Coming into his own

Suryanarayana Murthy  

Performing under the aegis of Brahma Gana Sabha at the Sivagami Pethachi auditorium, what struck this writer about Suryanarayana Murthy’s Bharatanatyam was an inner tension. Starting with alarippu in tisra ekam, he followed it up with the Tanjore Quartet jatiswaram in Arabhi, which was pertinently announced as set by the late N.S.Jayalakshmi.

Not even the rudimentary expressional narrative about Krishna’s lilas, in the next item, the shabdam ‘Sarasijakshulu’ (announced as late Rukmini Devi’s introduction to basic abhinaya under the training of Gowri Ammal) could bring inner joy to this dancer with fine technique. Perhaps, editing the piece of a meticulously complete margam, to fit the specified time span, had led to this tension for it meant not just abridging an item (the jatiswaram was less than four minutes) but also speeding up performance pace.

The real Suryanarayana, (despite the singer Praveen from Coimbatore setting a faster pace than usual), however, surfaced prominently during the heart of the recital with the Nrityopaharam, ‘Rama neeve na rakshakudavani nammi naanu,’ the dance composition set by his guru V.P. Dhananjayan. This piece in total surrender to Rama, included the convincing elaboration through a narrative of the well-known myth on how the hunting thief on Narada’s advice, after finding nobody willing to take on even a part of the burden of karma for his sins, took to intense penance with an anthill sprouting around him.

Finally emerging out of the anthill as it were, was Valmiki, the legendary composer of the Ramayana. Along with the physically demanding jatis with ‘paichal’ (jumps) movements, the dancer’s total rendition of this centre-piece had finish along with involvement.

Taking time for a costume change, with an instrumental music filler by the violinist Muruganandan , the performance switched from unalloyed bhakti to sringara, through the Sanjivini ashtapadi, ‘Priye Charusheele’ in Mukhari. Penitent Krishna, longing for Radha who as virahotkanthita is pining for him, goes seeking her — the fire of desire burning in his heart. His declaration of love forms one of the greatest verses of Sanskrit poetry portraying a divine being expressing love for a mortal (Radha). ‘Twamasi mama bhushanam, twamasi mama jeevanam,’ calling Radha the jewel of his life in the sea of existence, Krishna dissolves much of the hurt and anger in her, his final entreaty that she place her foot on his head, ‘a sublime flower destroying the poison of love,’ breaking down the last of Radha’s reserve.

Vocalist Praveen sang with feeling, with guru Bhardwaj’s mellow mridangam adding to the mood along with the dancer’s abhinaya.

Suryanarayana’s gratitude for the organisation for having encouraged a male dancer shows how, despite so much happening in the field of Bharatanatyam, the male dancer (some of them among the best artists in the field today) becomes defensive, still competing for validation. Male or female dancer, the sooner the gender tag stops mattering in the selection criteria, the healthier.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:36:58 PM |

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