Shringara Darpanam
- Ranee Kumar, Hyderabad
Photos: G Muralidhar

December 21, 2011

A carefully crafted string of ‘shringara’ sankeertanams composed by Annamacharya and tucked into the ekaharya format of Ananda Shankar Jayant’s ‘Shringara Darpanam’ mirrored the earthy romance of the goddess leading to a celestial union. The lyrics of this 15th century composer are in mundane Telugu but its connotation is far and wide, transcending the material plane to merge into the esoteric. And Ananda’s adaptation to the Bharatanatyam idiom did just this. It dwelt on the visibly intimate details that form the surface of the songs and subtly took us along the sublime. Not just that, the artist was able to weave the fabric of songs together so that it made a coherent whole and thematic composition.

We are introduced to the divine beauty Alamelumanga through description of her lovely tresses adorned by flowers that tend to drop to the ground like a shower when she dances with joy and abandon, completely in love with her beloved Lord of Seven Hills.  Ananda personifies this celestial maiden through "Alarulu kuriyaga aadinadhe..." tuned to Shankarabharanam. A brief jati to the lines, "andela mrotala adinade..." was a thoughtful piece of artistry to depict the rhythm of the anklet bells so described. The song wrapped up with a quest in mime for the beloved and soon Cupid is supposed to have struck at the heart of this tender, loving girl.

"Maruninagaridanada..." in Kalyani, fell into place and the dancer conveyed the import of this lyric through timely footwork. The sancharis for "Rammanave vaani..." (Desh)  addressed to an imaginary sakhi (handmaiden) was an invitation in dance to the Lord to address the pining of lovelorn Alamelumanga. The eye and facial expression conveyed the anguish transmitted by the sakhi to the Lord (Jalajakshi nee pakka..) and questioning the prevarication on the part of  Venkateswara the sakhi urging the lord in the song "Inkanela chelamu..." in Karaharapriya, conveyed  the pretense of mock anger by Alamelumanga while the core of her being is awaiting the lord with unending love, was brought out convincingly by the dancer.

 As she moved on with the next piece, a more erotic "appati enda..." (Mohanakalyani) Ananda’s composed abhinaya in establishing the nayika took away the eroticism that underlined the lyric. If the structure of the dance could not be elasticized to convey the eroticism, surely the eye could substitute the expression needed in an innuendo?  "Kata kata aiyyo..." in Kapi was enacted with grace as the sakhi (maiden) pleads with the lord on behalf of her divine companion who is besotted by Him. The dance complimented the lovely lines of this lyric.

Ananda took us along the emotive plight of Alamelumanga as she moves over to  "Upacharinchagarada..." in Darbar ragam.  With abhinaya to the fore as the lyric demanded, the dancer through mime implores in the garb of the heroine, to come over to her. There had to be a complexity of emotions like repentance, entreaty, love and nostalgia, each contradictory to the other, yet there. The maturity with which the artist allowed these to flit through her visage had to be seen to be believed.  The news of the beloved lord coming to her, spins off utter confusion laced with excitement in the heroine who tries to deck herself to receive the Lord and in doing so gets her adornments all wrong. This was like child’s play to a dancer of Ananda’s caliber. She floated through the expressions giving us a feeling of living in the role.

 Ananda’s expertise came to the fore in the last two songs. If the poet in Annamayya was able to draw a verbal picture of the seasons as Alamelumanga sat in the lap of her Lord, the artist was able to conjure the seasons as a metaphor to the physical moves that culminate in the union. In  "Komman nee palukulaku..." (Anandabhairavi), the dancer showed the contentment in the aftermath of the divine union in the most suggestive manner by using the prop of a garland. The mangalam in Surati was a fitting finale.

S Venu Madhav, the vocalist who also composed the tuning to these Annamacharya sankeertanam, was at his best both in modulations of tone as well as classicality. IV Renuka Prasad on the nattuvangam, Saikumar on the violin, and TP Balasubramaniam on the percussion made for a wonderful team. The dance was part of the Abhinaya Festival at Saptaparni amphitheatre.