FRIDAY REVIEW

Rhythm has its reasons

LEELA VENKATARAMAN

REACHING FOR PERFECTION C.V. Chandrasekhar's troupe performing Pancha Maha Bhootam in Bharatanatyam Photo: Sandeep Saxena

REACHING FOR PERFECTION C.V. Chandrasekhar's troupe performing Pancha Maha Bhootam in Bharatanatyam Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

It rained rhythm for four evenings at the Kamani auditorium, in keeping with Layaalayam (temple or abode of rhythm), the theme for this year's Parampara festival mounted by Raja Radha Reddy. The curtain raiser by the Kuchipudi duo along with their disciples made laya the first offering expressed in five fold rhythmic patterns with Gurus Raja Radha presenting Sankeemam (multiples of nine), with Khandam also represented by a male/female duo. Chatusram, tisram and misram had female dancers in pairs.

Just as it was beginning to pall with overdrawn rhythmic mechanics, the item broke into riveting group choreographic aesthetics in the solfa passages. But what made the evening was the colourful abundance of the Ashtapadi "Rase Harimiha vihta vilasam", the starting point being the silent eloquence of Radha's abhinaya involving her whole being as it were. Strung to Hindustan ragas like Madhuvanti, Behag, Bageshri, Bhopali, Sai Bhavani's tingling singing and the delightfully synchronised group arrangements made for a Kuchipudi Raas expression come alive in a combined aural/visual treat.

Kathak doyenne Rohini Bhate's rhythmic flair could not have asked a better theme then Layaalayam. Whether finishing a bandish on `sama' on the first beat of the tala or fractionally earlier or later as prescribed, the computerized precision of untied `peir ka kaam' of disciples impressed. Triveni (combining Teen tala, Jhap tala and Roopak), in a running 33-matra cycle, revelled in the entire gamut of Kathak from `Thaat' to Paran. Bhate's orthodox approach with a multiplicity of dancers echoing the solo form, display no aggressive choreographic intent. Remarkable for the sheer classicism of the music her compositions retain an austere purity. With an exquisite singer an able accompanists, both the Kajri "Basalage Badariya" and Bhate's own Dhrupad composition in 7-1/2 matras in Hamsadhwani raga "Gananath Gowrisuta" with kavits and Tukras strung into it gave rhythm an emotional content, the Ganapati symbolism carried right through even in nritta.

Aided by inputs from late scholar Premlata Sharma, Professor C.V. Chandrasekhar's Pancha Maha Bhootam in Bharatanatyam combined elements of Vastu Upanishad, animistic worship, Hindu Agamic Upacharas and Dhyana Slokas evoking Siva and Vishnu in a salutation to the five Cosmic elements. The layered development of the theme, despite the Guru's own vibrant, immaculately contoured dance (more than a match for the younger dancers) was wanted by an assorted group of performers from varied backgrounds lacking perfect synchronization.

The repetitive Upachana sequences Argya (symbolizing water), Pushpam (space), Dhoopam and Chandan (Earth), Deepa (fire dragged. With colour and geometry (the square for the Earth sequence was the best designed) to spice the production, the intellectually packaged production, ideanonally rich, slotted grounded (bhumi charis) and arial (akasha charis) movements into appropriate contexts suiting elements. Editing and infusing more movement variety instead of carrying one unit of movement through an entire sequence would have avoided monotony. Hariprasad Chaurasia's ragamalika vocal support was tuneful.

Unlike the mishmash of confusion interfacing of multiple dance forms often becomes, Natya Laya Vibhati on the last evening featuring six forms was an organized, integrated presentation, thanks to Raja Reddy's concept and supervision with music direction by Druga Prasad.

In crisp solo segments the individuality of each form was highlighted with the entire group uniting in a rhythmic finals. Each dance combined a fleeting interpretative part based on Raja's selected Natya Sastra and Abhinaya Darpan verses with a nritta finish. Kaushalya's assertive Kuchipudi in Misram (not her best, and Anuradha Venkataraman's crisp linear finish in Bharatanatyam in Sankeema nadai , contrasted with fine deflections in tisram Odissi by kavita Dwivedi, graceful dips and elevations of Mohiniattam in Chatusram by Jaya Prabha, and exquisite rhythm-in-the-art Manipuri lightness by Beena Devi. Less impressive in its isolation was Sharmishta's 11 matra Kathak. In the coming together and switchover points, with flow unimpeded, the production excelled.

Rhythm had other highlights like the tabla/mridangam Jugalbandi featuring stalwarts Krishan Maharaj and Umayalpuram Sivaraman and solo Carnatic concert by the maestro of laya Balamurali Krishna who unleashed his Panchamukha tala with Jaya Bhaskar's brilliant mridangam tani. The modern avatar of Indian ragas by Bikram Ghosh's group, in the heavy percussive ensemble drowned the vocalist Parthasarathy Desikam's voice.

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