Combining theatre, music and dance, ‘Manomanthana,’ presented by Srividya Angara Sinha, Bengaluru-based Kuchipudi artiste, teacher, choreographer and art writer, was a production with a difference. . The presentation, based on Tyagaraja kritis, also stood out for the Kuchipudi element and the soliloquy in English.
The hour-long production offered, besides ‘Sri Ganapatini’ and Mangalam, nine compositions chosen with utmost care, all connected with powerful Vachanas. The concept and choreography and Vachanas were by Srividya herself.
The theme hinged on the craving of a finite body to join the Infinite within a finite time frame. Hence the struggle. Manthanam is churning — mann meaning mind. The churning of this mind, by this mind to rise above this mind. The seeker happily accepts all the worldly bonds, but then?
Culminating in the Jayanti of Tyagaraja, the production, supported by Indic Academy, was presented at three places in Thanjavur and Tiruvaiyaru. She premiered the production before the Sita-Rama Vigraham worshipped by Tyagaraja at Varahappier Lane, Thanjavur, in the morning and the same evening at Navaneetha Krishnan Temple on Mela Raja Veedhi, and at Tiruvaiyaru Pudu Agraharam Pattabhiramar Temple, situated on the opposite bank of the Tyagaraja Samadhi, Tiruvaiyaru, on his Jayanti Day. The ambience at all the three places was serene.
The production started with ‘Raghunayaka’ (Hamsadhwani). “Bhajana of Sri Rama is the sure means for Paraloka — world after this life.” (Paraloka Sadhaname, Purvikalyani). But hopelessness crept in — “Which Prince will protect me, who is full of wickedness?” Frustration and anger lead to ‘Nagumomu’ (Abheri) — “Can't you protect me? You have no pity on me?”
The first part ended with metaphorical death of the seeker. She (the seeker) wakes up joyously realising ‘Jagadanandakaraka’ (Nattia). She finds Rama walking towards her, after a long spell of alternating emotions — hope, hopelessness, despair, anger, frustration, self-pity, disgust and again hope. She falls at His feet and describes his beauty ‘Sogasu chooda tarama' (Kannada Gowla). After being blessed with the darshan of Sita Rama, his brothers and Hanuman, the seeker joyfully dances singing, “I have seen Rama” (’Kanukontini,’ Bilahari).
The pre-recorded orchestra — emotion-filled singing, supportive instruments, appropriate sound effects, modulation in Vachanas, above all Srividya’s expressive abhinaya pre-dominant with bhakti and powerful footwork together contributed to the success of the production.
The prakara of the Pattabhiramar temple and the audience comprising the villagers, who were totally absorbed in the drama that unfolded, provided the perfect atmosphere.
Although the Vachanas were in English they were able to identify the seeker (Tyagaraja), who was going in search of Rama. They communicated their appreciation with an applause at the right place and more telling was the tears they wiped away at the end.
The artiste had indeed succeeded. A sincere tribute to Sri Tyagaraja on his Jayanti.