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Natya Nivedanam by Nikita Ramesh
- Bhavani Ravindran

August 18, 2022

Nikita Ramesh, a student of Bharata Kalanjali founded by the Dhananjayans, performed at Rathnagiriswarar Temple in Besant Nagar, Chennai, on 11th August 2022. This Natya Nivedanam was an offering to Shiva Nataraja enshrined in Rathnagiriswarar temple, by Nikita who is shortly leaving for her higher studies to Scotland. When enquired, Nikita promptly said, "This is also my tribute to Shanta akka whose 80th birthday is tomorrow 12th August."

The temple precinct seems to be an ideal arena for a natya or sangeetam performance. Many of the uninitiated audience sit through the program with attentive devotion and innocent silence, except a girl in dance practice sari walked in, ignoring the happening in front of the sanctum sanctorum and coolly walked off, with not even a glance at the performer. This was very obvious disrespect from an artiste to another artiste. Some persons in the audience murmured in disapproval of that girl's attitude.

Nikita Ramesh

Nikita Ramesh started her performance with an invocatory piece on Lord Ganesha. Radha Badri's melodious voice brought out the bhakti fervour creating a kind of sanctity to the evening's temple air. The intermittent temple bells ringing along with the recorded music, though a bit disturbing, lent a devotional atmosphere.

Unmindful of these intermittent sounds around, a Shabdam in praise of Lord Muruga, a composition of Shenmanarkoil Shanmugam set to music by Madurai Sethuraman was performed with Úlan. Nikita's expressive eyes extolled the story of Muruga as a toddler gracefully walking with giggling belles, smiling countenance, riding on a peacock, conceding to the disguised old man's request and finally enshrined in Skandapuri. She did it with consummate understanding and brought the house down with enthusiastic applause. Nikita could control her smile a bit without showing her teeth all the time.

The Nrithyopahaaram (as The Dhananjayans titled it), the main piece, was the evergreen traditional Swarajati, a composition of the Tanjore Quartet. When raga alapana started by Radha Badri, there was a fresh air of classic Ananda Bhairavi pouring honey into the seated connoisseurs' ears. The evergreen Kalakshetra repertoire "Sakiye inda velayil" was well executed with clean footwork and abhinaya. It was a flawless execution, to recorded music of good audio quality.

The Mahakavi Bharathiyar gem "Theeraadha villayaatu pillai" beautifully and appropriately choreographed by Shobana Bhalchandra was the highlight of the performance due to its unique approach. Nikita has an innocent charm which makes rasikas keenly watch her exquisite expressions, not taking their eyes off her animated countenance. She concluded with a Nritta Angahaaram (Hindola raga Tillana) composed by Natyacharya K.N. Dandayudapani Pillai exclusively for Bharata Kalanjali. This is yet another evergreen item of Bharata Kalanjali. Nikita did not show any fatigue executing the beautiful patterns of the nritta, a true garland of the body movements offered to the presiding deity Sri Rathnagiriswarar. The pre-recorded music had excellent singing by Radha Badri. Nikita should have announced the other orchestra members in the recorded music. Ezhumalai, the technician, created good ambience with the right kind of lighting, and good audio output.

Though it was a temple performance, the arrangements were well done creating a good ambience which helped to improve the quality of the show, and a large number of devotees sat through the performance with keen attention. Overall it was an enjoyable evening to remember.

Bhavani Ravindran has consummate knowledge in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music. She is an art critic and regular columnist in Sruti magazine.

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