nayaki does not take her friend’s advice to stop flirting with Lord Venkateswara. Her portrayal of a portion from Arunachala Kavi’s Ramanatakam, ‘Yaarada kurangae,’ where Hanuman introduces himself to Ravana, had sarcasm and humour combined in it.

Bragha went on to present Ghanam Seenayya’s ‘Siva deeksha paruralanurane’ tuned in Kurinji and Nandanar’s ‘Chatre vilagi irum pillai’ in Purvikalyani. The movement of the Nandi, often visualised as still and inanimate, was choreographed with mischief as the dancer finally leapt across the stage gracefully.

Bragha was ably assisted by her student Sri Sudarshini (nattuvangam) and the versatile vocalist K. Hariprasad, who had also composed music for some of the pieces (Muthollaiyiram and opening lines of Ramanatakam). She humorously ended with ‘Sirippuththaan varuguthayya’ by Suddhananda Bharati, from the movie Ponvayal. At the end of the evening, one realised how dance can evoke humour.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 5:05:44 PM |

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