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Commendable recitals

January 18, 2020

Anita Ratnam in association with Brahma Gana Sabha presented her A List Series featuring three artists - Shanmuga Sundaram, Indira Kadambi and Mansavini Ramachandran - on January 2, 2020 in Chennai. In an attempt to create among fellow artists and public, awareness to support artistes by making it a paid program, the series received good response.

Currently under mentorship of Chitra Visweswaran, Shanmugham is developing finer and subtle nuances of Vazhuvoor bani. He has been performing for past twenty years and has a sound grounding in the said bani under the legendary K.J. Sarasa. For the evening he had carefully selected from Shaiva and Vaishnava repertoire in Tamizh, choreographed by K.J. Sarasa. This was re-visited and re-edited by Chitra. It comprised of two Theva Padhigams - Kunitha Puruvamum of Thirunavukkarasar. It was followed by Thodudaiya Saviyan of Thirugnana Sambandar in raga Gambeera Nattai and adi tala.

What was interesting was the format of a Pada Varnam set for Alwar Pasurams. The sahitya was tuned by violinist Sivaganesh. The treatment of the varnam offered him scope to display abhinaya evoking bhakti bhava, and execute typical nritta for which K.J. Sarasa was well known. The way hands were brought across chest diagonally was noteworthy. Shanmugam also brought attention to the forward movements, stretching hands while executing teermanams. These were interesting aspects of the nritta. He performed the varnam competently.

In abhinaya, he impersonated the role of Nandanar, identifying with the character deeply, a virutham of Ramalinga Adigal, Thiruvarutpa which flowed into exquisite keertanam of Gopalakrishna Bharati. Nandanar's story was set in ragas Bhairavi and Purvikalyani. Shanmugam's abhinaya was sincere and his agony being a lowly caste person was projected feelingly. He wore a simple costume with two scarves falling from either shoulder. He looked dignified and his expressions were restrained. There was transparent humility. Nattuvangam was conducted by Uma Satyanarayanan, vocal support was by Murali Parthasarathy, mridangam by Venkatakrishnan, flute by Athul and lighting was by Victor Paulraj.

Shanmuga Sundaram (photo: Guru Prasath)

Indira Kadambi (photo: Guru Prasath)

T Reddi Lakshmi (photo: Sunil Kothari)

Indira Kadambi, a disciple of Kalanidhi Narayanan, presented her choreography of Varsha. She brought down the torrential rains, from drizzle of droplets, creating waves that gave an illusion of drowning the earth. I could see only a part of the presentation. Anita, while introducing this series, said it is so important to re-visit the banis of past masters and enrich our dance practices. It is also a tribute to great masters.

The only Kuchipudi exponent selected for the dance festival at Music Academy was Delhi based T. Reddy Lakshmi, a disciple of Guru Jayarama Rao and Vanashree Rao. She has an attractive stage presence, a mobile visage and large eyes that register expressions in quicksilver manner. She has mastered the lilt and up and down, bobbing movements of Kuchipudi form that at once places her apart from a Bharatanatyam dancer. Within five years of her intensive training under the Raos, she has made noteworthy progress.

On Jan 9, she presented Swathi Thirunal's composition Aaj aaye Shyam, which dwelt on the Rasalila of Krishna with gopis and Krishna's pranks. The illusion of creating numerous gopis and Krishna dancing with them was successful. However what was most interesting was the selection of Pravesha Daru, the entrance song of Hiranyakashipu, from the traditional dance-drama Prahlada Charitram. Lakshmi with energetic movements enacting role of Hiranyakshipu displayed her abhinaya prowess dramatically. Moving regally, with arrogance, she in ekaharya mode portrayed the majesty of the demon king. Twirling his moustache, raising his arms, bestowing gifts to his subject and showing his generous nature, Lakshmi brought out the rustic charm of Kuchipudi dance-drama.

In Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar's javali Sarasamu, Lakshmi seemed to be at her best. When Krishna invites her for love play, she tells him not to meet at this time when other women are watching and their secret will be known to all. She recalls their love play, but tells the lover to be careful, all her family members would come to know, and begs him to be discreet. The shringara rasa was conveyed with the depiction of intimate love play and feminine grace. This seems to be her forte.

Dancing on brass plate is de rigour in any Kuchipudi performance. It has popular appeal. Using Narayana Tirtha's Tarangam on Goddess Durga, Jayarama Rao had choreographed complicated tala patterns to which Lakshmi in jugalbandi, matched with the sounds parallel to those recited by the guru. Prior to that, joining the toes of feet moving forward and executing patterns was quite interesting in terms of padabhedas. She received resounding applause for her competence. Besides Guru Jayarama Rao, the other musicians gave her good support.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and critic, Padma Shri awardee and fellow, Sangeet Natak Akademi. Dance Critics' Association, New York, has honoured him with Lifetime Achievement award.

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