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Mahila Mahima portrays the greatness of women
- Vijay Shanker
Photos courtesy: Srekala Bharath

March 26, 2022

One of the leading social and cultural organizations of Mumbai, Fine Arts Society in Chembur, felicitated outstanding women achievers for the year 2020 and 2022 at their beautiful auditorium on 12 March 2022 to celebrate International Women's Day. The FAS Stree Ratna Award was presented to outstanding women achievers in varied fields that included classical music and dance. The award was presented to the recipients by the chairman, board of trustees R Radhakrishnan, chairman emeritus G G Bharathan and president of the managing committee Radhika Ananthkumar.

The FAS Stree Ratna award winners for the year 2020 are actress Dr B Saroja Devi, Bharatanatyam guru Shanta Dhananjayan, Carnatic musician Dr S. Soumya, scientist Dr Tessy Thomas, director of GG Hospital Dr Kamala Selvaraj, president of Bank of America Kaku Nakhate and entrepreneur Ashu Suyash. The winners for the year 2022 are veteran Hindustani music vocalist Dr. Prabha Atre, veteran violinist Dr. N Rajam, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam exponent Dr Mallika Sarabhai and MD of Multiples Alternate Asset Management Pvt Ltd - Nithya Easwaran. Chairman Radhakrishnan said, "During the royal days, the arts were patronised by the kings but now we always seek the support of the corporate world without which we are unable to organise any programme, hence their support is really vital for us."

The program concluded with a tribute performance in Bharatanatyam style by accomplished exponent from Chennai, Srekala Bharath. 'Mahila Mahima' interpreting the contribution by outstanding women who have distinguished themselves in different fields of devotion, poetry, heroism, social welfare, philosophy and arts, the personalities presented were Tamil saint poetess Andal, Velu Nachiyar of Tamil Nadu, Rani of Jhansi, poetess Avvaiyar, Kannagi from Tamil classic Silapaddikaram, Muthulakshmi Reddy, MS Subbulakshmi and Rukmini Devi Arundale.

Srekala Bharath
Srekala Bharath

The performance by Srekala Bharath and her talented team of disciples commenced with Andal Kautvam, inclusive of two verses that depicts the ardent devotion of Andal for Lord Krishna and in this verse, Andal asks the conch to be her messenger to the Lord. This number incorporated the madhura bhakti of Andal who considered herself to be wedded to the Lord. It was interesting to watch Srekala dancing in fast tempo along with her disciples, while portraying the devotion of the Tamil saint poetess of the 8th century.

Depicting the heroism of Velu Nachiyar of Tamil Nadu and Rani of Jhansi, who fought fearlessly against the British, Rani of Jhansi was interpreted through the poetic rendering of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan that vividly describes the power, vitality and fearless attitude of the queen which was dramatically displayed with the sword fight by Srekala and her team of dancers.

An extract from Tamil classic Silappadikaram portrays as to how Kannagi confronts the Pandya king about the injustice done to her husband Kovalan by getting him executed for a crime which he did not commit. She proves her husband's innocence by breaking her silambu (anklet) which contained different kinds of gems, other than the pearls in the anklet of the queen. With appropriate expressions this episode was well enacted, proving the sincerity of both Kannagi and Kovalan.

Srekala Bharath & group
Srekala Bharath & group

Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy's particular contribution marks the passing of the Devadasi Abolition Act in 1947 and thereby protecting the respectability of the classic dance of Bharatanatyam which was practised by devadasis and pioneer performers like Balasaraswati. Dr Rukmini Devi Arundale induced girls from respectable families to learn Bharatanatyam and thereby established Kalakshetra in Chennai. "Kurai onrum illai" was presented as a tribute to the legendary MS Subbulakshmi that included compositions like Bhaja Govindam.

While the thematic content and personalities portrayed were really praiseworthy, a little more concern towards the technique of Bharatanatyam pertaining to the aramandi and clarity of movements would be appreciated. Singer Bhavani Kishore Kumar's soulful rendering made the performance elevating. Mridangist Dhananjayan and the entire team of musicians, and the evocative heart touching expressions of Srekala made the entire performance striking.

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

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