Bhagyalakshmi's recital marked by finesse
Photo: Kavya Iyer Photography

February 23, 2017

Bhagyalakshmi, a senior disciple of Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon, gave a scintillating recital at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai on 22nd Jan 2017 under the aegis of Samarpanam before a packed audience. After witnessing Bhagya's recital one wondered why such a talented and outstanding artist is not seen more often in the Bharatanatyam arena and one continued to doubt whether it is on account of the low profile maintained by the artist herself or is it due to the equally low profile maintained by her gurus Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy despite their vast expertise and mastery over the art.

Bhagyalakshmi commenced her recital with Adi Shankara's Soundarya Lahari, verse 9 - "Mahim mooladhare kamapi manipure hutavaham -- Sahasrare padma saharahasi pathya viharase." Meaning that for the earth placed in the Mooladhara, water in the Manipura, fire in the swadhishatana, air in the heart, with space above and amid eyebrows placing the mind and breaking through the whole kula-path, you do sport with your lord secretly in the thousand petalled lotus. This was followed by Shringara Lahari, a kriti composed by Lingaraj Urs in ragam Neelambari, describing goddess Parvathy and her greatness. This was well delineated by Bhagyalakshmi.

She next presented the Charukesi varnam of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman. As mentioned in another review, this is a favorite item of many artists which even surpasses his equally famous "Angayar kanni anandam kondale". In this varnam, the devotee pleads with Krishna as to why he is so indifferent to her and pretends as if he does not comprehend the pangs of her heart and whether it is just on his part - "Innum en manam ariyadavar pola irundhidal nyayama- Yadhava Madhava." This line as well as the subsequent lines "Munnam payindradho in nadakam ellam- Manna Kamalakanna Manivanna" lend themselves to innumerable interpretations and Bhagyalakshmi was, to say the least, absolutely splendid and outstanding in all these portrayals, which elicited the appreciation of the audience. The varnam was interspersed with extremely well choreographed jathis by Shijith Nambiar which were executed with absolute finesse by Bhagyalakshmi. She enjoyed her dance every bit and carried the audience with her through her nritta, nritya and natya. The sancharis related to the beautiful Krishna playing with the Gopis after stealing their hearts and the Draupadi Maana Samrakshanam and ended with absolute surrender by the Gopis while asking for the return of their vasthras in the river bed by lifting both their hands. Bhagyalakshmi danced with Úlan which elicited repeated applause from the audience. In the charanam, the mel kaala jathi was executed beautifully. The message was that Krishna who plays the flute may kindly alleviate the suffering of the devotee as his music fills her soul and the world. "Kuzhal oodhum azhaga Kanna - kurai theerayo." Then the lyrics go on to say that like the tide that rises on seeing the full moon, like the crop that faces the cold and the rain, the life, body and mind of the devotee will fill with joy as Krishna comes and holds her hand. She says eventually "I see you and only you everywhere." The varnam including the lines in the form of a climax "Aaruyire vaa" was an absolute delight to watch.

The post varnam session saw the artist's exquisite abhinaya in the padam "Dhari joochu chunnadi needhu priya tharalaakshi chinnadi." The message is by the Sakhi telling Krishna, "Oh Lord, quickly go to your beloved as she is desperately hoping you will come soon. As the moon shines, she keeps strands of sannajaaji- a kind of jasmine flower - sandalwood and containers of rose water in the bedroom, eagerly awaiting your arrival. She dresses up in her finest attire and looks forward to your company."

The popular Hindi bhajan "Visvesvara darshan kar" by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal was in Ragamalika. The pallavi started with Sindhu Bhairavi and the Viswanatha Ashtakam starting with "Ganga tharanga ramaniya jata kalaapam-- Bhaja Viswanatham" was performed in different ragas in Durga and Pahadi for the music of Rajkumar Bharathi. The lyrics of the Viswanatha Ashtakam conveyed salutation to Viswanatha whose matted hair forms the attractive bundle, beautifully decorated with the streams of River Ganga, whose left half is always adorned by Devi Gowri denoting Universal Shakti who is dear to Narayana and Shiva is further described as the destroyer of the pride of Kamadeva (Anaga). The bhajan mentions, "Worship that Viswanatha, who is the Lord of city of Kashi." The mind of the vakkeyakara, Maharaja Swathi Thirunal was brought to the forefront by the mature artist that Bhagyalakshmi is.

The thillana in Yaman Kalyani by Lalgudi Jayaraman which is very rarely performed was executed delightfully by Bhagyalakshmi with attami, nritta and abhinaya for the lyrics which were in praise of Krishna. The orchestral support by expert team of Kalakshetra, the soulful vocal rendition by Binu Venugopal, able percussion by Siva Prasad and lilting violin and flute by Deepu Nair and Sujith greatly enriched the entire recital. Guru Shijith Nambiar wielded the cymbals very effectively.

With more opportunities, Bhagyalakshmi will be a delight to watch both for the connoisseur and the knowledgeable critic.