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Beautiful natya offering by Uttiya Barua

February 20, 2021

Uttiya Barua, senior disciple of the Dhananjayans, made a beautiful offering of natyam to commemorate 15 years of learning at Bharata Kalanjali. Performed on 16th February in the beautiful space at the institution premises in Adyar, the performance was attended by a small live audience and beamed online for wider viewing. Uttiya’s shraddha of many years was clearly evident through the evening, be it in the organization and aesthetics of the space which he looked into himself, to the careful selection of pieces, and the stunning choreography of the formidable main piece, the ‘Nrityopaharam’.

Honouring the significance of the day – Nagpanchami – when, in his native Bengal, Saraswathi Puja is performed, Uttiya began his performance with a Saraswathi vandanam. Inviting Shanta Dhananjayan to the stage to render the song, Uttiya set the tone for the rest of the performance with this piece. It was executed with exquisite laya and authentic bhava. The next piece was the Mayura alarippu, set in misram and provided with a musical element by O.S Arun’s rendition of a Thirupugazh – Paadi madi naadi – which was very apt for this piece. One felt we were witnessing Shanmuga’s very vehicle dancing before us, alternating tone with flow, to create the tremulous quality of the dancing peacock.

The piece that brings weight to any performance, the Nrityopaharam, was commendable in its choreography - by Uttiya himself – and execution. With the help of neat lines, his strength in nritta, and judicious experimentation in choreography, Uttiya created a rich tapestry to accompany the padavarnam in the Kannada language (lyrics and music set by Mahesh Swamy,  ace flautist of Bengaluru and sung by Srivatsa)  recounting the Ramayana through the reminiscing of Sita as she languishes in Ashoka vanam. While his prowess in abhinaya and nritta anchored him, one wondered if some segments of narration were inordinately packed. This may have made the viewing, in pockets, rushed for the audience - thus preventing a more wholesome rasanubhava for them.

Uttiya followed up the Nrityopaharam with a purely abhinaya piece to the famous Mahakavi Bharatiyar composition, Chinnanchiru kiliye. Entering the space of a child beautifully, his descriptions of ‘kannamma’ were beautifully rendered. However, the vatsalya bhava of the piece struggled to come through due to some moments of disconnection with the deeply feminine aspect of the narrator that this piece requires.

Always choosing to do a Bengali composition in his performances, Uttiya’s next piece animated a beautiful Rabindranath Tagore poem-song that talks of universal love. With just a mellifluous voice and tambura accompaniment, Uttiya traced the journey from pining to enlightenment - in love, with gentle élan. One could witness his deeply organic response to poetry in his native language, an element that no doubt rounded off his emotive explorations in the piece.

The final piece for the evening, the Nrittangaharam (commonly known as ‘thillana’) was a Swathi Thirunal composition in ragam Dhanashree. In the quest to end on a high note, thillanas are usually rendered at high speed. It was refreshing to see the confidently medium paced rendition of this Uttiya choreography, bringing out the lilting quality of the ragam.

Uttiya’s offering that evening was noted for its dedication to high quality natya and left the audience witnessing the fruit of a journey of sincere learning and honest exploration in the art form.

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