Venkatalakshamma Endowment Festival 2009 
- Probal Gupta, Bangalore  

January 7, 2010 

Lalitha Srinivasan, a Bangalore based senior disciple of Late Venkatalakshamma, has been endeavouring to promote the Mysore style of Bharatanatyam in the city thronging with the more popular Kalakshetra and Pandanallur styles.  And obviously, the best way to pass on the style she has inherited from her guru is through her disciples.  Disciples, instead of remaining only within the clutches of the items as taught by their guru, should start choreographing their own items and present the same to rasikas, also in turn paying tribute to the value of the education they have been imparted by their guru. This comment holds good for the senior disciples of Guru Lalitha Srinivasan, who using their creative endeavour, worked out a margam without the help of their guru, assisted by vocalist Balasubramanya Sharma and mridagam vidwan, Gurumurthy. Their admirable research work deserves applause. 

Commencing the margam with an Andolika Pushpanjali composed by Balasubramanya Sharma and Gurumurthy set to Adi tala, by two senior disciples Prabhakini and Srividya Krishna, the program moved towards a shabdam choreographed and performed by Deepti Mukund whose grace speaks forth. A dancer with utter sincerity and devotion to bring out the best of grace that Bharatanatyam demands, has blurred the definition that one should always be slim to be a perfect dancer.  A composition by Late Guru Keshav Murthy, this Ragamalika Shabdam set to Thisra Triputa tala speaks about Lord Krishna's playing of the flute where the poet through his usage of similie "Murali" compares the divine notes drifting out from his playing of flute, to honey and nectar. The artiste adapted the best of the technique as taught to her by her Guru and her subtle abhinaya to bring out the rasa of the padam to reach the rasikas was commendable.  

However, the piece de resistance of the evening was the Varnam in Ragamalika set to Adi tala composed by both the veterans and performed by Chitra Arvind, one of the seniormost disciples of Lalitha Srinivasan. Trained in both Kathak and modern dance, this dancer proved her mettle with perfect abhinaya and highly trained technique that she has learnt meticulously from her guru. With fine control of her movements, Chitra used her lissome figure to bring out the aesthetic beauty of the adavus composed with interesting permutation and combination of jathis. Chitra uses her body evocatively for the postures she executes with high perfectness, combined with neat lines and striking geometry, looking like a beautifully carved sculpture.  

Suma Krishnamurthy, also one of the senior disciples of Lalitha Srinivasan, chose a padam set to Rag Valachi in Adi tala composed by Satabdhani Dr. R Ganesh where Parvati is flabbergasted to witness Shiva's unusual ways of attracting her. The overall slow pace invoking the rasa of the scene with the dancerís splendid but innate abhinaya aggrandized the beauty the padam demands.  

Usage of ragas not so commonly used for the compositions executed was one of the salient features of the festival. Raag Faraz was used to portray Khandita Nayika's objection to her lord's behavioural attributes towards her, that he is attracted towards other women, through a Javali performed by Bharati with meticulous abhinaya that a javali demands. Concluding the evening with stunning choreography through a  Thillana set to Raag Jog in Khanda Thripuda tala in praise of Goddess Saraswati and Lakshmi, all the six dancers merged together on the platform with a slokam taken from Krishna Karunamrutha. 

Probal Gupta trained in Kathakali under two legends Late Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty and Guru Fact Padmanabhan under whom he is presently continuing his specialization in Stree Vesham genre of Kathakali. He has also been a student of Bharati Shivaji. He is an empanelled artist of Doordarshan and has established a Solo Margam for Stree Vesham Kathakali under the able guidance of his Guru Fact Padmanabhan. Probal is a graduate in English Hons from the University of Kolkata. He is also the dance critic for The Hindu, Bangalore