She held her own

Shobana Bhalchandra. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan  

With vocalist Nandini Sharma Anand in full form and vidwan T.K. Padmanabhan (violin) contributing beautiful melody alongside, the music was all-powerful. It might have overpowered a lesser dancer but senior dancer-teacher, Shobana Bhalchandra, disciple of Gurus Shantha and V.P. Dhananjayan and Guru Kalanidhi Narayanan, was able to hold her own with her maturity, long-limbed easy grace and well-maintained physicality.

The Bharatanatyam programme was presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India, and the Shri Ariyakudi Music Foundation.

The dancer has been in the field for about four decades - she is the youngest of the Trio Sisters, the senior-most students of the Dhananjayans. Shobana, therefore, radiates a visible sense of ease and quiet confidence without trying too hard.

The Sankarabharanam padavarnam, ‘Ati Moham’ (Adi, Ponnayya Pillai) was the piece de resistance of the evening, both in terms of the music, the jatis and the interpretation. A choreography of the Dhananjayans in the 1970s, this varnam is loosely considered a translation of the Telugu padavarnam, ‘Manavi Chekona,’ by the same composer, but Guru Dhananjayan clarifies that though the notations are the same, the lyrics and their meaning are different.

The olde-worlde charm of the jatis, serene and excitingly rhythmic all at once, was rendered with perfect control and intonation by Neela Sukanya. Shobana’s style is geometric yet flowing with well-defined movements, excellent footwork, a straight back and a good araimandi stance. An impressive combination for sure.

The pretty picture of the smitten nayika sending a letter hidden within the petals of a lotus to King Ramalinga, who reciprocates her love, was conveyed with subtle angika and netra abhinaya. Shobana added her own aesthetic when she showed the nayika eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the majestic king in a procession; the king in turn stops to exchange a special glance of admiration. It was such an intimate moment that it took your breath away.

Shobana has a habit of tapping her feet vigorously to build up tempo before a jati. Guru Bharadwaj (mridangam) needed no further encouragement and he would step up the volume with his vigour. The jati before the mukthayi swara passage, the ‘kitathaka tharikita thom’ jati is just one example when the nattuvanar and the mridangam artist combined to magnify the poetry of rhythm.

A similar vigour was seen in the Krishna-medley, in which his playboy image was presented. ‘Chandana Charchita’ ashtapadi (Yamuna Kalyani, Jayadeva), ‘Chitika Vesite’ (Kalyani, Sarangapani) and ‘Aadinaye Kanna’ (Mohanakalyani, Ambujam Krishna) flowed in quick succession, with recurring images of Krishna with the gopis presented in ever new ways.

While this could pass off as a breezy presentation, Shobana’s excerpt from poet Subramanya Bharati’s ‘Panchali Sabadam’ was disappointingly flat. Notwithstanding the charged dialogue, even the disrobing scene was not moving enough. The saving grace was the spectacular music tuned by Vidwan Padmanabhan.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 3:44:47 AM |

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