Pivotal moments in their lives

MYTH MAGIC: Srinidhi Raghavan and Sahasra Sambamoorthi

MYTH MAGIC: Srinidhi Raghavan and Sahasra Sambamoorthi   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: S.R.RAGHUNATHAN


Srinidhi Raghavan and Sahasra Sambamoorthi brought alive the story of four women in ‘Her Story.’

The stories of four powerful women from Indian mythology unfolded at a graceful Bharatanatyam presentation on Saturday when the U.S.-based Srinidhi Raghavan and Sahasra Sambamoorthi took the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan stage. Their version of the lives of Kaikeyi, Andal, Devaki and Kannagi was simply titled ‘Her Story.’ The performance, presented under the aegis of Kartik Fine Arts, has already toured the U.S. and the U.K.

What was distinctive to this presentation was the format. It was traditional all the way, but by adding English narrations before each episode, the duo gave it a global feel, targeting non-Indian audiences in the process. The innovative choreography by the duo and Usha Raghavan’s artistic direction, which seamlessly blended storytelling with nritta and nrithya, deserves special mention. In each episode, while one dancer played the main character, the other played an important secondary character. So if Srinidhi played Kaikeyi, Sahasra was Manthara; to Sahasra’s Andal, Srinidhi was Periazhwar.

The duo began with a pushpanjali. One thing came through… the superb coordination between them. That they have had solid training under their respective gurus (Usha Raghavan, Malathy Thothadri and Ramya Ramnarayanan) was evident through their precise nritta and apt abhinaya.

Marked by maturity

The first character the duo dwelt upon was Kaikeyi. When she hears of Rama’s coronation, she is elated. But her mind is poisoned by Manthara. After many moments of dilemma, her love for Bharata takes over and she finally confronts Dasaratha, thus lending the turning point to the Ramayana. There was maturity in Srinidhi’s portrayal, whether it was depicting Kaikeyi’s joy on hearing about Rama’s coronation or doubt when Manthara convinces her that Bharata ought to be king.

Next, the spotlight was on Andal. As ‘Om Namo Narayana’ played on, Andal came to life once again as Sahasra became the saint-poet. Along with her father Periazhwar, the young Andal worships Lord Vishnu. But when her father hears that she wants to marry Him, he is distressed. But soon he understands his daughter’s love for the Lord and all ends well. Srinidhi as Periazhwar was amazing.

Devaki was tragedy personified. She was a mother who never was! She gave birth to the beautiful Krishna in prison but could never watch him grow up.

Giving up her baby to Vasudeva was a heart-wrenching act for her. She could only imagine rocking baby Krishna to sleep to the lullaby ‘Aalai Neel Karumbu;’ she could visualise Krishna stealing butter and being punished by Yasoda. Srinidhi as Devaki brought out a mother’s anguish through her eyes.

And finally, Kannagi. The wife of an innocent man, wronged by the king turns into a woman possessed and her rage leads to a city’s destruction… a powerful and riveting tale which always captures audiences’ imagination. Sahasra as Kannagi brought the contrasting emotions with aplomb. The finale where both the dancers - one as Agni and the other as Kannagi - burn Madurai, stood out for its choreography.

After two solo items (‘Netrandi Nerathile’ in Huseni and ‘Smara Sundaranguni’ in Paras), Srinidhi and Sahasra concluded with a brisk tillana in Revathi.

The support group comprised Usha Raghavan (nattuvangam), Sudharshana Arunkumar (musical score), N. Sasidharan (vocal), V. Vedakrishnan (mridangam), R. Kalairasan (violin), C.K. Pathanjai (flute) and B. Siva Ramakrishna Rao (sitar).

As chief guest N. Murali, MD, The Hindu, and president, The Music Academy, pointed out, “The characters depicted by the two dancers transformed the worlds they lived in through their unconditional love.” True, and in the process, they attained immortality.

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