FRIDAY REVIEW

Rhythmic representation

DANCING TO THE BEATS Kaaraikkudi Mani.  



B.R.C. IYENGAR

Kaaraikkudi Mani and Rajeshwari Sainath's unique programme was a brilliant portrayal of 'laya' and 'natya'.

The faculty to envision something physical from the abstract and tenuous convert it to the pleasant audible mode and carry it further to the visual mode is not just an admirable skill but also the dexterity of a whiz kid in both the expertise of laya and natya. When once this sense is mastered, the rest becomes a routine and each following episode outshines the earlier. Such proficiency is rare amongst artistes, but Kaaraikkudi Mani has proved an exceptional example of this talent and is acknowledged as a world figure in this unique vision of universal concept. Each such episode, needless to say, involves imaginative perception, intense and intelligent programming, clever editing, and relentless rehearsals. The presentation is even more demanding. At Ravindra Bharathi last week, Sruti-Laya Natarajalaya brought forth a unique programme, called, 'Melody, Rhythm and Dance' consisting of two sections, laya and natya.To be more relevant and precise, rhythm and dance are two facets of the same art, Bharathanatyam; one cannot live without the other; the adroitness lies in identifying each and unfolding them in their respective merits both in space and time, taking care to maintain the balance. The first half of the programme however, focused and highlighted the grandeur of rhythm, deliberately avoiding the dance part, an episode as visualised, composed, and directed by Kaaraikkudi Mani and supported by predominantly percussion artistes as well as, flute, chithra veena and violin. The miracle of rhythm in Carnatic music is the unassailable and inconceivable scope of forming myriad patterns from just seven suladi thalas and five varieties thereof. It is a play of limited numbers, a manipulation and machination, which can be as many as one's imagination. It squarely rests on the artiste's feeling for form and rhythm, for precision and clarity, for proportion and order.

Mani mesmerises

The installation was the creation and summation of Mani's vigour and courage, his brilliance and loquacity, his acquisitiveness and vanity, worship of beauty and freedom. To frame the notation for the instrument and blend it with the notation for the percussion instruments ( sollu) needs great thinking. To appreciate this, one must love beauty intensely and intelligently; otherwise, it fades into abominable idleness. In his 90 minutes episode, Mani used just a couple of thalas, rupakam, adi and misra chapu. The worked-out as well as spontaneous jathis and koruvais, the eduppu (commencing point) and thirmanams, the aridi and visranthi, the modulations, the rhetoric and romanticism, all within the rigid framework of the chosen thala sent raptures and stupefied the audience, held them fast and dissolved them in ecstasy. It was a distilled subtlety of a mastermind on a major issue like laya, although it was difficult to say whether it was the matter or the manner, which excelled.The second half of the programme was the relevance of the above interpretation of rhythm as applied to natyam although there are several other aspects in natyam not so seriously aligned with rhythm. As is well known rhythm is just a part of dance and not the whole. The idea in the day's itinerary was to project the importance of rhythm in select substance. If Mani is the mouthpiece of rhythmic proficiency, Rajeswari Sainath is the counterpart in Bharathanatyam. Profound experience, research, orientation, extensive experimentation, widespread travel and teaching has brought her laurels and she has been acclaimed as the leading danseuse of the country. Give her any event, epic or a specific; she can skilfully adopt it to make a memorable classical event.

Fluid performance

With the support of her daughter, Vaishnavi, Rajeswari presented a 30-minute event of the thrilling movement in various combinations of footwork and abhinaya all possible permutations of the selected thala. It was a recipe so admirably dressed and flavoured in so small a dish. The ecstatic performance left the audience dazed. A word about Vaishnavi; the 14 year old daughter has doubtless inherited finesse of her guru and will soon surpass her. A figure so finely cut, she has the art, the grace and elegance to go places. The accompanying artistes included Kaaraikkudi Mani on mridangam, Suresh on ghatam, V.B. Madhusudhanan on the flute, V.S. Narasimhan on the violin, A. Durga Prasad on Durga Veena (Chitra Vina), M.A. Chandan Kumar on flute and M. Mhradwaj on octopads.In essence, the entire programme was unique in the sense that it was original, research-oriented and one which would persuade the rasikas to think in terms of something new in the filed of sruti-laya. One may comment that much of it went as a riddle for the common rasikas; but it is only such programmes that lead the way to mature and intelligent thinking and eventual understanding.