All the right moves

Alarmel Valli Photo: S. Mahinsha   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

Government of Kerala's Department of Cultural Affairs' eighth edition of Mudra festival was held at Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram, recently.

The series of performances at the Mudra festival began with an Odissi recital by the young and talented Rahul Acharya. Beginning with the mangalacharan in Desh, Rahul moved on to present the sthayi, which is pure nritta and on to the pallavi based on the raga Chakravakam. An abhinaya number from the Gita Govindam followed, portraying a remorseful Krishna repenting the wrongs he committed to Radha. The last number was Shivashtakam, which brought out the thandava aspect of Odissi into full focus. It is to Rahul's credit that in the course of this short recital, he saw to it that every aspect of a classical dance form was presented.

Ashimbandhu Bhattacharjee, the Kathak dancer projects himself as a representation of the amalgam of Jaipur and Lucknow gharanas. Starting with the invocation Namashivaya, the dancer went on to present pure dance patterns in a fascinating interplay of rhythm and movement, ranging from the simple Thaat to the complex Paran. ‘Deenan dukh haran dev,' a Surdas pad set to music by the late Jagjit Singh, was an abhinaya piece, elaborating the stories of Ajamila, Prahlad, Gajendra, and Draupadi as devotees who have been blessed by the Lord. The last piece ‘Anand Dhwani' was Ashimbandhu's message to spread love, harmony and peace in the world.

Three well-known artistes performed Mohiniyattam in the course of the festival – Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, Kalamandalam Hymavathy, and Uma Thapasyananda. Kshemavathy presented three unique numbers, all with women as the central theme. The opening Devi sthuthi had lyrics from the Navaratri kriti of Swati Tirunal in Saveri, wherein the dancer addressed the goddess as Bharathi Devi. The varnam was based on the story of Manjula and her untainted devotion to Lord Guruvayurappan. Beautifully rendered to dance by Kshemavathy was poetess Sugatha Kumari's ‘Paada Prathishta.' The poetess compares the various images of Sita against the one installed in her mind and realises that it coincides with the vision of the solitary, but bold Sita walking back to her Mother Earth, while Rama looks on with tears in his eyes.

Hymavathy's recital on the second day, featured a varnam on Lord Shiva, ‘Kailasa Giri thade' penned and choreographed by the artiste herself. The numbers that followed- the padam ‘Sundara shrinu' from ‘Uttara Swayamvaram' Kathakali, the keerthanam ‘pahi pahi jaganmohana,' and the evergreen lullaby ‘Omana thingal kidavo'- all brought out Hymavathy's skill in abhinaya.

Uma Thapasyananda has a strong preference for thematic presentations marked by philosophical insights. ‘Aryanakam' that she presented, is based on Valmiki's Ramayanam, with the lyrics written by Uma herself. It is Sita's reflection on her life in the forest with Rama during the exile and later with her children at the hermitage of Valmiki, after her banishment from Ayodhya. The performance began with the Dik-pala vandanam as the ranga pooja composed and choreographed by Uma.

Mudra Festival hosted two outstanding Kuchipudi performances – one by the duo Jaikishore and Padmavani Mosalikanti and the other by Dr. Ananda Sankar Jayant. The couple's recital began with the Ganesha stuti ‘Ananda narthana' by Jaikishore followed by ‘Bhama Pravesham' by Padmavani. The piece-de-resistance was the Durga tarangam which saw perfect synchronisation, execution and an inspiring choreography by Jaikishore. The evolution of Goddess Durga, her slaying of Mahishasura and so on were delineated and the jathis on the brass plate were executed with precision and beauty to the line ‘sarasa mani nupura sangata paade.'

‘Dashavatharam' from Gita Govindam was the opening piece of Dr. Ananda's Kuchipudi recital. ‘Nanda nandana gopala,' the tarangam dedicated to Krishna received mature treatment from the dancer, both in terms of technique and content. The sancharis explored anecdotes such as Vasudeva carrying the baby Krishna to Gokulam on the stormy night and his lifting of mount Govardhan. A javali in Kaapi, ‘Sarasamu,' featured the nayika turning away Krishna from her door, telling him that it was not the right time for romance. The concluding piece, ‘Gitopadesham' with apt slokas from the Bhagavad Gita, was an ekaharya in which Ananda enacted the roles of both Arjuna and Krishna.

Alarmel Valli's performance was a strong statement of her Bharathanatyam – founded on the Pandanalloor School - which she describes as uncompromisingly classical, yet one that explores its ample space for interpretation and creativity. Her love and understanding of poetry was evident as verse, music and dance interchanged and mingled with each other to unravel layers of meaning and expression.

The first piece, a celebration of love had shringara as the theme and was based on lines from Bhojaraja's ‘Shringara Prakasha,' Kalidasa's ‘Ritusamhara' and ‘Shakuntalam.' Verses from the Bhagavad Gita and Narayaneeyam strung together by Madhurashtakam described the manifestations of Lord Krishna in his Infinite form and as the Accessible One in the garb of a toddler begging his parents for the moon to play with. This item that concluded with an interpretation of the rasa kreeda was a beautiful blend of pure dance and mime and the jathis combined technique with aesthetics - in fact it had all the elements of a varnam.

The two abhinaya pieces presented two contrasting nayikas. ‘Sirai pani udaintha,' a Sangam poem portrayed a pining proshitapatika nayika, while ‘Muttavadura mohananga' revealed the emotions of an angry khanditha nayika who takes her philandering lover to task. Alarmel Valli concluded her exceptional recital with Nritta lahari, in which she danced to a different pattern of swaras only – a reworking of the traditional thillana.

The Balasaraswathi style

Sushama Ranganathan's performance offered students of Bharathanatyam the rare opportunity to witness the Balasaraswathi style, as one of the few practitioners of this school today. Sushama presented the style in its unadulterated form – unpretentious, with music and bhava playing significant roles.

Following the kacheri sampradayam was A. Lakshman's brilliant performance which started off with a pushpanjali and alarippu. The varnam ‘Vaarana mukhama' in praise of Lord Ganesha was unusual, elaborate and every bit enjoyable. The sancharis told stories of how Lord Ganesha got his elephant face, how he circumambulated his parents instead of the world and how he appeared as a wild elephant to frighten and chase Valli into the arms of his brother Muruga, her lover. ‘Kuru yadunandana,' from Jayadeva's Gita Govindam depicted a typical example of the Swadheenapatika nayika – the one who is proud of her love and control over her man. It was all abhinaya and Lakshman, in sitting and half reclining poses, enacted Radha who commands Krishna to paint and decorate her body. Balamuralikrishna's thillana in kadanakuthuhalam brought the recital and Mudra Festival to a scintillating finish.

Dr. Neena Prasad, herself a reputed Mohiniyattam dancer, coordinated the festival. It is to her credit that the event saw the right blend of artistes, dance forms and representation from the different schools of dance, both at the workshops and the performances.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 10:25:17 PM |

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