Pada Kavitaa Pitamaha
- Priya Raman, Bangalore
Photos courtesy: SICA

April 10, 2010 

The South Indian Cultural Association (SICA) in its week long celebrations of music and dance held recently at Hyderabad, presented Anitha Guha, who travelled with her magnum production 'Pada Kavitaa Pitamaha.' (Though wrongly publicized as 'Srinivasa Vaibhavam')

Guha, essentially hailing from twin cities Hyderabad and Secunderabad, has made Chennai her home (away from home!) for more than two decades now. But her homestead was gratified to welcome her with a packed to the doors Ravindra Bharathi, an audience who came all prepared with water bottles to beat the heat, much ahead of time and made sure they stuck to their seats or they would lose it. 

The ballet was a collection of some of the best lyrical delights of Annamayya on Lord Srinivasa, all in Telugu, grabbing that instant connect with the audience. 

Pavitra Bhatt played the protagonist (Annamayya) narrating the story, dancing to near perfection. This youngster from Mumbai, a guest artist with Anitha, had just the right expressions, angashuddhi, pleasing stage presence (the hair and face appropriately done) and more importantly danced like a man! (Very much a rarity these days!) 

As Annamayya embarks on his journey to Tirumala, he witnesses the Garuda Vahana, a carefully perceived and well executed act drawing huge applause, walks through rivers and mountains and finally reaches the feet of the Lord. As he extols the beauty of the Lord and his female consort, he is rewarded with a pearl necklace much to his surprise from when he is accepted as the 'Pitamaha,' a great devotee, a scene which was most subtly depicted sans exaggeration. 

Choosing another gem of Annamayya's works, 'Avvade Ivvadu' provided ample scope for performance. The verses describe Ramaanjaneya as an embodiment of Vishnu (Rama is Vishnu and Vishnu is none but Rama). The characterization of Rama, Hanuman and the Vanaras coupled with their contagious energy propelled Guha's expertise in her craft. Rama looked and performed in a manner straight out of our visual portraits. Where the construction of the pathway brought the required timely humour, the fight between Rama and Raavana was kept facile and apt. 

Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu could not have been better depicted. Even as the sound track played 'Muddugare Yashoda,' the auditorium echoed in cheers as little Krishnas posed in their ever naughty selfs from the side screens and lay on the ground with impeccable neatness. Within no time, we had 8 odd Krishnas looking stunningly cute in their white costumes dancing all over the stage and into our hearts with the deeds of Krishna (Kalinga Narthana, Makhan Chori, Govardhana Giridhari et al). Annamayya draws parallels between him and the Lord as he gets married himself and the Lord unites with Lakshmi. Introducing Lakshmi along with a group of dancers as Ashtalakshmis caught attention for its concept. (The dancers all dressed in pink, this time must have been their 5th costume change!). The marriage scene, Lakshmi's sweet nothings with the Lord and the Unjal seva were elegantly choreographed. 

Annamayya's work popularized through folk dances and his traversing through his old age, offering all his work at the feet of the Lord, formed a good finale though a little prolonged towards the end. The attention to detailing in each of the frames, costumes, characterization, use of props and intelligent support of lights, summed up the ballet as a visual treat. As Anitha Guha put it, "This is out of my passion and an offering to the Lord. But for the support of my students in this crucial exam time and for SICA, this would not have been possible." 

The water bottles and the reserved seats did their job for the audience, as no one left until quarter past nine (two and half hours almost) only to give this humble artiste a standing ovation. A little chat with her and she reveals that her ballets have run all over Chennai's sabhas and in auditoriums where videos had to be screened outside owing to over crowding!

Now that's what one would call true art and its appreciation!

Priya Raman is a Bharatanatyam dancer from Bangalore. She has been conducting interactive workshops on classical dance for school children as an Education Consultant with The Times of India - Newspaper in Education (NIE). Having a passion and flair for writing, Priya writes on dance and dance related issues in Ananya's monthly magazine, Abhivyakthi.