Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya’s pleasant recital
- Dr. Sunil Kothari

July 9, 2014

Performing at Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 2nd July, Chitra Visweswaran’s disciple Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya from Chennai impressed the select gathering with her pleasant Bharatanatyam recital. Groomed by Chitra for past thirty years, Lakshmi has imbibed Vazhuvoor bani in a delectable manner, emphasising the graceful movements and sparkling utplavanas (jumps). One at once notices how it is different from Pandanallur bani or Kalakshetra bani. It goes to her credit that she has mastered the technique well and performs with abundance.

Opening with Pushpanjali in Gambeeranattai, tisra jati, adi tala to the musical composition  by Chitra, one was struck by the lightness of her feet and covering the stage with great ease. It was evident that she was thoroughly professional, acquainted with all sorts of stages for performance and manipulated the space intelligently. In Oothukadu Venkatasubbaier’s “Ananda Nartana Ganapati” in Nattai she brought the iconic images of Ganapati in a trice.

But what impressed me the most was her selection of Swati Tirunal’s composition on Hanuman as varnam. Set to Saveri raga and adi tala, impersonating Hanuman, holding the tail in one raised arm and with other showing hasta for monkey, she dwelt upon his attributes, opening his chest to show the image of Rama in his heart. As a young child wanting to eat the golden orb mistaking it as fruit, Hanuman jumps in the sky to pick it up.  The humility as Lord Rama’s devotee, ready to serve him, to bring back Sita from Lanka, willing to cross the ocean, Lakshmi stood on her raised toes, raising her arms upwards and succeeded in creating larger than life huge form of Hanuman, jumping across the ocean. She created excellent optical illusion.

There were subtle nuances. Seeing Sita trying to commit suicide, Hanuman jumps and offers Rama’s ring, Sita in turn sends her choodamani. Sitting on bent knees, moving, holding tail, Ravana’s servants trying to tie him and set his tail on fire, Hanuman taking his tail all around and setting fire to Lanka, his return to Lord Rama et al were performed with ease and command over the technique. When Lakshmana falls in battle, with Nag pasha arrow striking his chest, Hanuman goes in search of the herb, and brings the entire mountain with herbs to revive Lakshmana! These were depicted graphically creating images which linger long in memory. Lakshmi seemed to revel in taking leaps as it suited the character of Hanuman.

Another Oothukadu padam in Todi and adi tala was “Thaye Yashoda,” complaint by Gopis to mother Yashoda about Krishna’s pranks. Stealing butter, breaking pots were usual, but Gopi is shocked when overcome by love for child Krishna, she embraces him and asks for a kiss on the cheek, and lo and behold! He plants a kiss on her lips like a lawfully wedded husband! Yashoda, enough of his pranks, he is not a child, complains the Gopi.  Lakshmi brought all these expressions like a seasoned dancer, regaling the audience. Meera bhajan Pyare darshana dijo aay in Bhairavi was followed by Madhurashtakam of Vallabhacharya intertwined with Tillana in Brindavana Saranga, a composition of Chitra’s late husband Visweswaran. It was a perfect ending and was received with heart warming applause by the discerning audience.

Performed to recorded music with nattuvangam by Chitra Visweswaran, vocal by G. Srikanth, violin by B. Anantakrishnan, flute by Srutisagar, Lakshmi’s recital brought to the fore salient features of Vazhuvoor style and succeeded in introducing a seasoned dancer to the Capital. The only complaint one would like to make is to program officers of the Habitat Centre that none of them remains present to introduce the dancer or at the end offer flowers to the artiste. All introductions were done by the dancer herself from back stage. An institution of the stature of Habitat Centre needs to show courtesy to visiting artistes at least ‘to say it with flowers!’

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is a regular contributor to, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 12 years.