Revisiting the repertoire

Priya Murle

Priya Murle   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

Nritta grabbed attention at Priya Murle’s performance

Priya Murle’s vibrant Bharatanatyam performance for Natyarangam drew appreciation from the audience. She had been commissioned to perform a two-hour Poorna Margam and gave it her all. Priya has matured into a committed artiste over the many decades she has been a dancer and a teacher. Her confidence and conviction speak for themselves.

Priya presented the seven-piece margam: Khanda alarippu, Charukesi jatiswaram, ‘Siruluminchina’ shabdam, ‘Danike’ varnam, ‘Tharuni njaan’ padam, ‘Geliyay’ javali and a Brindavana Saranga tillana, besides Agni and Varuna kavuthuvams from the traditional Navasandhi kavuthuvams and slokas from Krishnashtakam in the finale.

She is a senior disciple of veteran Bharatanatyam artiste Sudharani Raghupathy, so some of the pieces were her guru’s visualisations. The varnam jathis were old-fashioned gems by the Thanjavur bani legend, K.P. Kittappa Pillai (her guru’s guru).

It is a brave dancer who takes up ‘Danike’ (Thodi, Rupaka, Thanjavur Quartet Sivanandam), a sringara varnam addressed to Shivaji Maharaj II, with suggestive lyrics that are tricky to interpret on a public platform. Priya played safe, sticking to the overall implications of the sahitya while giving rhythm centre stage. The varnam is a soliloquy by the messenger to the king, beseeching him to join the accomplished and devoted maiden who is awaiting his visit. One felt Priya could have established this three-way setting with more clarity at the beginning. There was also a tendency to make poetic statements such as the beauty of birdsong being carried by the breeze and the water, which required more time and effort to explain.

Priya’s interpretive highpoint was during the soulful ‘Tharuni njaan’ (Dwijavanti, Swati Tirunal). She was able to catch the hopelessness of the heroine suffering from Padmanabha’s indifference, but in snatches. At one point, the intensity she evoked was disturbed when she rose from a sitting position. At another, a sudden bout of helpless crying showed the heroine’s vulnerability, but her pausing by the wings when exiting made her posturing look affected.

Attractive nritta

With excellent footwork, the nritta, undoubtedly, grabbed attention. The resoundingly sharp finishes for well-timed jathis and swaras in the jatiswaram, varnam and thillana, as her ankle bells, the cymbals (Sudha Lakshmi, T.M. Sridevi) and the mridangam (K.S.R. Aniruddha) came together in unison, were the high points and demonstrated good teamwork. The expert melodists Nandini Anand (vocal) and Dr. Kandadevi S. Vijayaraghavan (violin) gave their best, but were often drowned out by the enthusiasm of the drummer.

The margam per se is not a new trend . It was the repertoire for a Sadir, now Bharatanatyam performance, that was laid down in the early 1800s in Serfoji’s court by the Thanjavur Quartet. It underwent modification as society lost its patience in the last few decades, and if Natyarangam is promoting its revival, then more power to them. Life, as they say, comes a full circle.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 11:30:53 AM |

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