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Kinetic Kuchipudi
- Madhur Gupta
Photo: Jaison Thomas

January 24, 2020

Finding its roots to Kusilava-puram village, Kuchipudi was a dominion of Brahmin theatre actors with Bhagavata Mela Natakam as its precursor. It is always heartening to see women of strength breaking such gender barriers and ruling the stage with their poise. On Jan 17, one witnessed a similar rendition when Natya Tarangini returned with their ace dancer Bhavana Reddy, presenting an engrossing evening dedicated to the lord of dance through her solo production Om Shivam.

Drenched in the Kaishikivritti, Bhavana opened up her recital with Ashtamoorthy which acted as an invocatory piece describing Lord Shiva's creation of the cosmos and the entire Universe. As per the Shiva Purana, there are eight entities: Water, Fire, Performer (of Yagna), Sun, Moon, Sky, Earth and Wind in whose forms the Lord Shiva manifests himself. Through this invocatory piece the dancer implored, "May that Lord, who has those eight explicitly visible manifestations, protect us all."

Aptly sporting the Rudra-tilakam of Shaivite traditions, Bhavana went on to present a novel choreography of her father and Guru Raja Reddy, delineating an impressible stamp of her familial traditions and training. The choreography in question was Shiva's dance uniquely alluding to the navarasas or the nine rudimentary emotions described in the revered Natya Shastra. Set to the raga Paraj in adi tala, the piece was a well balanced combination of pure dance and abhinaya. Shiva depicted as 'Nataraja', Lord of the Dance during his metaphysical tandava is said to engage in a five-fold cosmic cycle: Creation- playing of the sacred drum, Preservation- the hand of hope, Destruction- holding of fire, Abode for the sole- indicating the sacred foot, and the final Salvation- aspiring to the lifted foot.

A fitting and absorbing recreation of the ecstatic times when the celestial dance of Shiva and Parvati mesmerized the sagacious connoisseurs, Bhavana's delicate rendition moved on to depict the nine sentiments faced by Shiva when he opened his matted locks, releasing Ganga unto the world, providing the ultimate liberation. Demonstrating Sringara, Veera, Karunya, Adbhutam, Hasyam, Bhayam, Bhibhatsam, Raudram, and Shantam can be quite a daunting task for any performer. But Bhavana Reddy, proclaiming her solid training, sailed through the rendition effortlessly, engaging the audience with rapt attention.

When asked as to what are the dancer's personal feelings towards this supreme deity, she answered, "He from whom the creations, sustenance and dissolution of the universe take place; who is both the material and instrumental cause of it; who is omniscient; who is the only one having self-mastery, being the one independent entity, in who the world's manifestation of the three Gunas, subsists in reality without in least affecting him - on that Truth Supreme I meditate!"

Proceeding the recital with an abhinaya, a Padavarnam, Sami ni rammanavey in raga Kedar set to rupaka talam, the dancer played a heroine pleading with her Sakhi to bring her lord in hundred different gestures. Her lord is the one 'Bhoomivelayu Sri Adi Puramuna Nelakonna Samagana Loludayina Sarasa Thyagaraju'. The Nayika says that her lord is Samaganaloludu. Here, Samaganaloludu is Lord Shiva. Bhavana performed the episode of how Shiva came to be known as Samaganalola while also depicting the various madana avasthas of the heroine requesting her sakhi to bring her lord Sarveshudu (Shiva) to her immediately for amorous sports.

Ably led by Guru Kaushalya Reddy, the orchestra was a beautiful embellishment to Bhavana's recital with lights done by Sandeep Dutta further enhancing the pieces. Choosing to end with a traditional Tarangam in ragas Sourashtra and Revati set to adi tala the display of exquisite virtuosity while executing intricate footwork patterns while dancing on the rim of a brass summed up this charged salutation to the Supreme Being.

Odissi dancer Madhur Gupta is a disciple of Guru Sharon Lowen. He contributes to national dailies like The Hindu, The Times of India, The Asian Age, The Indian Express covering at large the Indian classical dance and music scene of the subcontinent.

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