Sridevi Nrithyalaya’ ‘Vande Mataram,’ — an ode to Mother India

Sheela Unnikrishnan’s ‘Vande Mataram’ was a conventional approach to patriotism

December 19, 2019 02:47 pm | Updated 02:47 pm IST

‘Vande Mataram,’ group dance by Sridevi Nrithyalaya of Sheela Unnikrishnan at Narada Gana sabha on Tuesday.

‘Vande Mataram,’ group dance by Sridevi Nrithyalaya of Sheela Unnikrishnan at Narada Gana sabha on Tuesday.

What sets Sheela Unnikrishnan’s productions apart are impeccable dancing, synchronised movements and wide range of themes. Also, the approach is sincere and the dancers’ training comes through in their clean, sharp footwork.

The productions are backed by Sheela’s able nattuvangam and her expertise in engaging the audience. A student of guru Sundaram (a student of Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer), Sheela was trained in the Melattur style that has a folk flavour and comes through in her storytelling. She is also familiar with Kuchipudi because of her stint with Vempatti Chinna Satyam.

Her dance school, Sridevi Nrithyalaya, in its 32nd year has presented 17 dance dramas such as ‘Janani Jagath Karani’, ‘Sri Krishna Vaibhavam’, ‘Sivamayam’, ‘Brahmasmi’ and ‘Srinivasa Kalyanam.’

The school’s latest presentation, Vandé Mātaram, staged at Narada Gana Sabha, explored the strength of Bharatha Varsha. But it is not easy to depict a country of such complexities. There is the drawback of presenting things in a very simplistic manner, which is suitable more for an annual day performance. Expectations from a new work, especially during the Season, are high. Despite an excellent score by Embar Kannan, well-choreographed movements and good dancing by 45 disciples, the production lacked a certain finesse that marked Sheela’s earlier works.

Apt choice of songs

The ode to Mother India was through the teachings of oneness, truth and love that the Tricolour conveys. Pinnal Kollatam was performed to depict India’s diversity. Songs such as ‘Vaishnava Janato’ were used to arouse patriotic sentiments. Guru Bharadwaj on the mridangam and Ganapathi Subramaniyan on the tabla added vibrancy alongwith the jatis recited and composed by Guru Bharadwaj and Jaikishore Mosalikanti. Embar Kannan’s violin brought out the moods and emotions in the production. Equally skilled was Bhavani Prasad on his veena. Flute by Vishnu, vocals by Deepika Varadarajan, sloka recitation by Sankar and Ravi along with special effects by Jaicha, voiceover by Sheela and Harinie Jeevitha added to the appeal.

It is becoming common to use visual aids to enhance the ambience. This production had a lot of that. Done by Sudarshan and Sheela Unnikrishnan, it brought out the vibrant colours of India. With music mastered by Sai Shravanam and lights by Murugan, ‘Vande Mataram’ was about wholesome appeal.

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