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Nandini Ganesan's elevating performance
- Vijay Shanker

July 13, 2022

The Janma Shatabdi Kala Utsav, commemorating the birth centenary year of Guru Mani, founder-director of Kalasadan Cultural Society, has commenced with a series of concerts. Guru Mani was born on 5th September 1922 in Thrissur. He came to Mumbai from Thrissur, Kerala, to earn a living. But little did he know that destiny would take over and he followed his dream of learning one of the most popular classical dance forms, Bharatanatyam from Rajarajeshwari Bharata Natya Kalamandir under the guidance of Gurus Karunambal and Govindaraja Pillai.

For the love of reaching out this art form to the masses, he founded Kalasadan in 1954 with the help and support of his friends and well wishers. Today Kalasadan has more than 9 centers around the city of Mumbai with Sion being its main centre. Until his last breath, Guruji was actively involved in taking classes. Now, his son Natrajgopal Mani, daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren are carrying forward his noble work.

Every September, Guru Abhivadan Divas is celebrated commemorating Guru Mani's birth anniversary and Teacher's Day where several gurus and teachers from the field of dance, music and Sanskrit are felicitated for their dedicated work. This year September 2021-22 happens to be the birth centenary year of Guru Mani and Kalasadan is having a yearlong celebration for the same. From September 2021 till March 2022 virtual concerts were held and well received, wherein various upcoming and seasoned artistes were invited to perform. From May 2022 to December 2022, Kalasadan is now staging live shows inviting various renowned dancers along with their troupes.

The inaugural live event was held on May 1, 2022 which also happened to be Kalasadan's 68th Foundation Day. It started off with a mono act musical play Vivekanand by veteran theatre artiste, music composer and singer Shekhar Sen. Vivekanand is a beautiful and powerful portrayal of the saint philosopher, who was the disciple of Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa. His iconic speech at the World Congress of Religions, USA, his philosophy and ideology and his slogan 'Arise, Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached' is significantly interpreted in this unique ekaharya abhinaya presentation.

Nandini Ganesan
Nandini Ganesan

The subsequent weekend had a traditional Bharatanatyam performance of Guru Mani's grand-daughter Nandini Ganesan as a tribute to her grandfather on 8th May. Both the events were held at the Fine Arts Society auditorium in Chembur, Mumbai and were very well received by art lovers.

Nandini Ganesan commenced her performance with the invocatory Anjali, a beautiful choreography by Guru Chitra Visweswaran, Sri Jaalandharam, a composition of Mysore Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, followed with the most elaborate composition of the evening, the Thodi varnam, with lyrics written by Guru Mani portraying Lord Kartikeya. After sringaram, the story of how the Lord appears as an old man, trying to woo Valli is enacted. Valli is quite irritated as she is being interrogated and suddenly the old man transforms himself to Lord Kartikeya and Valli is shocked to see his mischief and ultimately becomes his consort. Nandini has a natural flair for abhinaya, which was evident in the character portrayal of the old man, Valli and finally Lord Kartikeya himself.

Popular Meera bhajan "Tum bina mere kaun khabar le, Govardhana Giridhari" exposed Meera's complete devotion and surrender to her Lord and references to the dramatic episode of Draupadi Vastraharanam. Another number that was truly elevating was the touching scene of Ram Bharat Milap (meeting of Rama and Bharata), an extract from the popular Marathi rendition of GD Madgulkar 'Geet Ramayan.' Celebrated poet Subramanya Bharati's composition "Chinnanjiru Kiliye" was subtle and pleasing. The complex Thillana in Kapi ragam, was rhythmically and precisely presented, winning applause from the audience.

Nandini received fine orchestral support from Natrajgopal Mani for mridangam, nattuvangam by Sharada Ganesan, vocal by Keerthana Krishnamurthy, violin by Satish Seshadri, flute by Raghavendra Baliga, morsing by N.R. Ganesan and lights by Chandrashekhar Menon. On the whole it was an elevating performance.

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

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