Rasa Anubhavam - Diversity, Depth and Dynamism on a shoestring  
- Sumi Krishnan, Sydney 
e-mail: e-mail: sumathi@bigpond.net.au 
June 11, 2007 

Unlike Western Ballet productions, Bharatanatyam is best watched from a position where the subtle and dramatic expressions of the dancer can be not only witnessed but experienced in its complete glory to fully appreciate the modus operandi of the dancer and the accompanying artists. This is a well known fact among knowledgeable Bharatanatyam viewers. 

But what if there were three of them on stage, performing in unison, yet maintaining their unique individuality?  And so it was that the performance of the Trio Sisters, Radhika, Gayatri and Shobana, was not only challenging for the performers but to their viewers. With so much happening on stage, the audience had a hard act to follow, lest they miss something.     

Their exigent postures, dramatic and subtle facial expressions, foot-work and body movements executed in geometric and rhythmic unison, captured and entranced the audience as waves of each of the Navarasas ebbed and flowed enveloping the audience leaving them wanting more.  

This enormous talent poised on the shores of a world phenomena, the Trio Sisters, was presented to an audience of mainly South Indian residents of Sydney, Rasanubhavam on this winter evening of the 26th May 2007 at the Bankstown Town Hall in Sydney.  

Dhananjayans are the famous dancers who revolutionized Kalakshetra style of dance in this century. They have many students to their credit. The Trio Sisters however holding the enviable position of being their first, say this of their esteemed teachers, "They taught us to put our body and mind to complete discipline for many years to achieve that moment of total abandon where the dancer is lost and only the dance remains." 

One could not have put it better. Discipline is the word that screamed out in every move of the dancers. Precisely and definitively rendered it was an enjoyable experience to see Nataraja's smile play on the faces of the three, framed by his dread locks in "Kunitha Purvamum kovai pazha sevailyil kumizh seripum" set to Ragam Hindolam to the captivating voice of Chennai vocalist A S Murali.

Radhika & Gayatri
Radhika Shurajit captured her audience’s attention with her innovative and imaginative portrayal of the Adbhutha rasa, in depicting a young mother's love as Yasodha and that of wonderment as Puthana in Purandara Dasar's composition set to Ragam Shanmughapriya, "Jagan Mohane."  Radhika Shurajit, the upbeat director of the innovative TV show Thaka Dhimi Tha, demonstrated how every aspect of body and mind could be used to advantage, with single-minded concentration. The only objective being to bring to life Yasodha, the young mother, and that of evil Puthana who steals in and nurses little Krishna, Radhika established the standards to be expected for the rest of the evening.  

Each of the sisters carved a tapestry of artistic excellence exploring the various Navarasas from unfaltering one legged poses to delicate nuances. The Nrityopraharam that followed was a highlight of the evening. This piece was rendered by Shobhana and Gayatri together. They explored the emotions of happiness, disgust, love, exasperation in the ensuing dialogue depicted through Natya between two friends, one confessing her undying love for Lord Muruga the mighty one on a peacock. And the sakhi arguing the futility of this love for someone whose parents are unworthy, and above all has a pot bellied brother like Ganesha.  

Alternating between Nritta and Natya it was inordinately engaging to watch the duo dancing. Rendered to perfection, both in laya and raga, this item was set to a Ragamalika, and a Thalamalika accompanied ably by the Mridangam vidwan from Sydney, Shivasankar Santhanakrishnan and to the nattuvangam of Radhika Surajit.

Gayatri as Kaikeyi
An equally engaging performance was to watch Kooni instigating Kaikeyi to scheme against Rama in favor of her son Bharatha. Radhika as Kooni immediately captured the imagination and interest of some of the younger audience who burst into laughter at her strangling walk with the stick and depiction of disgust and Vairagyam. Kaikeyi's confusion and her love for her son winning over her love for Rama was expertly depicted by Gayathri who brought Abhinaya to the forefront. The various emotions that passed through Gayatri's facial expressions proved her calibre as a dancer. This piece was set to Arunachala Kavirayar's Rama Natakam, which was both a Ragamalika and again a Thalamalika.  

The dance in Brindavana Saranga depicting Radha and Krishna's love was teasing yet spiritual. Shobhana danced this Padham showing abhinaya in her own unique way with emphasis on the romantic. Shobhana added depth to her performance with technical prowess.  It seemed that her unshakeable arms, superb sculpturistic poses and fast foot steps were set in stone yet with every bhava it appeared that she could melt the audience.  

A crisp and starchy Thillana in Kunthalavarali brought a change in pace and mood. The synchronized dancing by Gayathri and Shobhana was extremely invigorating to watch. While one noticed grace and accuracy in footwork in the first, the other impressed all by her precision. A fast number, it alerted all to the fact that rhythm was universal and easily understandable when so beautifully and skillfully performed.  

Nattuvangam is an important aspect of any dance performance for a dancer. This was ably provided by Shobhana Bhalchandra and Radhika Shurajit who alternated, and by Hamsa Venkat, a well known dancer of Sydney, who completed this task competently.  

Gayatri's portrayal of Vishnu in his full glory through the nine avathars in Dasavatharam, was captivating. This was the culminating act that proved that team work by the Trio was the most forceful ingredient of this successful and enjoyable production. The ability to communicate with the audience drawing them into the spiritual and emotive depths through copious amounts of uncollapsing sculpturistic poses garnished with accurate geometric patterns of steps, hand and eye movements including coverage of the stage made it an enriching experience for all. 

The irony of it all was where were the mega sponsors for this event? Where were the banners, the pomp and show, and the otherwise discerning audience from the Indian, main stream Australian and the South Eastern Diaspora?   

With a spattering of grateful local businesses sponsoring such immense talent, the production could only be called a budget one. The artists, who truly deserved a more glamorous venue and great sponsors to back this event, waved my amazement gracefully and said, "This is only our first in Sydney. We shall come again, it will be bigger and better."  

To sponsors out there, here is a humble plea - extend your warm support, to foster, develop and inspire Bharatanatyam as it should be fostered, by backing dancers of such excellence who are none other than the pillars of this dance form in the current era.