Praveen Kumar revisited old compositions with new interpretations

Praveen Kumar’s convincing depiction of various characters was engaging

January 27, 2023 06:46 pm | Updated 06:46 pm IST

Praveen Kumar at The Music Academy’s margazhi festival, in January 2023.

Praveen Kumar at The Music Academy’s margazhi festival, in January 2023. | Photo Credit: RAGU R

The Pandemic lockdown led Bharatanatyam dancer Praveen Kumar to revisit old compositions to gain new insights. His recital commenced with ‘Ka va va’ (Papanasam Sivan; Varali), an invocation to Skanda of Pazhanimalai. He came up with brisk imageries that described the epithets associated with Muruga — the son of Shiva, who as a child is seen seated on Parvati’s lap, is armed with a spear, wedded to Valli and Devayani, and is the bestower of the sacred mantra. The concluding visual was of devotees travelling to Pazhani carrying kavadi.

The varnam, Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sarma’s ‘Ninne nammi na nu ra’ (Atana), which was part of Praveen’s arangetram, looked at Krishna from different perspectives — friend, lover, parent and protector. Flawlessly executed jathis were mostly set in chatusra nadai (as in the old version), while the abhinaya portrayed vignettes of Krishna in a refreshing manner. ‘Chinni krishna ra ra’, the devotees call Krishna, the brother of Balarama, who eats mud and opens his mouth to reveal the universe to his mother. Praveen has imbibed from his gurus Narmada and Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar an integrated approach to Bharatanatyam — his impeccable movement blending well with interpretative dance.

Praveen Kumar’s performance at The Music Academy’s Margazhi festival, on January 04, 2023.

Praveen Kumar’s performance at The Music Academy’s Margazhi festival, on January 04, 2023. | Photo Credit: RAGU R

The post-varnam, purely abhinaya, part of the recital began with Marimutha Pillai’s composition ‘Ethai kandu ichhai kondai magale’ in Kalyani, a ninda stuti, set to Rupaka tala. While the words do not in anyway indicate the gender of the person speaking, the lyric is traditionally understood to represent the words of an exasperated mother telling her daughter Parvati what she saw in Shiva to lose her heart to him. Praveen looked at the words from the male perspective — of a father addressing the daughter. Drawing her attention to Shiva’s idiosyncrasies, he says, “Is he not the one who swallowed poison and with the fire of a third eye burnt to ashes Manmatha? His weird costume includes an ash-smeared body covered in tiger skin, matted locks in which Ganga is lodged, and a snake for a garland. He also tells her how she is used to travelling in comfort in a palanquin, while Shiva’s mode of transport is a bull. The dancer concluded his convincing portrayal of an irate father, who, seeing his words having little impact on his daughter, stalks out with the expletive,  “Suttha paitiyakkaran” (mad person).

The javali, ‘Oh my lovely Lalana’, a Karur Shivaramiah composition (Karaharapriya) with its mix of English and Tamil sahitya, was an unlikely choice by the conservative Praveen, who portrayed a besotted nayak trying to woo an indifferent nayika. Lalgudi Jayaraman’s thillana brought a change of mood.

Praveen was supported by a team of experienced musicians — D.S. Srivatsa (vocal), D.V. Prasanna Kumar (nattuvangam), Harsha Samaga (mridangam), Mahesh Swamy (flute), and Gopal Venkataraman (veena).

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