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Tribute in Mohiniattam to a great mentor
- Vijay Shanker
e-mail: shankercsn@gmail.com

February 3, 2020

A Mohiniattam recital 'A tribute to my Guru' was presented by Dr. Dimple Nair (Rajesh) as a mark of tribute to the legendary Mohiniattam exponent and dance educationist, Dr. Kanak Rele at the India International Centre auditorium in New Delhi on 19th January. The performance featured the choreographic creations of Dr. Kanak Rele.

With financial support from the Ford Foundation, Kanak Rele filmed three pioneer exponents of Mohiniattam that included Kalyani Kutty Amma, who was the first Mohiniattam mentor at the Kerala Kalamandalam and also the wife of veteran Kathakali actor Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair. After extensive research in Mohiniattam, a style that had almost disappeared, Kanak with musical support from veteran musician Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, created a new Margam of Mohiniattam based on body kinetics that suited the sensibility and sensuousness of the lyrical dance style. A dance revolution indeed as her style is unique and non-pareil.

Besides the technical contribution, Kanak has gone a step further by portraying women centric themes towards social upliftment and women empowerment that also include Tagore's Chandalika, renamed as Kalyani, besides other choreographies.



Dimple Nair commenced with the Ganapati item that briefly introduced the technique of Mohiniattam, while paying salutations and seeking blessing from the lord. The two numbers that portrayed the choreography pertaining to women were Amba and Kubja. In spite of the adversity they faced, these women moved forward towards success and a better life formed the crux of the presentation. Dimple is one of the senior most disciples of Dr. Kanak Rele and has also attained her doctorate degree, hence both as a performer and practitioner she has achieved a certain degree of maturity which was quite evident in the abhinaya revealing the emotional intensity, pathos and suffering. The typical hunch of Kubja is symbolic of the suffering and burden women have to go through and ultimately being blessed by the lord, she regains her original health and beauty. This underlining social message makes the presentation socially relevant too.

Another choreography with music and lyrics by Kavalam was 'Madhu Masa' that explored the beauty of nature; seasons with relation to life was a musical and dance treat with precise and elegant movements. Dimple concluded with 'Jeeva,' a rhythmic fantasy that interprets the inter-relationship between the Jeevatma (human soul) and Paramatma (divine soul). Dimple received fine orchestral support from Gopalakrishnan for nattuvangam, Gireeshan for melodious vocal and Shaktidharan for mridangam.

In spite of the cold weather, it was encouraging to see the audience that included Kanak Rele and the chief guest Dr. Sonal Mansingh who said, "If Dimple could dance so well, you can imagine the wonderful performance by Kanakben." A great tribute indeed.

Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.


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