Dance

An ode to Annamayya

POWERFUL IMAGERY: Ananda Shankar Jayant. Photo: R. Ragu

POWERFUL IMAGERY: Ananda Shankar Jayant. Photo: R. Ragu  

Annamacharya stands unsurpassed for his luminous vision of Lord Venkateswara, the Lord of the Seven Hills. For her dance presentation ‘Taala Patra: Hymns from the Hills,’ Ananda Shankar Jayant sought to capture the composer’s poetic essence through dance. The production sourced select hymns from the work, ‘Annamayya Padamandakini’ comprising the saint’s 108 compositions in as many ragas, which were tuned and sung by Satthiraju Venu Madhav.

Ananda’s production conveyed not just the piety of the poet but also the finer points in the songs themselves. The opening number by Annamacharya’s grandson Chinna Tirumalacharya was a tribute to the composer. Here the dancer narrated the saint’s proficiency and devotion. Simple props such as the tambura and a few palm leaf inscriptions left scattered on a stand proved to be effective reminders of the poetic attribute.

Undoubtedly, the biggest asset that aided the dancing was the first class orchestra especially the multi-layered vocals of Venu Madhav and the energetic nattuvangam of Renuka Prasad. Although the lighting team tried to keep pace with the dancer, more often than not it missed capturing important cameos.

Even as the expertise of the dancer unfolded throughout the recital some pieces stood out for the mellow infusion of bhakti in natyam. The subject of the songs shifted from the temporal to the philosophical, some poignant imagery to merely glossy ones. The posture for depicting Garuda with his wings half folded was one of many instances where ‘Taala Patra’ was imposing. Others such as the tableau showing the procession during the Brahmotsavam paled in comparison.

Venu Madhav’s impressive rendering of hymns from the Sri Suktam in Sankarabharanam set the mood for ‘Alarulukuriyaga’ (tuned by Rallipalli Ananthakrishna Sharma) that brought together sringara, fast movements and music in harmony. Ananda’s dancing showcased Annamacharya’s esteem of Alamelumanga’s enduring love. The brahmaris or circular movements so eloquently described by Annamayya struck a chord for their significance in our time too.

Ananda’s dexterity guaranteed that the mood for the lines expressing the torment of the goddess remained bonded with the fast footwork. Rhythmic permutations strung together along with the sahitya secured patina for the dancing.

Another lyric where strong body language and mime made for outstanding visuals was the Gowla song, ‘Navamurthulaianati.’ Ananda’s stances were strengthened by her mental picture of the nine Narasimha icons at Ahobilam. Her depiction graduated from the serenity of Yoga Narasimha to the ferocious denouement of the slaying Hiranyakashyapu. Angry swaras fell in step with the dancer tearing the asura’s entrails artistically. Succeeding these were the descriptions of ‘Ramavatar’ in Reetigowla and Krishna in ‘Muddugare Choodaramma’ in Mohanam which made a slick follow-up to the earlier drama. The vivacious dance of Krishna with the gopikas created a merry mood.

The spiritual oneness of Annamacharya with the Supreme was underlined by the symbolism in bundling the manuscripts, a device that smoothly encompassed the devotional content in the performance.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 2:16:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/An-ode-to-Annamayya/article15506149.ece

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