Biopic of a legend

Dancers Deepika Reddy and Alarmel Valli. Photo: Nagara Gopal  

If there is a dance perfect, it is Alarmel Valli. It's not just the eulogy of a fan of this Bharatanatyam prima donna, but a well cemented statement of anyone associated with the appreciation of this dance form.

The life of many a treasure born and blossomed in this country has gone unrecorded and undocumented, so that we are left with nothing but here say.

It is really creditable that Sankalp Meshram took pains to fashion Lasya Kavya an aptly-titled biopic of this marvellous artiste who is a trove of pure classical dance style.

As Bombay Jayashree, one of our finest Carnatic musicians sums up, Valli is a musician, poet, painter, dancer, all rolled into one. There is poetry and music in her dance. As Valli herself puts it, her body sings to the syllabic rhythm of the dance alphabet.

Her dance not only transforms her being into the realms beyond the physical, it transports the viewers too into another sphere. For those of us who have a rare chance of seeing Valli on stage, this film is like a bonanza.

We can watch her on and on, dancing like a dove, darting gazelle looks, striking her feet like lightning touching the ground or have those feet not really touched the ground? Our eyes witness what our mind refuses to accept. The close-ups where she articulates with her eyes is just about excellent. Whatever the attire, the backdrop, the stage paraphernalia, these externala hardly matter beyond the first few minutes. She is able to touch the artistic vein whose existence many of us wouldn't be aware of within ourselves. The picture is captured in every frame of her ethereal dancing moods.

What is more enchanting about this biopic, is that you get to see Valli, the real life persona. The little one who was generally a quiet child fond of reading books till date, a girl, who despite being the only child to an ancestrally affluent family remained grounded, a child whose arangetram bore the testimonial of a great dancer in the making, a person to whom dance and life got intertwined somewhere, sometime ago and today they are inseparables.

Practice sessions

Her practice sessions with her orchestra, her teaching sessions with her pupils, her long walks, short breaks to explain certain nuances that she would incorporate into dance eventually inspired by some song or scene she read/saw earlier, her mother's role in directing her attention towards the ancient Sangham poetry which has now become a part of her dance repertoire; these along with inputs about Valli the dancer as Zubin Mehta and other great men abroad saw her; the immense accolades and ovation her performances created outside the country; these complete the picture of Alarmel Valli for us.

Sober and simple in a sari or a skirt, when away from stage show, Valli looks every inch an artistically educated woman with refinement and grace that come as part of her upbringing.

Her qualities of generosity, love and deep regard for her gurus-both in music and dance- as well as the elders, her respect for tradition, her determination to keep the heritage intact despite technological innovations did come into focus in this picture but then these were like brief spells.

Cinematographer Vivek Shah could have allowed his lens to trace and trail behind her as she moves over in her home to take a book off her shelf, dwell on her she sits down to reading, record her as she walks in the beach or in the huge garden so that we get a closer link with Valli the person.

In the same tone, we wish Meshram got to recording a conversation between her and her mother, or voice her students' take on their illustrious guru, what Valli's gurus had to say about her, and so on to make the viewer inch a little closer to the human angle.

As Valli herself put it, the picture seemed more spontaneous than creative or aesthetic barring the dance sequences and Valli who is aesthetics personified.

Produced by Meshram's Flash Frame, Lasya Kavya is a wonderful attempt to preserve and propagate the intrinsic values of our traditional arts and their practitioners for the future generations.

Kudos to Deepika Reddy for organising the screening in Hyderabad.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 9:46:40 PM |

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