Passions of the heart 
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur 

October 27, 2009 

A happy combination of beauty and talent, Shobana is passionate about dance.  Born into a family of dancers, Shobana is committed to carry on the aura of her legendary aunts, the Travencore sisters of yesteryears. A student of Chitra Visweswaran, her recitals are distinctive for her abhinaya, command over the rhythmic idiom, and clarity of line. The Indian Government honored her with Padmasri Award for her contributions to Bharatanatyam and cinema in 2006.  
As part of the Soorya Festival, under the aegis of Thalam Cultural Trust, Shobana performed in Thrissur, Kerala recently. Accompanied by two of her students, the program brought joy to a discerning audience. 
However the inaugural item, Swagatham Krishna was the presentation of local artistes. It was a fusion of south Indian performing art forms by the students of Harisree Vidyanidhi School, Thrissur and showcased Kathakali, Krishnanattam, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam. The group concert showcased Dasavatharam culminating in the life of Krishna, enacting the major events of his life, and concluded with the tableau of Parthasarathi proclaiming to move on with duty for duty's sake. It was a riveting spectacle. 
Shobana's disciple, Anaroopika began the concert with anjali. In a duet which displayed navarasa and adavus, Shobana highlighted with just eye movements. Oh! That was a singular treat.  
The varnam that followed remained within the confines of the trial faced by Valli, the gypsy princess.  Lord Muruga under the guise of an old man teased and tested Valli. Cast in lathangi ragam and adi thalam the acting out of the story presented stunning movements.   

Then came a sringara padam in Telugu set to Chenchurutti ragam, a traditional piece in which the friend and confidante listens to the emotional outbursts of the nayika. The  enactment rendered tremendous scope for abhinaya. 
"Madhava yadukula deva..," in Yadukulakamboji ragam evoked the charms of child Krishna, passions of youthful Krishna, and the power and glory of the god in human form. Here the depiction strikes a different key. The fast paced movements show a different narrative style that is in sync with the pace of modern times. Instead of the descriptive narrative, each story is suggested by the display of a single, dominant emotion. And legends flit past as if in cinematic clippings. For example, when child Krishna winks in mischief, the spirit of a personality that hoodwinked people down the ages comes alive. Such insights are rare gifts only a dancer with vision can conceive. In Geethopadesam, Krishna rises in stature standing tall among humans.  If Art is for life's sake, clearly the message is, "sambhavaami yuge, yuge..." You can call it filmy, if you like, but the speedy narrative is refreshing, as an innovative experiment in pulsating rhythmic movements. 
The interlude was a snake dance by Chithra and Anaroopika. It is after a long spell this old tradition in classical margam came as a refreshing event to many among the audience. "Aadu pambe, vilayaadu pambe..." with folk touches was a revitalizing item to many old timers who had danced the item themselves when they were young.  The concluding Thillana, a composition of Lalgudi Jayaraman in Desh ragam set to adi thalam brought the curtain down on a hallowed evening.  
Shobana is deeply artistic, driven by a rare energy. Yet, part of the usual magic was missing on that evening. In a confessional mode she stated that daily performance needed super abundant energy. A ten-day tour either performing or traveling in humid climate is not easy. Fund-starved clubs cannot afford air-conditioned auditoriums. So the question remains, whether artistes should accept grueling schedules and put up with discomfort or let go performance opportunities that are precious but tiring. 

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to