MUSIC & DANCE Friday Review

Parable redefined

Jayanthi Subramaniam's 'Panchali Sabadam'. Photo: S. Madhuvanthi

Jayanthi Subramaniam's 'Panchali Sabadam'. Photo: S. Madhuvanthi   | Photo Credit: S_Madhuvanthi

One of the turning points in The Mahabharatha that is literally a game changer, is the fateful roll of dice that culminates in Draupadi’s terrible vow. The power-packed Tamil poetry of Subramania Bharati, rich music by the poet’s great grandson Rajkumar Bharathi that piloted the mood, and a dynamic Bharatanatyam narrative – ‘Panchali Sabadam,’ - choreographed by Jayanthi Subramaniam, went beyond recreating the epic events and connected with modern rasikas with immediacy.

The dance drama was commissioned by V. V. Sundaram for The Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival, U. S., as part of the Mahabharatha series that premiered there in April 2014. This was its Chennai premiere.

With an all-female cast of students from different schools in Chennai and abroad, the dance drama coupled dynamic action with emotional moments. Skilled dancers, synchronised movements and colourful costumes justified the popularity of the story.

Interestingly, a significant portion of the performance was devoted to the villains. Duryodhana, as the prince who is consumed by jealousy, and his uncle Sakuni, who fuels his negativism, were keys to the unfolding of the dance drama.

Veteran Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher Radha in the role of Sakuni spun her own twist in the execution. A wicked cackle for the throw of dice, different twirls and satirical mien – this was an inspired performance to cherish.

Mallika Girish Panicker as Duryodhana gave such embittered glances that the poet’s sensitive vision came through. The roles of Dusshasana by Anjali Narayanan, Vikarnan by Meghna Krishnan and Karnan by Radha Subramaniam reinforced the Kauravas’ malice.

Sushmita Arunkumar as Yudishtira, Chithra Ramaswamy as Bheema, Ashwini Viswanathan as Arjuna, Krithika Shurajith as Nakula and Shruthipriya as Sahadeva performed their roles with dignity as did the enactment of Bheeshma by Srividya Prasanna and Vidura by V.Soundarya.

The other dancers Medha Hari, Shobi Ruban, S.Manasa, R. Krishnalakshmi, S. Aparajitha, B. Padmapriya and R. Kritagnya also performed commendably.

Inputs by Prof R. Raghuraman gave cogency to the script. Recorded music with voices of G. Srikkanth, Nisha Rajagopalan, Ashwath Narayanan and Vasuda Ravi and Rajkumar Bharathi charged up the performance. Jayanthi’s precise nattuvangam brought the music together.

The dancing was decisively classical Bharatanatyam, where the pretty young dancers displayed dexterity in technique. Innovativeness showed in the handling of the flashback method, linking past and present and in assimilating traditional adavus with lithe actions.

Panchali declaring the oath is often depicted as a heaving and furious woman. Here the primary bhava was conceived as pathos followed by rightful anger. Sumitra Subramaniam, daughter and disciple of Jayanthi Subramaniam, as Draupadi showed maturity in her modulated reading of the role. On a similar note, Manjari Chandrasekhar depicted Dhirithrashtra in a refined way without undue fluttering of eyes.

But it was apparent that the dance drama needed some tweaking in places. It was perplexing to see royal personages presented onstage sans attendants. Manjari’s black hairdo for Dhirithrashtra should have had some shades of grey in it. Rather than the plain back screen, an imaginative back drop, such as the board of dice, would have enhanced the presentation. And some early scenes could have been pruned to arrive at the main story sooner.

Despite these, the numerous strengths of the production ensured that Bharatiar’s message was carried forward with lucidity. Why did the choreographer choose Panchali for production for the Cleveland festival this time? Jayanthi replied, “my imagination was caught up in the fervor of Bharatiar’s words.

The story of ‘Panchali Sabadam’ was written to arouse the patriotic spirit in Indians at a time when the poet was in exile from The British Raj.

It is an allegory, where Panchali, who was pledged and lost, represents our nation, which was subjugated under the British. I strongly feel that the love for our country needs to be reinforced today in these hectic times.”

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 3:58:11 AM |

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