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Tamrapatra Season Finale - Krishna Reminiscences with Vaibhav Arekar
- Divya Ravi

June 28, 2022

To summarize into words a mammoth, year-long artistic endeavour that is intelligent in approach, diligent in execution, and pristine in intent takes special skill. I therefore resort to two quotes by author Darren Harry in his book - The Compound Effect:
"Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL Difference"
"The magic is in the doing of simple things repeatedly and long enough to ignite the miracle of the Compound Effect."

Everyone has ideas. But few have the wherewithal to see the ideas to fruition, working on them passionately, smartly and consistently. Dr. Anupama Kylash's penchant for all things Annamacharya fuelled by Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant's enterprising conceptual designs (Midas Touch, as Dr. Anupama calls it), birthed one of the most iconic online learning modules in the history of Indian Performing Arts - The Tamrapatra series presented by Natyarambha. From July 2021 to June 2022, Tamrapatra was THE impeccably organized, monthly 'second-weekend retreat' for many an artiste to steep in the magic of Annamacharya's rarest compositions, infused with haunting music by Late Sathiraju Venumadhav.

Tamrapatra Season Finale

Each of the twelve episodes of Tamrapatra was an opportunity to explore another drop in the ocean of Annamacharya. In every session, Dr. Anupamawas tasked with what she is most sought after for - scholarly, accessible delineation of these compositions, distilled from her own vast knowledge of language, poetry, scriptures, music and philosophy. She effortlessly cross-referenced ideas and explained each word in the composition that envelops multitudes of layers, interpretations and possibilities. Meanwhile, the creative minds of the featured choreographers adapted these ideas, created choreographic frameworks that were not style-specific, and these were generously shared with participants as 'starting points'. The intention wasn't to 'teach' a choreography, but rather open windows for participants to take curious strides, explore these frameworks and make the piece their own. For this very intent, Tamrapatra scores and will always be a beacon light for learning initiatives in the domain of Indian Performing Arts.

Tamrapatra's finale featured the highly respected Vaibhav Arekar as the guest choreographer - an artiste held in high regard for his sheer choreographic brilliance, both in ensemble work and in solo presentations. His choice of exploration was 'Talachina Hrdayamu Jhallanu', in raga Abheri, a rare composition from one of the handwritten manuscripts in Tirumala, found by the Hyderabad brothers. Attributed to Chinnanna / Chinna Thirumalacharya, this piece is a cardinal find in the genre of 'Purusha-Viraha' - the male-protagonist in separation.

It is often assumed that literature from the past exemplifies the male protagonist to be in a state of Gaambhirya (in complete control of his emotions), and citing them experience emotions like Viraha are wishful thoughts. However, Dr. Anupama affirms that if one were to search, literature and poetry highlighting the emotions of a male protagonist can be found aplenty. She illustrated how the greats like Valmiki, Tulsidas and Kambar, in their writings, brought forth the tenderness in the masculine. 'Vilalaapa Mahaabahuhu Rama Kamalalochana' is one such evocative description of the broad-chested Rama lamenting when Sita is taken away. Interestingly, with regards to the life and pastimes of Krishna, Srimad Bhagavatam portrays him stoic, while Gita Govindam takes a detour, colouring Krishna with shades of varied emotions from the palette of love. Annamacharya, Dr. Anupama said, is influenced by Jayadeva, and duly transposes the emotive masculine on his beloved deity, Venkateshwara. Chinna Thirumalacharya, being partial towards the 'Krishna Voice', mirrors this emotion back onto Krishna.

Vaibhav ArekarVaibhav Arekar
Vaibhav Arekar

From the word go, Vaibhav Arekar doled out one exquisite line after next from his idea bank of Krishna-Viraha, that was thoroughly researched, mulled over and physically experimented. The keyword of his chosen composition 'Jhallanu' is a sound word that doesn't have an English equivalent - it naturally became the edifice of his experimentations. Again, I resort to a quote by renowned artiste-scholar Chitra Sundaram, to encapsulate the impression that this word leaves on us - "Vaibhav's facial and bodily expression, as he gently ricochets, his head thrown back on the impact of 'Jhallanu', was so captivatingly complex, like Krishna is almost enjoying the bittersweet electric current to his heart, like a punishing resuscitation of longing, maybe a stab of guilt!"

Abstract words like Jhallanu, Eda-neda, Daggutukka can be daunting to express through gestures or mukhaja abhinaya. But this was all child's play for Vaibhav Arekar as he nailed each word with an exposition rooted in musicality. Intelligently sequenced, his ideas gradually developed one atop the other with a dramaturgical arc that evidently drives the piece. For many a dancer, the desire to 'show' virtuosity and intelligence, leads to the presentation of a piece overpacked with innumerable wow-factor ideas, but Vaibhav Arekar gently reminds us of the importance of being efficient and not overpopulating a piece with thoughts. This is what distinguishes the visceral from the cerebral.

The choreographer also gave insights into why certain choreographic choices were made, which proved to be enlightening for those more interested in the 'process'. The spatial placement (of the protagonist by the river banks), the transition between three characters (Krishna in the present and Krishna and Radha in the past), the creative gesticulation (like those of broken words and lumps in the throat from guilt) that one doesn't often come across in classroom vocabulary, the overarching idea of the ambiguity (of not having answers) - all fuelled reflections that extended well beyond the session duration. Vaibhav Arekar proves time and again that clarity in thought and simplicity in execution trumps any other choreographic approach.

Srikanth Gopalakrishnan's vocal rendition of the practice track is sublime and poignant, providing an immersive experience to those who danced to it, as well as those who watched and listened to it.

With gender-stereotyping in performance craft steadily being met with resistance, one wonders if more artistes identifying as female dancing bodies would consider including an invaluable piece like this in their repertoire. If a female dancing body (especially when performing in the solo format) can get into the skin of Krishna's character while donning the role of the deity vanquishing a snake, dancing with his friends, tending to cows and of course, ensuring Draupadi and Arjuna are nurtured during trauma and dilemma, why not try experiencing the viraha of Krishna too?

While this question still lingers on, I left the sessions with a fuzzy, fulfilled heart, and a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to invest time on a nourishing series richly coloured by poetry, music, choreographic ideas and abhinaya. I'm sure I speak for students, young practitioners, established artistes, choreographers, senior critics, everyone in the industry, who all came together month after month to celebrate the legacy and artistry of Annamacharya and Late Sathiraju Venumadhav - both of whom must have surely been smiling at this endeavour all along. And like us all, they too eagerly await the next edition of Tamrapatra by Dr. Ananda, Dr. Anupama and Natyarambha!

Session highlights

Divya Ravi
Divya Ravi is a performing artiste, choreographer and educator known for her rigour in training, immersive performances, and her keen interest in translating the lyrical and the abstract into gestures, emotions and stories - sometimes through movement, sometimes through words.


Ananda, I have been so full of admiration for your tenacity and devotion to nurturing the Tamrapatra series through. You, Anupama and Anita and all your amazing artists have opened the world of Annamayya's padams to us. The depth of emotion, the intricacy of suggestion and nuance of poetry and understanding of Telugu compositional style has been a new experience for even us who have taught and danced for decades. It is a treasure we will hold close to our hearts and hopefully do justice to as we teach our students. Thank you
- Lata Pada

Anupama makes it all so universally delicious sounding, wearing her erudition ever so lightly. Rasanubhava has been described as a gastronomic experience in the NS; and I have intellectually understood and even felt its possibilities, but Anupama has brought that home to me sensationally, in these Tamrapatra sessions... making my mouth water as it were, wanting to taste and consume the poetry with Anupama's enchanting joy.... in its many treasures that she shares with a totally charming smile, lilting cadences, and such a gobsmacking fluency in so many languages and literatures. Wah! What a teacher she makes. Wonderful.
- Chitra Sundaram

Anupama Kylash is a treasure for the dance fraternity. God bless you.
- Aravinth Kumaraswamy

You hit on a Krishna ... no longer a boy but a grown man-turned-warrior / leader / god, looking back, with some regret, during a moment of respite from his now greater responsibilities... made it all the more poignant for the younger days will never return for him ... is how I felt your interpretation come through - all thanks to your saying 'it has been a few years' and Krishna recalls his times with the love of his life, Radha.... Setting Krishna thus in time and space, made for a dignified pacing and controlled expression of his love and longing. Superb. I relished the opening of Krishna in repose, watching the sunset sky and tracing the arc through flashing memory illuminating the face (as it played out), down to the here...
Lovely song selection, beautiful raga and mood, superb pitch note and core narrative of a memory of a loss; Vaibhav's facial and bodily expression as he gently ricochets, his head slightly thrown back on the impact of 'jhallanu' was so captivatingly complex, like Krishna is almost enjoying the bittersweet electric current to his heart, like a punishing resuscitation of longing, maybe a stab of guilt... bravo! That memory is now etched for me. (Wasn't quite there in the video. Just goes to show what living with a piece for another 10 days can do to grow it, as Vaibhav himself said.) Beautiful. And what a pleasure to see Vaibhav and depiction of purusha viraha after so many wondrous nayikas. Nice end point for the series.
Thank you, Ananda, for the series; what knowledge and joy you spread.
- Chitra Sundaram

What a wonderful depiction of purush virah by Vaibhav, very subtle and so human. His understanding of details of nayika in the situation is beautiful. It's fascinating to see Anupama quoting Ramayan, Jayadeva, Annamacharya in one go... Very impressive presentation in totality.
Ananda, many many congratulations to you for this unique thought of putting literature, performer, scholar and thought together in such a beautiful blend. Everyone can see how much thought and hard work went into it and what a result.... Wow! Anupama ji and her scholarship is a pleasant discovery for me, and how beautiful and fulfilling her descriptions. My gratitude. Vaibhav's depiction was memorable, specially the exchange of souvenir ... Wah! Kya baat hai!
- Prerna Shrimali

Dear Ananda, Anupama and Vaibhav, this indeed was the climax of the year-long series, the amazing Tamrapatra! It was the perfect 'Purnahuti' of the 'Mahayajna' in the real sense! Heartiest congratulations to all of you.
- Manjari Sinha

The sessions have been beautiful, soulful, essence full, touching, poignant, scintillating, reverberating... and much more - Making it available, reachable to eager dancers, welcoming open doors. Every bit of learning - script, layers, choreography, tips all generously given. Great admiration and appreciation to all gurus. This is one of the most memorable works for one to remember for a long time.
- Lakshmi Ramaswamy

Ananda and team Natyarambha, Tamrapatra was such a wonderful experience for me personally...and so well curated.
Anupama, you are simply a delight to engage with...
A unique series which I feel brought all of us together.
- Geeta Chandran

Such an enlightening series which melts one's heart in every which way possible. Kudos to Ananda, Anupama and all the artists.
- Hema Rajagopalan

You have done an extraordinary service to dance, music and poetry/literature through your brilliant Tamrapatra series, while simultaneously paying tribute to the late Venu Madhav garu, such a supremely gifted singer. Hats off to you and your team!
- Rathna Kumar

It was a beautiful finale event, Ananda. Everyone can have ideas, but it's the meticulous planning and sincere execution that sets the pioneers and leaders apart from the rest. YOU are a leader! You and the Natyarambha team have set the standard on how these online workshops ought to be designed ... generous in its offerings, deeply researched in its content, inclusive and far reaching in its execution, and thought provoking and useful in its educational value.
I am not sad that Tamrapatra is over because it means that the clever brain of yours is getting ready for the next uniqueness.
- Ramaa Bharadvaj

Ananda, it is no mean feat to bring together such an amazing 'community' of artistes and kudos to you for accomplishing that. With her intense passion for Annamaiyya and his poetry, Anupama sucked us all into that world! Each of the choreographers with their diverse forms, styles and ways of deconstructing and interpreting the diverse compositions made it a fascinating year-long journey!!
- Ramya Harishankar

Having watched several sessions of the just concluded Tamrapatra and seen dancers setting new bench marks, I feel with piety that Annamacharya owns scholar Anupama ji. Since Annamacharya is owned by Venkateswara, a pranam to her would be the short cut to receive His blessings.
Your great efforts to curate the entire program with aplomb is truly a great service to music and dance.
- Sitaram Pancham

Outstanding session! Very emotional - both the item and the fact that this is the last session.
I have been in every session since the first, and at the end of each session I felt that this was the best. Exploring emotions from the depth of your being, understanding how to use props, dancing like a puppet, anxiously waiting for Him, embarrassed but still enjoying the emotions of your friend, the naughty sakhi, and now Radha wanting to ask Him so many questions but still quietly giving Him strength to move on, the subtlety of emotions but still evoking tears for those who are watching, the pain and modulation in the music that brings the best emotion out. Raga, literature and its layered understanding, the perfect song, the handsome hero, the naughty heroine, oh I could go on. Ananda akka, should it stop is the question I need to ask?!?
Please digitize these sessions, if possible the video/dance of the choreographer and release a DVD (Natyarambha team, think of this as your next project).
- Suganda Iyer

Such a beautiful session. As everyone said, we were in tears just experiencing the sahitya and the way it has been conceived, the music, the layers explained, the rendition, the choreography... overwhelmed!!!
Thank you Ananda akka, Tamrapatra, Anupama akka, Vaibhav ji and all the other sadhakas for sharing with us, their beautiful art.
- Uma Sathyanarayanan

Each one was unique and each one expanded our understanding in different dimension. I think the literature and spiritual depth provided to us by Anupama akka was nirupama. It really elevated the way we juniors approach a padam, get its dhwani and use that as a raw material for the sanchari. Some of the sessions were extra special because of the personal connections with the choreographers or content, so thank you so much - all who were naimittik for this wonderful series.
With heart full of love of RAdhA-KrishNa and deep gratitude, I remain.
- Priti Gosar Patil

Look forward to a virtual library where these gems can be archived for future reference.
- Janani Murali

This is a feat! It's also a fulfilling journey, so collaborative! Congrats to you and the whole team at Natyarambha!
- Swarnamalya Ganesh

No words are enough to express how blessed I feel as a student to have learnt this beautiful piece from Vaibhav Sir. So many different concepts, ideas and minute details put together. Took us to a whole another level of consciousness. Thank you, Tamrapatra, Ananda akka, Anupama akka, Vaibhav Sir and all the Gurus, for this overwhelming experience.
- A young student

Both the sessions took me to the world of love, world of Radha and Krishna. Every minute detailing of the choreography, way of expressing the emotions by Vaibhav Sir, its composition and the song, brought tears to my eyes. I could empathize with the feelings of viraha. I feel both the sessions touched my soul in every aspect. I don't have enough words to express my gratitude towards Vaibhav Sir, Ananda akka and Anupama akka, the way everything was unfolded before us.
- Another young student

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