Kalamandalam Sugandhi
Satiating the artistic quest with a splendid concert
- Supriya Rajan
e-mail: supriya.dancer@gmail.com
Photos: Vipin Das Kavumbai

October 17, 2014

On September 29, the sixth day of Navarathri, with the clouds looming large in the evening sky ready for a thunderous downpour as part of the last phase of South East monsoon, Guru Kalamandalam Sugandhi offered a tribute to the mridangam maestro Nandikeswar Rao with a splendid Mohiniattam presentation by her disciples. Nandikeswar Rao was a major support in her career, being part of many of the creative works she has done in Mohiniattam. She has been unfailingly offering dance tribute in his memory every year at Chengampuzha Park in Edapally, Kochi, since his passing away in 2006.

The concert began with a musical invocation which gave a taste of the fine artistry of the singer Deepa Palanad, a well-trained Kathakali singer, who would effortlessly unfurl the nrithya with her mellifluous rendering of Abhinaya Sangeetham. The opening dance piece of the evening was Chitrangam, written, composed and choreographed by Guru Kalamandalam Sugandhi in Nata, Revathi and Desh raag. Presented by her disciples, prominent among them being her daughter Nanditha Prabhu, the dancers paid obeisance to Ganesha and Shiva with graceful movements accentuated by Edakka vaytharis.

Maya Mohana Krishna, the main composition of the evening written and set to music by Sri Kavalam Narayana Panikker, spoke of the devotees thronging in front of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple to get a feel of the divinity.  They go into a trance and each one of them imagines the many episodes of Krishna playing the part of a perfect savior in the most trying times. Set in Ragamalika to the rhythm patterns used in Kerala Sangeetham, the composition brought out the beauty of the dance while the choreography and the dancers did complete justice to it. Beginning with dancers as devotees entering the temple, beautifully choreographed to Mohana raga and Aiyyadi thalam (4+1) (ThaThaThaTha) was a delightful start. After the worship, they see Krishna amid them and lose themselves in Raas Lila. Ending the pallavi with a set of adavus and chari, the dancers went on to depict the scene in the court of Kauravas where Draupadi was gravely insulted and Krishna, hearing her prayer saves her from utter humiliation. Nanditha effectively portrayed the role of Draupadi and was well supported by the rest of the dancers. With a peacock feather on her head and an Angavastra clad over the Mohiniattam costume, the dancer donning the character of Krishna fit well into the role.

Nandita Prabhu as Draupadi

The dancers then took as to Kapithsalam where Gajendra moksham took place. The gait of the elephant and the ensuing episode with the crocodile was gracefully portrayed. Set in Nilambari and Chamba talam of ten beats (ThaThaThaTha -, ThaTha-, Tha-), the ensuing set of lyrics told the story of Narasimha avatar. “Kurukshetra bhumiyil vimbi vilari…” in raag Revathy and khanda chapu, narrated the episode in Kurukshetra war, where Arjuna is given words of encouragement with Geethopadesham by Krishna. Very vividly portrayed by the lead dancers, the piece concluded with the sloka “Yada yadahi dharmasya.” The music and the dance of the evening combined together and wandered into every corner of the mind of the rasikas, quenching the artistic thirst.

The musical ensemble included Deepa Palanad on vocal, Suresh Edapally on veena, Shaju Kunnamkulam on flute, Balachandran Elamkaara on mridangam and Tripunithura Krishnadas on edakka. The dancers were Nanditha Prabhu, Priya Ramkumar, Gowri Priya, Meenakshi Balachandran and Anamika. The event was part of the Navarathri Music and Dance Festival of Chengampuzha Samskarika Kendram.

Supriya Rajan is a disciple of Dr. Neena Prasad and is an administrator of the online Mohiniattam forum Lasyatarangini.