When one thinks of longing, the image that immediately arises is of waiting for the lover; something that our arts have underscored. So it was a pleasant surprise when two dancers at Kaathirutal: A Dance Confluence interpreted the theme differently.
Though the programme started half an hour late, the formalities were kept to a bare minimum. A couple of minutes for the lamp lighting by educationist Prema Rangchary and the introduction by theatre person Dharanidharan and the audience was plunged straight into the programme.
The first section saw the dancers introduce their forms. Raga, a Coimbatore-based troupe of three, presented a semi-classical number that had Bharatanatyam steps set to a melange of music that finished with a jig. In stark contrast was Akila’s contemporary dance piece in which the dancer’s flowing movements were matched by her serene expression. Akshara Bharadwaj chose a Purandaradasa kriti on Krishna to showcase Bharatanatyam. Even someone who didn’t know the form would have understood her depiction of the mischievous boy breaking the pots being carried by the gopis and stealing of butter and the harried mother trying to control him. Shanthini Roja’s Rajasthani folk number was both energetic and sensuous. I couldn’t help wondering how she managed to walk straight after performing those whirling movements. Madhushree Basu focussed on the rhythmic foot and stylised hand movements characteristic of Kathak.
Once the audience had been familiarised with the forms, it was time for the theme-based presentations. Akila, now dressed in stark white and green, opened with a Tamil verse about a farmer waiting for rain. Her depiction of a farmer sowing seeds, weeding, gazing at the sky in hope and finally crumpling in defeat reminded everyone of the agrarian crisis current in the country. The music too reflected the moods, rising from a gentle rhythm to an ominous thud, as the waiting intensifies, and dovetails into a wail when the rain doesn’t materialise.
Basu, who was next, also chose to veer away from the conventional imagery. Her depiction of ‘Mono Aji’ in a mix of Kathak and contemporary styles talked about being overcome by longing in the midst of daily chores. Here too the music was different: with sounds of trains and roads being interspersed with the singing.
In total contrast to these two was Bharadwaj’s interpretation of the Patnam Subramania Aiyer javali, ‘Samayamide Ra Ra’. Her exposition of the rather explicit piece — woman exhorting her lover to join her and assuring him that there would be no interruptions — stuck to the traditional format of Bharatanatyam.
Roja’s theme-based piece too focused on the traditional waiting for the lover but with a difference. There is no illicit love here but a confident woman waiting for her love to come home and Roja’s depiction was masterly.
Raga again took the stage to a musical medley, which finished this time with the Tamil film song ‘Paadu Paadu Bharatha Panpadu’.
The programme wound to a close with playwright S Murugabhoopathy and National Award winning playback singer Sunder Ayyar felicitating the artists. When requested to sing, Ayyar too sang about farmers struggling due to the current crisis.
As a finale, Dharanidharan took the stage with a performance set to Sushila Raman’s rendition of the Thyagaraja kriti ‘Nagumomo’.