Shijith Nambiar gives dramatic twists to traditional pieces

Shijith Nambiar performing at Spaces in Chennai

Shijith Nambiar performing at Spaces in Chennai   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran


In a rare solo performance, Shijith Nambiar’s interpretations swung between meditation and ecstasy

For Shijith Nambiar, this Bharatanatyam performance at Spaces in Chennai was a landmark one; he was going solo after 13 years of dancing as a couple with his wife Parvathy. The earlier Shijith was stylish and creative artiste, whereas the new version seems to seems to epitomise a raw energy, a frenzied pace of nritta, and a new depth in abhinaya. In addition, he is happy to take a risk and challenge convention. You may or may not agree with his views, but you must admit that the effect was electric.

The two-hour programme was high on energy, confidence, fast-paced rhythm, photo-finishes and metaphors. He set the tone early on — the invocatory Narayaneeyam Guruvayoorappan sloka ‘Peethambaram kara viraajitha’ (Arabhi) had references to some leelas — the Gajendra moksha, the Prahlada-Narasimha episode, the Govardhana Giri episode and to Krishna as ‘Radha sahaayam’. The ensuing Alarippu (Adi, Karaikudi Krishnamurthy) was a combination of misram and sankeernam; he started with footwork to establish the 7s and 9s, alternating the nadais all through in the unusually fast framework, to give a dramatic twist to the age-old sedate piece.

The varnam was similarly reinvented. He side-stepped the inherent nayika bhava and amplified the devotional aspect as he re-arranged the lyrics of the Natakurinji padavarnam (‘Swami naan undan adimai’, Adi, Papanasam Sivan). It opened with a meditative nama japa alongside ragam singing, and as the tree of devotion symbollically grew within his heart, the branches seek the god’s protective embrace. Even in the enactment of the metaphor, there was fervour, a desperation to reach the Ultimate.

Echoing this thought, the varnam began with the Anupallavi line 1, ‘Namaamrtha paaname’, followed by a trikaala jathi and the Pallavi line 1. The dancer depicted creation and surrender, relayed by Nataraja’s fast damaru movements and quick breaths as the mood built up to a crescendo. With surrender was one avarthana of silence. Pallavi line 2 was sung thereafter, without a concluding that-mettu for the previous line or a jathi before the next. Just when you have decided that the varnam is not going to be presented in a conventional way, thattu-mettu for Pallavi line 1 begins… Shijith’s visualisation kept you guessing, as his interpretation swung between meditative and ecstatic. To his credit, there was no disturbance of mood despite the switches.

There were a couple of quiet moments of artistry — during ‘Natanamaadum sevvadi’, a simple sanchari of Nandi trying to lift Nataraja’s bells and falling under its weight, picked by the nonchalant god and tied on his feet; the other during the charana sahitya, ‘Aadum nin azhagil...’ when the devotee is walking backwards, he or she turns back to have a glimpse of Nataraja — the subtlety in that knowing smile was memorable.

The Ashtapadi (‘Kshana maduna’, Vaghdeeshwari, misrachapu, Jayadeva) and the bhajan, ‘Sri Ramachandra kripalu’, Yaman and Sindu Bhairavi, misrachapu, Tulsidas) quietened Shijith’s performance, where the dancer’s sensitivity was on display. With expertise, he captured the intimacy in Krishna’s manner when he declares his love for Radha, and Sabari’s happiness when Rama rewards her devotion; his experiments with abhinaya seemed to work.

Shijith’s agility in the Chenchuruti thillana (Adi, Veena Seshanna) was outstanding. The visualisation of rhythm was clever as he concentrated on keeping the energy of the performance high. An inspired Ramesh Babu (mridangam), skilful anchor Udayshankar Lal (nattuvangam), together with the melody team of Rijesh Gopalakrishnan (violin) and Binu Venugopal (vocal) added colourful layers to the dynamic performance.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 11:58:12 AM |

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