Alarmel High Voltage Valli
- Veejay Sai, Bangalore

December 16, 2011

Every dancer is taught or hears of the famous lines ‘Yatho hasta, thatho drishti..’ from the Abhinaya Darpana. But one rarely comes across an artiste who satisfies every minute detail of that philosophy like Alarmel Valli does. Opening the season at the only dance program organized by the Mylapore Fine Arts Club on 14th December, Valli managed to cast her magic spell, all over again, to a packed auditorium.
After a brief invocation, Valli introduced each of her pieces with an elaborate extempore speech. Now this is one dancer with a gift of the gab and she speaks like she would recite a lovely poem. Opening with a composition titled ‘Rathi sukha saare’, a tribute to the ‘Shringaara’ rasa, Valli recreated the whole spring season on stage. Taking verses from medieval Sanskrit poetry like Kalidasa’s ‘Ritu Samharam’ and ‘Shakuntalam’ and Bhoja’s ‘Shringaara Prakashanam,’ Valli spun her net of love over the captive audience. What does one speak of her dance? Her clear lines? Solid jatis? Well, all that seems like a passé for a seasoned artiste like her. One was only expected to sit back and soak in her wonderful energy on stage as much as they could. Greediness for once, came across as a virtue. The music for the concluding benediction from ‘Shakuntalam’ composed by Rajkumar Bharati was one of the finest odes Kalidasa could have asked for. With Valli dancing to the vocals by Nandini Anand Sharma, it was sheer magic to see the music come alive on stage.

The second item she presented was a tribute to Lord Krishna and in her words ‘the infinite and the intimate.’ Selecting verses from the ‘Narayaneeyam’, ‘Madhurashtakam’, ‘Yadavaabhyudaya’ and ‘Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini’ and weaving them into a ragamalika and talamalika, Valli explored the multiple facets of Krishna as the playful boy, the divine lord of the world and the passionate lover and many more. Easily slipping into all of these roles in a rapid succession, it was difficult to believe that someone could perform all that and more and avoid the risk of being called a schizophrenic! Didn’t someone say ‘All geniuses have sparks of madness in them’? Noteworthy was the fantastic violin music provided by Ranjini Ramakrishnan and Chaitanya Kumar’s flute that mingled effortlessly with beats of Shaktivel’s mridangam as Valli set the stage on fire.  The third performance was a set of elegies from the Purananoor anthology.  Evoking the pathos and the misfortune of death of a valiant chieftain, ‘Ilayarum Mudiyarum’ of Kayamanaar (Purananoor 254) depicts the lament of a woman who finds the dead body in the battlefield and agonizes about the fate of the chieftain’s mother when she would receive the news of her dead son. She reminisces of the time she spent flirting with him in their days of innocent youth and merriment. Valli connected this to the second elegy ‘Ilayor Soodaar’ of Kudavaayir Keerthanaar (Purananoor 242) where the woman addresses a jasmine creeper saying, “The young will not wear your flowers in their tresses, nor bangled maidens weave fragrant jasmine garlands; bards will not pick your blossoms, nor ballad singers enjoy your beauty - for our valiant lord is dead! Why then, O jasmine, do you bloom in vain, in this bereaved domain?!” Valli’s evocative abhinaya could have put even the coldest of hearts to tears as she went about portraying the anguish of the tragic heroine.
After the elegy even as Valli announced on stage that she would skip a piece and go directly into the thillana owing to the ill health of a member of the live orchestra, a packed sabha felt cheated and helpless. Hundreds of her fans and rasikas alike sat with a crestfallen face. Thanks to the musician, who inspite of reeling under a high fever, understood the mood of the sabha and persisted on going ahead with the program as planned. Valli performed a javali ‘Smarasundaranguni’ composed by Dharmapuri Subbaraya Ayyar in Paras ragam set to Adi talam. In times when one rarely gets to see good javalis as a part of the regular margam (who does a full margam show these days anyway?), Valli’s javali was an added bonus to rasikas. Depicting a confident and over-ambitious nayika whose praise of her man sounds too utopian to be true, Valli’s abhinaya was flawless bringing the house down to a thunderous applause. One wondered what happened to hundreds of those rasikas who got seduced over this javali, unexpected.
Concluding her recital with a Swaralaya, a nritta composition, which included a poem from the Purananooru anthology expressing the well-known adage that birds of a feather flock together, Valli once again set a sabha-full of rasikas’ hearts flutter, craving for more. Performing her first of four shows for the Margazhi season 2011, Valli grows from strength to strength. We all know of the famous incident of Sri Krishan Thulabharam in our mythology. Valli is that one tulsi leaf that will equal everything else on the balance when it comes to her art, her passion for dance and her involvement with it. Rock on ageless Alarmel Valli!

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