Friday Review

Stunning choreographic moments

There can be no doubt about Mohiniyattam dancer-teacher Sunanda Nair’s theatrical skill. For 75 minutes she took the rasikas on an emotional journey through the tragic lives of Amba, Bhishma’s enemy in the Mahabharata, Kubja, Kamsa’s maid from Srimad Bhagavatham, who gets salvation from Krishna, and a mother who discovers that her daughter has eloped, from Agam poetry.

Each piece had been crafted with finely nuanced movements and expressions, nothing overdone, but enough to tug at your heartstrings. The music was an evocative soundscape of mood-music that again was aesthetic, not once transgressing the bounds of classicism. The lighting (Murugan) was especially eye-catching with liberal use of blue backlighting and soft yellow lights in front.

Specialists such as Kalamandalam Gireeshan (vocal) created and carried the mood with his sopana-inspired Carnatic style along with violin expert Srilakshmi; Kalamandalam Gopalakrishnan (nattuvangam) was the nimble-fingered anchor whose delivery was inspiring, including the well-timed special-effect sollus, the sensitive mridangist Satish Krishnamurthy whose soft beats mirroring the mother’s quivering toe as she picks up the stone while playing ‘pandi’ with her daughter were memorable along with the flavour-enhancing edakka played by R. Nandakumar.

There had to be a mastermind behind the creative effort — it was Guru Kanak Rele. The piece on Amba (Bhairavi, talamalika) had stunning choreographic moments — when she finds herself abandoned by both Salwa and Bhishma by a quirk of fate, she turns angry against both of them. There is a moment with her standing centre stage, shooting angry looks at them on either side of her. Another stunning moment was when Shikandi rides into battle — the crisp sollus alternated between a soft female version and a strong male version, signifying Shikandi’s gender duality. An unusual technique was the way the entire piece was enacted only from Amba/ Shikandi’s perspective, leaving the other characters to imagination. The piece ends with the final confrontation between Shikandi and Bhishma when Shikandi condemns him for allowing Draupadi vastraharan and for abandoning Amba, the melodrama building with the music, her agitated movements and enraged expression. And the final killing with her standing fearlessly after the act. All this with Shikandi standing centrestage, a single blue spot on her.

The Agam poetry, ‘Oru Magal’ (Saveri, misra chapu) too was handled with rare choreographic skill. It opened with the mother waking up before dawn to discover that her daughter is missing. A futile search and the subsequent realisation of what might have happened leads to a flashback, when the mother relives moments with her daughter from babyhood to childhood, adolescence and to the present. Life comes back a full circle, and the opening scene is re-played with the mother waking up to find her daughter gone. Soulful music and sensitive acting could not but bring a lump to the throat.

It is ironical then that one should leave the auditorium feeling dissatisfied… The thing is, I wanted to see Mohiniyattam not just drama.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2020 6:45:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Stunning-choreographic-moments/article13999467.ece

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