‘Ula’ — the Lord’s day out

Anjana Anand, presenting ‘Ula - The Procession of Chokkanathar’ at Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore, Chennai.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The tradition of carrying the bedecked idols of deities around the streets of a temple continues even today. From being a part of the crowd as mere spectator to taking in the beauty of the procession as a devout, the ritual elicits varied responses.

Going back to ‘Ula,’ a genre of Tamil literature dating back to the 8th century AD, Anjana Anand conceptualised and choreographed a dance production on Madurai Chokkanathar Ula composed by Puranathirumalai Nathar. “This Ula was the only work, where Siva is in a procession on different vahanas, and this enabled me to explore it for group choreography,” said Anjana Anand.

Based on a woman’s love for the Lord, this work takes us through the emotions that span seven stages in a woman’s life as described in Tamil Literature — Pedhai, Pedhumbai, Mangai, Madandhai, Arivai, Therivai and Perilam Penn — as they see the resplendent Lord in the procession.

Effective portrayal

The mallari, used as a musical introduction to Lord Chokkanathar and Ambal, and a group of girls dancing a kavuthuvam in front of the procession, established effectively the atmosphere of temple festivities.

From a child fascinated by the idol on the palanquin and looking at the Lord as her playmate to a young girl overcome with love for Him were depicted through anecdotes and stories. The feelings of love and pining were explored before portraying a mature women seeking salvation by uniting with the Lord. The choice of seven dancers — Vasundhara Navaneethakrishnan, Shruthe Rammohan, Mahati Kannan, Nikitha Gopalkrishnan, Sivasri Skandaprasad, Anjana Anand and Maha Lakshmi Kameshwaran, appropriate to the age of the women being portrayed, helped in sustaining the interest.

The depiction of the various vahanas like elephant, bull, horse and kalpa vriksha using a group of dancers in choreographed movements though visually appealing could have been made more interesting by focussing on the procession and its connect with the nayikas to highlight the theme Ula.

S. Amrutha Varshini, Anjana Srinivasan, Kirthana R, Vaishali Chandrasekhar, San kirthana Kumar, Sitara Ram were the other dancers of the show.

The use of seven drapes on a mat by Sheejith Krishna was a thoughful and symbolic representation of the theme. Lighting design was by Venkatesh Krishnan. Costume design (Kirthana R and Anjana Anand) was an eclectic mix of colours and style.

The musical score based on vintage Carnatic ragas by the late Bhagavatulu Seetharama Sarma suitable for each emotion was impressive. The singers Sushama Soma and Subhiksha Rangarajan rendered the compositions well, but a little more azhutham in expression would have enhanced the appeal of the gana ragas.

Sheejith Krishna did the nattuvangam. Musical support was provided by Ananthakrishnan on the violin, Vedakrishnan on the mridangam and Bavani Prasad on the veena.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 3:58:54 AM |

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