Captivating Bharatanatyam by Mrudhula Basker

February 12, 2017

Mrudhula Basker, a disciple of late Padmini Ramachandran of Bengaluru and presently under tutelage of Guru A. Lakshmanaswamy, gave a captivating and graceful recital at Narada Gana Sabha, under the aegis of Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai, on 27th January 2017.

After the introductory pushpanjali in Malayamarutham, Mrudhula, with her attractive stage presence, took up "Kanchadalayadakshi" in Kamala Manohari by Muthuswamy Dikshithar which was a very popular item in some of the recitals of late MS. Subbalakshmi. This is on Goddess Shankari and describes her gait (gamane) which is like that of an elephant (kunchara). Further, the goddess is delineated as the parrot (sukhi) held in the cage (panchara) in the form of Siva, lotus eyed (pankajamukhi) and delight (ranjani). She also is described as the one who speaks mellifluously and sports a gentle smile (mandha hasane), full of love (sringarashreya). Mrudhula's convincing abhinaya brought alive the vision of the goddess and was greatly appreciated by the audience.

Mrudhula then took up the central piece, Charukesi Varnam of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman "Innum en manam ariyadhavar pola irundal nyayama Yadhava, Madhava". This masterpiece of Lalgudi Jayaraman even surpasses his another similar popular creation "Angayar kanni aanandham kondale" and the Charukesi Varnam seems to be a favourite of most of the artists. The lines quoted above and the subsequent lines "Munnam payindradho in natakam ellam" lend themselves to innumerable interpretations by way of abhinaya and Mrudhula excelled in these delineations. The devotee pleads with Krishna to remove her pain and suffering and questions him on his indifference to her misery and eventually says that she will be filled with absolute joy and bliss on union with Krishna. Particularly for the lines "Munnam payindratha in natakam ellam" sancharis were done beautifully by Mrudhula referring to the episode of slaying Poothani and when Krishna grows up a little more, his act of stealing butter pretending to be innocent and breaking the very pot which contained the butter to avoid being caught red-handed and subsequently, when Krishna grows up further, assuming thousand forms and stealing the hearts of innumerable Gopikas. The varnam was interspersed with jathis which were neatly and precisely executed by Mrudhula.

Then followed the popular Kamas padham "Theruvil varano, ennai chattru thirumbi parano". Abhinaya for the lines "Vasal mun nindrano, enakkoru vachakam chollano" and subsequent charanam "Podhu poguthillaiye.... En mel kutram yadhondrumillaye" deserve a special mention as Mrudhula brought out the mind of the devotee longing for darshan of 'Devadhi Devan Chidambaranathan' skillfully. The concluding piece was a popular item, Dhanashree Thillana of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal "Geethu dhuniku thaka dhim". Mrudhula did full justice to the thillana.

A slightly higher kalapramanam for both the varnam and thillana would have further enhanced the total effect of the recital. A view is often expressed by some that a faster kalapramanam may be a deterrent to an effective abhinaya. While there may be some truth in this view, it may not always be correct. Much depends on the caliber of the artist to strike a good balance and bring out a positive result which will be more enduring in the minds of the audience. Mrudhula is an artist who is capable of doing this and if this is borne in mind, the recital will be further embellished.

The vocal support by Bhagyalakshmi which was pleasing and mellifluous, with effective percussion of Nellai D. Kannan and violin by Sigamani (who drew applause for every delineation of raga in between the items) enriched the recital to a great extent. Guru A. Lakshmanaswamy wielded the cymbals extremely well. Mrudhula, with her innate passion for the art, will go places in the years to come and she will be a delight to watch.