Youth impress with zeal

Pallavi Sethi  

IN A colourful function, the 23rd Natyanjali Festival, dedicated to Lord Siva, was inaugurated on Maha Sivaratri at Chidambaram. This festival, which will celebrate soon its Silver Jubilee, is receiving wider attention across globe and occupies a prime place in the cultural calendar of India.

It is heart warming to notice that the quality of performances of the younger generation has been improving steadily; also, dancers attempt to present interesting themes and worthy compositions to suit the occasion. "Anjal Koorum Veera Manigal Osaiyum... " with the bells of Sri Nataraja temple reverberating in the air and giving great solace to the mind, one could feel the vital role that these divine abodes play, not only with regard to promotion of fine arts through such an event, but also influencing the trends of daily life of the individuals. In these places, one can always experience the warmth of the people and the regard they have for fellow human beings. The Natyajanli Committee comprises a dedicated team of local patrons, art-lovers and wellwishers, whose generosity, hospitality and service deserve special mention. Every year, the Natyanjali Trust takes care of nearly 400 artistes from all over the world, which by no means, is an easy task.

Sonal Mansingh, Odissi exponent and Chairperson, Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, who inaugurated the five-day event, added to the grandeur of this year's edition, with her dynamic presence, speech and moving performance. Nalli C. Kuppuswami, art-patron and industrialist, was the chief guest. Mahendran, Managing Director of Godrej, participated.

The opening performance was by the students of Krishnaraj of Thanjai Natya Kalalayam, followed by the presentation of the students of the Dance Department of Annamalai University conducted by Uma Anand, daughter and disciple of the illustrious K. N. Dandayudhapani Pillai. B. Balasaraswati, R. Abhirami, G. Shanmukhapriya, P. Mahalakshmi and Benedictio C. Satya presented a Tiruppugazh verse, Ananda Natamaaduvar, and Dhanasri tillana, revealing good training and sincere effort. Thanjai A. Chandrasekhar (mridangam), also of the same department gave solid support. R. K. Kumar and other members of the orchestra from Chidambaram displayed considerable skill.

Following this, little Sruti, disciple of Madurai R. Muralidharan, gave an impressive performance. Muralidharan sang and conducted Sruti with able assistance from Mayuram J. Shankar (mridangam). With Ganga Thampi of Kalakshetra wielding the cymbals skilfully, Shobhinya Karthikeyan from Singapore, trained at Kalaikaveri (Tiruchi) and Kalakshetra, Chennai, performed a couple of items.

Although there was a tranquil approach, combined with neat execution of the different rhythmical structures, Shobhinya's performance was devoid of deeper involvement. Also, there was occasional lack of co-ordination between the dancer and the percussionist.

Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain  

Reflecting the inimitable vibrancy of her teacher Urmila Satyanarayanan, young and promising Anwesha Das gave a lively portrayal of the longing nayika in deep devotion to her Lord Siva-Nataraja through the majestic varnam of K. N. Dandayudhapani Pillai, ``Swamiyai" in Ragamalika. Anwesha displayed noteworthy talent and enthusiasm. She has imbibed the joyful, picturesque approach to nritta of the Vazhuvoor School and the rigorous course of technical network of the Dandayudhapani style. Her sthayi seemed to need more attention.

Urmila, assisted by the versatile singer Swamimalai K. Suresh, J. Shankar (mridangam) and Venkatesan (flute) led this delightful ensemble.

With her powerful stage presence and outstanding artistry, Sonal Mansingh gave a scintillating Odissi recital, leaving a deep impact on the viewers. Many of the local people could be seen expressing their deep appreciation to her both after the inaugural festival and after her moving Nritya Seva in front of the sanctum sanctorum the following day.

Sonal's recital included a Mangalacharan, in praise of Lord Siva, Adi Sankara's verse on Ardhanareeswara and a verse of the Kashmiri scholar Abhinavagupta on the all-pervasive Siva. Sonal appeared to be charged with deep emotion and religious fervour and gave a soulful performance. The veteran stood out as a devout dancer totally unmindful of the surrounding, when she elaborated on the concept of Ardhanari in parallel description and concluding with the fervent rendering of `Namah Sivaya,' the Panchakshara. The most elevating was her interpretation of Abhinavagupta's verse on the Lord as Jagadeesa. Sonal was supported by an excellent orchestra.

The presentation of the disciples of Kala Sadan Mani from Mumbai was followed by an energetic display of skill by Sulakshana Jayaraman, disciple of Pandanallur Srinivasan and Pandian. Sulakshana seems to have enormous zeal and ambition; her technique was vigorous. She, however, has to work on the nritta and in abhinaya, less of dramatisation would be better. Pandian (nattuvangam) and Roshini (of Padma Seshadri sisters) gave fine support.

In the presentation of Rasika Khanna, disciple of Adyar K. Lakshmanan, one could feel a smooth flow of dance communication, especially in abhinaya. The Siva Panchakshara Stotra and "Natanamadinar" that followed were crisp. Rasika, who had learnt certain pieces with the legendary T. Balasaraswati in her earlier days, brought forth with dignity, her understanding of the Bala technique in abhinaya. "Varugalamo," in Maanji, describing the agony of Nandan was an impressive interpretation by Rasika with a gentle, unhurried approach, replete with emotion. Adyar Lakshman (nattuvangam) and Roshni (vocal) gave good support to Rasika. Baba Prasad (mridangam) on the other hand seemed disoriented and played out of focus from time to time.

Two of Sonal Mansingh's talented disciples, Pallavi Sethi (Odissi) and Pallavi Saran Mathur (Bharatanatyam) deserve mention as dancers with considerable merit. A calm and composed Pallavi Sethi presented Mangalacharan, Bhoomi Pranaam and Prayer on Lord Ganesha while Pallavi Saran Mathur in total contrast was bubbling with enthusiasm as she danced an alarippu (tisram), "Gangaashtakam" and "Natanamadinar". Sonal Mansingh, assisted by her orchestra, conducted both her disciples with grip. Zakir Hussain (disciple of Chitra Visweswaran), a devoted dancer, presented with deep feeling the composition "Inittamudan" (composed Revathi Sankaran) in utter surrender at the golden feet of Lord Natana Sabhapathi. Zakir's handling of the pure and interpretative aspects of dance was impressive, although the tempo seemed very fast. Pushpanjali and "Maasil Veenaiyum" were the other numbers that were chosen for the occasion by Zakir. It was heartening to hear young Gireesh, grandson of T. Brinda of the legendary Veena Dhanam family, sing with involvement. The dance events of the inaugural day went on till early morning to coincide with the Maha Abhishekam to the Lord on the auspicious conclusion of Maha Sivaratri. Students of Snehalata Kandan, Sugeetha Madankumar, Students of Sasirekha Rammohan and Raghavan Mahalingam - all from Chennai, Vaijayanthi, Aishwarya, Brinda (Sri Vigneshwara Natyalaya), K. M. D. Madhula (disciple of Amuda Dandapani, Coimbatore) and Students of Subhashini Chandrasekharan of the Thanjai Arunachalam Pillai family were featured during this night-long schedule.

(To be concluded)