FRIDAY REVIEW

Lyrical theme

RANEE KUMAR

MUM'S THE WORD Maitreyi Sarma and Ananda Shankar make a wonderful mother-son team.

MUM'S THE WORD Maitreyi Sarma and Ananda Shankar make a wonderful mother-son team.  

When poetic imagery gets translated through the vocabulary of Bharatnatyam it turns out to be a visual treat. By stringing together Oothukadu Venkata Kavi's (18th Century) musical compositions, Ananda Shankar Jayant carved out a lyrical theme rich in rhythm, sublime in spirit (sans sermonising) and colourful in design. Selecting such songs as could form a sequence to the subject (essentially Bhagavatha), with subtle emphasis on Madhura bhakti, she enriched the content of Venkata Kavi's poesy making for a memorable experience.

Mohana... Krsna beckons aptly summed up the core of Oothukadu's melodies. It was a pleasure to watch the entire Shankarananda Kalakshetra (Ananda Shankar's dance school) ensemble take to the stage with meticulous synchronisation, consistent footwork and sensitive haava-bhaava.

The presentation opened in melodic Mohana ragam (Krsna swagatham, suswagatham). As a prelude to this, Ananda heralded the show with Kasturi thilakam... a short, simple prayer describing the physical assets and appearance of lord Krsna, whereupon a bevy of tender dancers, filed across the stage, taking up positions as they danced to the jatis (ably rendered by I.V. Renuka Prasad) and song. At no point of time did they seem to crowd and jostle against one another. Absolute coordination in movements with abhinaya intact, they welcomed Krsna who seemed to appear from nowhere amidst them.

Maitreyi Sarma as Krsna in peetambaram (yellow dress), sparkled as she skipped through the dancers exhibiting vivacious, lightening footwork. She was tailor-made for the role of young Krsna with that magnetic charm so evident in her mischievous eyes and lips that curled into a smile every now and then. The numbers seemed to flow seamlessly building up the passion, which is to culminate in identification with the divine. Ati nirupama sundarakaara ... in Panthuvarali, has five of the senior pupils of Ananda taking lithe moves to the lilt of the orchestral music. The graceful little jumps gave a cutting edge to the footwork. Having drawn a picture beatific of Krsna, the notes tuned in to Madhyamavathi with Aadadhu, asangaadhu va kanna... the mood melted into vaatsalya bhava (affection). Venu Madhav's vocal rendition of a Sanskrit verse as a prelude was appreciable with clarity in diction and tone.

Maitreyi as Bala Krsna and Ananda as mother made an excellent pair — the one tolerant, full of love, the other impish reciprocation of love. Ananda waded through a gamut of emotions — that of a young mother towards her naughty son.

Close on the heels of maternal love comes the beloved's adoration. Brindavana Nilaye in Reetigowla unveils the Radha concept. She is the epitome of sameepyam (one of the Vaishnavite principle of union with the divine). As the dancers picturise the Brindavan, Ananda as Radha darts glances back and forth in search of her invisible lord. Her footwork to swaram in the higher speed and the teermanam were eye catching.

If Asainadhadum Mailu (Simhendra Madhyamam) scored in aesthetics, Alaipayuthe En Manam in Kaanada scaled the peak in abhinaya. Asainadhadum was graphic beauty in motion: Radha spying Krsna dancing amidst a band of peacocks dancing (dancers adorned with a tiara of peacock plumes) in ecstasy.

The notes of Simhendra Madhyamam converged with the peacock footsteps the dancers so carefully designed to emulate the royal birds in gay abandon. The cymbal dance and later the kolatam (dhandiya) kept the tempo with perfect rhythm.

The rounding off with the Kalinga Narthana tillana (Gambheera Nata) begins with illusory play of the ball (pandal) and shifts to another kind of seemingly risky play — that of Krsna on the hood of the mighty Kalindi in the waters of the Yamuna.

The serpentine formation was striking. Rapid cadence to pure nritta (syllabic utterance) is the hallmark of this tillana whose sahitya is suited to the brisk beat of the feet and pageant-like display.

Ananda Shankar's presentations are marked by original costume designing and stage d�cor.

The flute-peacock quill motifs on plain backdrop of the Ravindra Bharathi are softly suggestive of the Krsna theme. The two-feet odd idol of Krsna placed in one corner of the stage with lighted diyas and a centre doorway with an arch fashioned out of a white dupatta lent the required aura along with subdued lighting that certainly embellished the production.

The costumes are a study in themselves. While the young batch of dancers sported simple, elegant lehenga-choli with a short angavastra pinned across the shoulders with an uncomplicated hair-do and minimum ornaments, Radha's (Ananda) bright red lehenga-choli with a crossed angavastra made for a mute personification of passion. The underlying message of Krsna consciousness was invisibly visible.