Best way to enjoy my Pongal celebrations!
- Nanditha Prabhu, Chennai

January 18, 2012

The ultimate aim of natya is “Rasanishpathi,” according to the foremost aesthetician of Jambudvipa, Bharatamuni. Rasanishpathi elevates you to a higher plane of consciousness. My experience on Jan 16 at Mylapore Fine Arts was precisely this. Sunanda Nair, a senior disciple of Dr. Kanak Rele, gracefully hypnotised the audience and transported us to a higher plane. She commenced her performance with an invocation to Lord Ganesha which was followed by portrayal of the eight different nayikas, taking excerpts from Bharatamuni’s Natyasastra.  The “ashtanayikas” were delineated with brevity and clarity. The next item, an Akam poetry in Tamil “orumakal” was most touching and every mother in the audience shed a tear at the plight of the mother who brings up her daughter like the apple of her eye, and who with courage accepts the situation when her daughter elopes with her lover. The last item was the devotion of Kubja, a dasi who yearns for Lord Krishna’s presence, but is forced to smear sandal paste on Kamsa, the cruel King, an act she detests. This was followed by a short jeeva, marking the union of the Jeevatma and the Paramatma as the tempo of the music gradually increased. As the musical tempo increased, I wanted to close my eyes and experience it and wished the dancer had slowed down and remained still for a while, as the Jeeva becomes one with the Para.

Sunanda’s demeanour, stage presence and mastery over her movements need special mention. She weaved beautiful stories in the language of Mohiniattam, which she was adept in like a master story teller. The dance form needs such exponents to take forward the great Desi tradition which is slowly and steadily making its presence felt in the Margazhi season of Chennai.

The accompanying artistes for the evening need special applause, for it was the music which must have inspired the dancer to give her best to the performance. Arun’s exceptional rendering elevated and magically drew us into the performance, which was well supported by Nandakumar on the edakka, Murali on the flute and Karthikeyan on the mridangam. It was a beautiful evening and an auspicious way to enjoy my Pongal celebrations!

Nanditha Prabhu is a Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam dancer trained under her mother Kalamandalam Suganthi and Padma Subrahmanyam respectively. She runs her dance school Mythri Art Academy in Chennai.