Treading on virgin ground

ONE WAS amused by the way the programme was projected. Bharatanatya kutcheri ,`The Bible', the first time in Natya Shastra. If Natyashastra is looked upon as merely a prescriptive text rather than one belonging to all the dance forms, all such experimentations are going to be first timers. With the impropriety pardoned, the kutcheri by Nelson Arakkal showed promise and perseverance, that the dancer has put in for the last one year in getting it through. The kutcheri format was fully adhered to and pieces were choreographed with episodes from the Bible, based on the life of Christ. The lyrics were penned by Tripunithura Jayaprakash and set to music by C. N. K. Murthy. The dancer is the director of Matha Amruthanandamayi Cultural Society and has had the fortune to be trained under the likes of Vasundhara Doraiswamy, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma and Kalamandalam Kshemavathy.

Nelson began the recital with `Krishthudevakowthwam', where he paid obeisance to the lord. This was followed by `Jaya jaya paramatman' in Nattai and then, an alarippu. The jatiswaram in Kalyani followed. In fact the alarippu and jatiswaram were done to keep to the kutcheri format. If the thematic kutcheri was to be projected, these could be done without these items, as these made the entire recital a bit too long, with a varnam running to almost 40 minutes. Next came the sabdam, `Varumatheesan samayamai' composed in Kamboji, Sivaranjani and Sree. The main casualty with the entire recital was the vocal support by Mulanthuruthy Prathapan, whose sahitya rendition lacked clarity so much so that one had to divert the attention from the dancer and keep looking at the vocalist, often trying to decipher the words from the lip movements. This was a dampener as the compositions were totally new and the dance was entirely based on the sahitya.

Treading on virgin ground

Sancharis performed by the dancer for the line, `kaalathil atheethanaai' in Sivaranjani on the resurrection were performed well. The sahitya was in Manipravalam, the brochures said. Except for the kowthvam in Sanskrit, all the pieces were in Malayalam, spiced with Sanskrit. Now came the varnam in audava pancha raga malika in Amruthavarshini, Hindolam, Sudhasaveri, Valachi and Mohanam. In the pallavi the birth, the flight to Egypt and the arrival of the kings were shown. The most sensitive depiction in the charanam even though short, was Mary Magdalene washing the feet of the King of Jews with her tears and wiping it with her flowing tresses A name worth mentioning is Pradeep. K. R., who was all verve and vigour on the nattuvangam with crisp jathis. There was a slip in the thisrajathi for the depiction of a boatman, which was conspicuous. `Mangalamnalka deva' in Dharmavathi was a padam hailing the prophecies and tenets of Christ. Mand raga in the Javali had more of the Hindustani element and it showed the yearning of the human soul for union with the lord. The dancer has good stamina as he took just a few minutes interval in between the long pieces for costume change (done four times during the entire recital) and was back, charged up for more.

Thillana was a really vigorous and graceful one in fast pace with well-set adavus and hand movements. `Sreeyesu mangalam' marked a fitting finale to the team effort by the youngsters. In a chat later, Nelson spoke of the commercialisation in dance and the challenges that he had to overcome.