The young boy after imbibing all the cultural values that was the hallmark of his alma mater — Kalakshetra, stepped out of the institution with one dream and mission — that was to spread the art.
Taking a decision of not embarking on a performance career, S. Premnath set up an art school aptly named ‘Rukminidevi Natyakshetra’ in 1997 with just one student. It has grown into an institution with nearly 400 students learning various art forms. To commemorate its 16th anniversary, students of the school presented group performances on two days.
The first half of the show at Museum Theatre, began with an instrumental performance by the students, third year onwards, setting the tone for the evening’s performances with songs, including ‘Sivananda Manolasini’ (Kapi), ‘Sara Sara Samare’ (Kunthalavarali) played in complete harmony and melody. The singing and playing of the keyboard by the students added to the listening pleasure.
The discipline and fine training being imparted at the institution were evident not only in the synchronised rendering of the songs, but also in the manner they took their positions on stage one after another. Dressed in traditional clothes, the students walked onto the stage in a neat line, took a bow as they were introduced and sat down in a disciplined manner before rendering the songs.
The second half was devoted to folk dance performances. Premnath adheres to Rukmini Devi’s style — in presenting folk dances, without any addition or variation. ‘Deepagarba,’ the folk dance of Gujarat, using a sacred pot and lamp as an offering to goddess Durga was an auspicious start.
Yet another Garba called Manjeera Garba with girls dressed in colourful Gujarati skirts captured the vibrant spirit of the song. Having watched the current trend of fast-paced disco Dandiyas and Garbas, the leisurely pace of these Garbas choreographed by Rukmini Devi came as a breath of fresh air.
‘Karam,’ a traditional folk dance of West Bengal and Orissa, Saanthal a tribal dance of Jharkand, Kaikottikali of Kerala and Raas that were performed one after another need to be commended, not only for the immense effort put in to achieve excellent co-ordination of movements, but also for the aesthetically designed costumes. The concluding Sindubhairavi Meera bhajan by the alumni of the school had been choreographed with sensitivity by Premnath. Using spotlight for a major part, however, did not seem to be a good idea.
Excellent bhava-filled singing by Hariprahant accompanied by Shwetha enhanced the beauty of the dances manifold. Sri Krishna on the mridangam,Venkatramana on the tabla, Bhagyalakshmi on the flute, Srinivas on the violin and Shyam on the tanpura provided competent support.
It is indeed a matter to rejoice that in a south-Centric Chennai arts scenario, an institution of aesthetic merit is growing healthily in Anna Nagar.