Rukmini Vijaykumar scores with sharp movements and intense proficiency

Rukmini Vijaykumar performing for Natyadarshan at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

Conventional Rukmini Vijayakumar may not be, but arresting she certainly is. Rukmini is multi-faceted — an actor and a dancer with proficiency in Bharatanatyam and ballet. Her presentations reflect these varied artistic inputs — while some may dismiss them as filmy, others may appreciate her stunning skill sets.

Rukmini’s hour-long presentation stuck to traditional themes. Her first piece was an ode to Ardhanareeshwara through a few verses from Adi Sankaracharya’s Ardhanareeshwara stothra (Nagaswaravali, talamalika, tuned by Raghuram, jati composition by G. Gurumurthy). It speaks first of the duality of the masculine and feminine principles, Shiva and Shakti, contrasting their attributes, and ends with the truth of their merging into the one genderless godhead. Rukmini’s firm, razor-sharp movements and the brisk handling of the religious and spiritual references proved that she is no novice.

The Charukesi padavarnam (‘Innam en manam,’ Adi, Lalgudi Jayaraman) was the controversial choreography. The lyrics portray the yearning of the heroine for Krishna; what Rukmini did was to extend the same sentiments into a believable storyline. A gopika is in love with Krishna. One day, he leaves suddenly without telling her. Broken, she looks for him. Following his footsteps she reaches a palace, where she is stopped by guards. She eagerly waits outside, hoping to meet him. But when he comes out, he walks past without a glance. In despair, the heroine crumbles. The story then winds back to the forest scene where she finds his footsteps, to the opening lyrics ‘Innam.’

There was nothing out of the way in Rukmini’s interpretation. Dancers routinely play with timelines, reminisce about the ‘good times’ and come back to the present. Dancers also add anecdotes and sancharis, to back the lyrics. What Rukmini did was create a solo theatrical work in which she never came out of the character; the jati korvais were performed within a context, for example as the gopika and Krishna played in the rain and extraneous additions such as tapping between the jatis, etc., were removed.

What was striking was Rukmini’s intensity through it all. Her movements were strong and highly chiselled, while her acting, predominantly lokadharmic — less stylised. The heart-rending mukthayi swara sahitya, ‘Parivilaada nenjam tandadaar...’ describing the nayika’s anguish and isolation after having surrendered her heart, with her body wasting away thinking of him, was when the palace scene was enacted. Rukmini’s enthusiasm to meet Krishna in the palace turns to dismay when she is not allowed in. Watching Krishna step out, she is excited and so sure that he will acknowledge her. But when he walks past, her expectant smile falters, her face falls and she breaks down. Brilliant.

What she did was simplify the traditional presentation, so the reach would be wider. But what she also did was allow herself to get carried away by some stylistic mannerisms that cast a shadow on her good work. One was left wondering — Was it intended to be one long film song?

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:44:32 AM |

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