Gopika and her two Gopis
- G Ulaganathan
Photos: Sampath Kumar KC
March 10, 2022
Gopika Varma presented two Mohinis, her senior students Amrutha and Keerthi in an impressive recital organised under the Dasyam banner at the Seva Sadan, Bangalore, on February 26. Both Amrutha Mangalaserry and Keerthi Menon are working professionals trained under Gopika for the last few years and have been part of her entourage. This time, however, they presented solo recitals for about an hour each with Gopika herself conducting the show with live orchestra.
Amrutha had earlier learnt dance from gurus Kalamandalam Sugandhi, Kalamandalam Chandrika and Sreedevi Unni. Since 2016, she has been with Gopika Varma. She began with a krithi by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. This particular krithi, Paahi parvatha nandini mamayi....which is rendered on the 9th day of Navarathri, is written in praise of Attingal Bhagavathi who is the para devatha of the Travancore royal family. "Oh Daughter of the mountain! The one whose face resembles the full moon, kindly protect me. Devi, you reside on the banks of the Vahini River and ride on the ferocious lion. You destroyed the clan of demons..." goes the lovely lyric.
Next came the varnam in which Amrutha gave a glimpse of her mastery over nritta and abhinaya. The slow speed in Mohiniyattam style gives sufficient scope for the dancer to express various bhavas and it was a treat to watch her express it fully. This was an impressive Varnam which gave snippets from the story of Sita, right from the time King Janaka found her in a furrow while ploughing a field, and named Sita.Then the first meeting between Sita and Rama, their much celebrated wedding, their banishment to the forest, the kidnapping of Sita, and finally their finding each other. Janaka Suta Sita is a composition of Thrissur Janardhanan and was in ragam Nattakurinji, set to adi thalam.
This was followed by the lovely literary work of Swathi Thirunal, highlighting Vipralambha sringara, Alasara parithapam on the nayika who feels sad after her separation from her lover (Lord Padmanabha). This was in ragam Suruti and misra chapu.
The second performance was by Keerthi Menon, who is a classical dancer and singer as well. She learnt Bharatanatyam since the age of 7 under the guidance of Rekha Gopi for more than 16 years. She has been honing her skills in Mohiniyattam under Gopika Varma for the past seven years.
Keerthi began her recital with an invocatory item praising Lord Ganesha, Ganapathy Sthuthi writtenby Dr. Kavalam Narayana Panicker. This brilliant invocation, though unusually long, set the tone for the main item Krishna keerthanam, where she brought before our eyes, four beautiful stories of Lord Krishna. The first story, from Mahabharata showcases Krishna's intelligence when he was approached for support by both Duryodhana and Arjuna before the war. The second story shows Krishna as parama purusha himself, at the Kurukshetra battlefield, when he takes the vishwaroopa and imparts the knowledge of Gita to Arjuna. The third story shows us the naughty Krishna who steals the clothes of gopis. And what followed was the story of true friendship. When poor Kuchela offers Krishna beaten rice, the Lord savors every grain. On his return, Kuchela is stunned to see that his hut has transformed into a place with riches.
In this entire presentation, Keerthi assumed multiple roles and brilliantly brought to play all the navarasas. The slow, steady movements especially when a distraught Kuchela walks towards his friend and the happiness on meeting him were a delight to watch. This Krishna keerthanam in ragamalika, written by Koothambalam Aravindakshan was choreographed excellently by Gopika Varma and Keerthi did not disappoint her guru.
Gopika Varma & Nandakumar
Keerthi then presented the Thillana, which was a combined choreography of Kalamandalam Sugandhi and Gopika Varma, in Anandha Bhairavi. With Gopika Varma doing nattuvangam and keeping a watchful eye on every movement of her disciples, melodious vocal support was by Nandakumar. Karthik Vidyarthi on mridangam, Vivek on flute and Sujith Kottakal on the edakka provided excellent support.
G Ulaganathan is a senior dance critic based in Bangalore.