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Tamrapatra: Session 6 with Sathyanarayana Raju
- Srividya Angara Sinha
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December 21, 2021

The 11th and 12th of December, played host to the 6th session of Tamrapatra, an online initiative from Natyarambha, sprung from the mind of eminent and enterprising Bharatanatyam dancer and Guru Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant. In collaboration with renowned dancer-scholar Dr. Anupama Kylash, Tamrapatra is a yearlong series of sessions that sees 12 rare Annamacharya keertanas delineated in all their lyrical artha and goodartha (meaning and metaphor) by Dr. Anupama and interpreted parallelly through movement by renowned dance gurus. The music of these keertanas was set by well-known musician, the late Sathiraju Venumadhav.

Sathyanarayana Raju & Anupama Kylash
Sathyanarayana Raju & Anupama Kylash

This month saw Ananda Shankar Jayant and Anupama Kylash team up with eminent Bharatanatyam dancer and guru, Bengaluru based Sathyanarayana Raju. Dr. Usha RK, Arts curator, and director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre, Moscow, was the guest of honour for this session. An ebullient welcome note from Ananda went on to make way for Anupama's delightful delving into the timeless lyric of Annamayya, which for this month was the keerthana Eppudu vatthuvo yanuchu, composed in the raaga Ramapriya and tala misrachapu.

The Sakhi is an important character in our literature. She is the voice of reason, of wisdom, and an alter-ego of the nayika herself. She has the liberty to wield sarcasm in order to bring her friend, the nayika back on track. She is the voice of the Acharya, and also of the Infinite. Using her varied and variegated skills, she diffuses a tense situation, she adorns the Nayika, she consoles, coaches, pacifies, and finally unites the nayika with the nayaka. It goes without saying, that the role she plays is extremely important in bringing a plot closure, says Anupama Kylash.

Eppudu vattuvo yanuchu shines the spotlight on one such Sakhi, who bears a message from the pining Alamelumanga to her Lord Venkateswara of the Seven Hills. She cajoles, coaxes and advocates for the nayaka Srinivasa to come visit the nayaki Alamelumanga and cool the fire of separation that is devouring her. Sathyanarayana Raju harnessed his extensive imagination and effortless technique to bring the Sakhi alive through a palpable sense of humour. This was no ordinary Sakhi, no. She had swag, as Ananda herself put it.

"She awaits your arrival, do come and set her misery to rest", says she. In the painting of these lines, Sathyanarayana Raju shows a well-dressed Sakhi who first consoles the goddess and then offers generously to go and drag Srinivasa by the hand to come meet her. A quick shift in the mukhajabhinaya (facial expression) shows that the nayika is not happy with the idea of her man being man-handled. Or rather woman-handled! Later, upon arriving at the doorstep of the handsome Venkateswara, the Sakhi unabashedly admires him, but is not forgetful of her purpose there.

She says referring to Alamelumanga, "Her eyes are like lilies, which await your moonlike countenance. Let her relish her own image as reflected in the polished mirrors that are your cheeks". And here, as though to test the veracity of the lines, the Sakhi impishly glances at her own reflection first! "Let her creeper-like frame wind itself around the mighty branches of your arms. Parted, the twin Chakravakas of her bosom cry for thy sun like resplendent form!" says the second charana. And here, the Sakhi offers to show how the creeper would look around Srinivasa, by magnanimously volunteering herself!

Sathyanarayana Raju
Sathyanarayana Raju

This and many more such layers of humourous interpretation portrayed Sathyanarayana Raju's Sakhi as one refreshingly endowed with sass, satire and razor sharp wit. Great care was also taken in the aharya and arrangement of the various backdrops employed to present the choreography in an aesthetic way. The 2-day module ended with a brief talk by Usha RK, followed by a short segment of Q&A and comments, crisply moderated by the curator Ananda.

The audience usually is witness to the final execution of an idea that has germinated in the dancer's mind. But in the Tamrapatra sessions, we have a multi-layered approach where the dancer-guru has to observe the origin of his/her thought, articulate it, and then teach it to the participants gathered from across states, countries and continents. For students and onlookers alike, this novel method opens up new vistas of thought and observation.

This well-designed and much-needed knowledge module was refreshing in content; the execution of its multiple aspects, en pointe. The fluidity of presentation guided by the invited guru and backed by masterful explanation of the lyric puts the spotlight on one of the most revered saint-poets of India, letting the student and the rasika embark on a journey that explores and rediscovers new facets of an ancient and ageless verse.

The next session of Tamrapatra is on the 8th and 9th of January with Bharatanatyam Guru Geeta Chandran as the guest artiste.

Link to highlights

Srividya Angara Sinha
Srividya Angara Sinha is a Kuchipudi performer and choreographer based out of Bengaluru. She is the Artistic Director for Citsabha (pronounced Chi-th-sa-bha) Centre for Kuchipudi and Allied Arts and is also co-founder for Citsabha Collective, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of world heritage arts.

A wonderful session. Anupama's erudite explanation of the qualities and role of a sakhi were so illuminating. Sathya's interpretation of the sakhi was refreshing with such a welcome touch of humor. Thank you.
- Lata Pada

Thank you very much for yet another beautiful session of Tamrapatra. Ananda's introduction, Anupama's scholarly explanations and Sathya's unique interpretations were an absolute delight. The visualization of the Sakhi in Sathya's imagination was truly a character! Very interesting, temperamental, so hilarious and lively. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
- Bragha Bessell

Thoroughly enjoyable. The SAKHI is such an under-rated character. Next to the normally coy heroine, she has such a feisty temperament. Sathya brought so many shades to the interpretation. Bravo! Great going, Team! Now onwards to 2022 and 6 more!
- Anita Ratnam

Thoroughly enjoyed your intro to the role a sakhi can play. The myriad angles of approaches and possibilities were amazing!
- Hema Rajagopalan

Morning treat to see Sathya's lovely rendition! Thanks, Ananda and Natyarambha, for this series.
- Mythili Kumar

All I can say to you three - Ananda, Anupama and Satya – is, "brahmaandanga undhi session. Kallaki vindhugaa, chevulaku impugaa, chaala chakkanaina presentation. Mee mugguruki naa hrudayapoorvaka kruthagnyathalu". Premaabhivandanalu kuda!
- Rathna Kumar

Sathya, it was fabulous....a lot of fun. Congratulations, Anupama and Ananda.
- Geeta Chandran

I was a bit disappointed that Alekhya Punjala's session was canceled but extremely glad to join this session with Raju garu. It was absolutely amazing and engrossing! I like the concept and the angle of the Sakhi you chose!! Enjoyed it thoroughly! Wonderful series!
- Arunima Mamidi

My heartfelt pranams and thank you for this wonderful session. Tamrapatra is indeed one of its kind and am eagerly waiting for tomorrow's box of surprises.
- Nikhita

Wonderful session, Sathya, thoroughly enjoyed myself and loved your take on the sakhi.
- Sujata Venkatesh

Namaste! Thoroughly enjoying this session! Raju garu, your spontaneous choreo and the video give such beautiful facets of how the same piece can be done a little differently. This is so profound, it brings goosebumps and reminds me of Kalanidhi maami's navarasa for mushika vahana that she had taught in a workshop. Many thanks for this wonderful interpretation. I also enjoy the alternate format of Anupama ji's lyrics explanation and your abhinaya exploration. Heartfelt gratitude for blossoming of this Annamaiya padam!
- Priti Gosar Patel
Thank you, Sathya garu, for giving the sakhi her dream to meet Venkatesha, and making her realize why her BFF is pining and yearning for a union. Loved the jaw-dropping scene and Sakhi wanting to see herself in Venkatesha's shiny cheeks. Best of all is Alamelumanga's insecurity when she asks her Sakhi to tone down her thalukku by giving her a simple cotton saree. I love this young and sassy Sakhi. Thank you for every session this far. Natyarambha team, "Three Cheers!"
- Suganda Iyer

Thank you, Natyarambha, for organizing this wonderful series. Thank you, Sathya sir, for walking us through your thought process and teaching us such a beautiful choreography for this unique composition.
- Megah

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful choreography, Sathya sir. My biggest learning was how we could never expect what was coming next. Especially for the Sridevi-Bhoodevi section… A huge thank you to Ananda ma'am for giving us the opportunity to learn from such stalwarts, and to Anupama ma'am for really opening our eyes to Annamayya.
- Anushka Subramanian

Thank you very much for this educative workshop... it was a blessing to be a part of it...
- Pruthvi Kaushik

Natyarambha has always been coming up with many innovative initiatives to keep us dancers busy and one such is Tamrapatra which is one of its kind. Not being the typical workshop session, it is a mind opener to many ideas. The 2-day workshop I attended of Tamrapatra Session 6, The Sakhi's Appeal, was a unique learning platform.
Guru Sathyanarayana Raju took the Sakhi to a different level through his out of the box imaginative choreography. Adding in the humour, bringing out various shades of the Sakhi and interestingly inviting Sridevi and Bhoodevi also to the picture… Sathya sir, my heartfelt thanks to you for sharing your creative thoughts and teaching us many of the nuances to be used. The icing on the cake was the captivating Srinivas-Padmavati arrangement at the back giving a rich apt appearance to the session.
The detailed explanations by Dr. Anupama Kylash helped us understand the Annamacharya kriti with ease and shed much more light on the aspect of Sakhi.
- Nikhita Manjunath

Every time it's a new beginning for me. This time it was at Tamrapatra 6: The Sakhi's Appeal.
Ananda Shankar Jayant akka's initiative has definitely broadened my horizons at learning rare Annamaiyya paata. Anupama Kylash akka's careful research gave me so much to ponder about the importance of the Sakhi. She has 7 principles as given in the Rasamanjari and Kavyalankara, Vinodha, Mandana, Siksha, Upaalamba, Prasadana, Viraha Ashwaasa and Sangama.
Sathyanarayana Raju's ideas were so humorous and we had a naughty sakhi trying to take a good look at Venkatesa before she could take him to Alamelumanga. The two days has been a very happy and a loving learning for me and it blew me away completely. I am laughing inside with all these ideas and I am so thankful once again. Btw, I am a senior fan of Sathya garu!
- Gayatri Krishnaveni Lakshman

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