When Sarangapani smiled in satisfaction
- Veejay Sai, Bangalore
e-mail: vs.veejaysai@gmail.com
Photos: Chandan Kumar

September 20, 2011

Bangalore has been home to many male classical dancers unlike no other city in South India for the longest time. Right on from the days of US Krishna Rao and Ram Gopal to current times, thanks to the mushrooming and growth of numerous sabhas, dance schools and organizations, many dancers have started their careers and successfully launched themselves into the national and international scene from here.  One young dancer who comes with a bundle of promise and talent is Anil V Iyer. A student of late Guru Narmada and later Poornima Gururaja of Kalasindhu, Anil has been training for the last half a dozen years in Bharatanatyam. In an exclusive evening of solo-dance presented by the ICCR, Dept. of Kannada and Culture, Dept. of Youth Services and Sports and Youth Writers and Artists’ Guild, Anil danced to a packed hall in Yavanika.

Opening the evening with an invocation to Lord Ganesha, the first item was ‘Sri Vighna rajam bhajeham’ composed by Oothukadu Venkata Kavi in Ghambeera Nattai ragam set to adi talam.  From here on Anil’s joie de vivre on stage kept the audiences captivated through the evening. Anil comes with the energy of a twenty year old and the intensity of his guru’s meticulous grooming.  His expressive eyes radiating with conviction made a wonderful start for the evening as he portrayed the glory of Lord Ganesha. Following that was a composition ‘Ananda thandavam kande’ by Bangalore-based eminent Sanskrit scholar Dwarki Krishnaswamy set to Nagaswaravali ragam and adi talam. In this beautiful composition describing Lord Shiva seen as ‘navarasa thandaveshwara,’ Anil’s Nritta was matchless. Such perfection in dancers of his age doesn’t come too often these days when students are too busy guru-hopping for their marketing. His immaculate portrayal of all the navarasas in rapid succession was a joy to watch. The world of dance knows Dwarki as an ace flautist for dance for over four decades. This particular composition establishes her as one of the finest composers of our times, especially for dancers. The lyrical content and the depth of her philosophy come from her genuine bhakthi to the art form.
Poornima Gururaja, Srivatsa, Karthik Sathavalli
Anil V Iyer
The evening got electrifying with eagerness as the third item was presented, a varnam ‘Roopamu joochi valachi’ in Todi ragam set to adi talam. Describing the heartrending emotions of the nayika waiting for Lord Shiva’s darshan, Anil went through it with ease and poise. His communicative abhinayam and compelling eyes made one really see an imaginary ‘roopamu’ as he narrated the varnam weaving intricate movements. The precision in his footwork brought the house down to a huge applause as his guru Poornima Gururaja kept wielding on the nattuvangam. Neither too feminine in his body language (a serious grievance with male dancers who don’t dance like men!) nor too aggressive, Anil’s grace and charm worked its way through his dance. However, it would be a joy to see Anil's sancharis, if the varnam opened with the aalapam on the excellent flute being played by Karthik (which went a little underscored) instead of the vocals. Todi ragam on the flute brings out a varied set of emotions, probably better than it does to vocal music. Well, but that could be a story for another time. The next piece was a Ragamalika of a Purandhara dasa kriti set to adi talam describing the leelas of a naughty Lord Krishna.

Following that was a wonderful javali meant for a male dancer, ‘Chitike vesithe nee vanti chelulu’ composed by Sarangapani in Kalyani ragam. This piece was possibly the best of the whole evening’s performance. Anil managed to enact a one-man ballet with his dance. One could literally see all the ‘laksha padivelu’ (one lakh ten thousand beauties!) in his characterization. Even Bragha Bessell would have been swept off her feet with his bright and lucid sancharis and arresting tirmanams. Sarangapani would have been smiling in satisfaction nodding his head in affirmation, wherever he is, to see the composition come full circle ever since he wrote it. The dance recital ended with a thillana in Shimhendra Madhyamam ragam composed by Madurai N Krishnan. Once again, Anil got a huge applause for his jatis and sturdy footwork. One couldn’t help but remember his late Guru Narmada who was an expert choreographer when it came to thillanas and varnams while the freshness of the abhinaya he learnt from Poornima added sparkle to his dance. Anil comes with a big promise for the world of male Bharatanatyam dancers. Here is a new kid on the block to look out for.

With excellent vocal music by Srivatsa, mridangam by Lingaraju, melodious flute by Karthik Sathavalli the dance recital was one memorable event to remember because of the reasonable selection of pieces for the evening. There was never a dull moment. Anil’s guru Poornima Gururaja has certainly added another successful feather to her cap with him as her disciple. While most sabhas are filled with senior citizens and eccentric geriatrics, the fact that the average age group of the awestruck audience in the hall was lesser than forty-five, assured a great sense of optimism for the dance scene in Bangalore and beyond. One can look ahead with a good dosage of sanguinity with enthusiastic dancers like Anil.

Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and a culture critic.