Click here for all links

Social media links

Gurudakshina - Honouring the legacy of Dr. Kanak Rele
- Vijay Shanker
Photos: Haree Nampoothiri

September 19, 2022

Gurudakshina, honoring the legacy and lineage as propounded by Dr. Kanak Rele, incorporating her 'bani' in the Mohiniattam style was presented by the disciples of Dr. Sunanda Nair on 31st July at Mukti Cultural Auditorium in Andheri, Mumbai. It was a rare spectacle to witness nineteen elegantly attired dancers in the traditional white costume with gold border, dancing with abundant grace, uniformity and precision.

The program commenced with invocation to Lord Ganesha in Ganapatiye, which was the first item Sunanda learnt, under the guidance of the legendary mentor, choreographer and dance educationist Dr. Kanak Rele, with lyrics by the veteran music composer and lyricist, Kavalam Narayana Panikkar. The next number presented was Krishna Kavyam written by the great Kerala poet Olappamanna Subramanian Namboodiripad. It is interesting to mention here that Sunanda was invited to perform for the Olappamanna Festival. There was hardly a week to prepare and Sunanda spotted this composition Krishna Kavyam and immediately decided to reproduce it with Sopana sangeetam set by Kavalam in ragamalika and talamalika that suited the slow, soft and lilting movements of Mohiniattam with some additional vaitaaris to suit the enchanting mood of this number that describes the beauty and glory of Lord Krishna, adorned with sandal paste, "vaijayanti mala" around his neck and the melodious flute music that dazzles everyone.

Mamata Kumar in Kubja
Mamata Kumar in Kubja

Another choreography of Kanak Rele that promotes women empowerment and the fight against adversity, was 'Kubja' that portrays the story of the hunch backed maid of Kamsa. Kubja is a devotee of Krishna and reluctantly serves the wicked king Kamsa. One fine day, Kubja encounters Krishna and is excited. Krishna asks her "etttiri kalabam" (little sandalwood paste) to be applied on his forehead. Kubja is thrilled to do so and at once she is completely redeemed of suffering and retains her original beauty. It was performed with complete involvement inclusive of angika abhinaya and dramatisation of high order that really touches your heart.

Sanjagau, an extract from Krishnakarnamrutam, was choreographed during the pandemic, hence is lightly described as the Covid composition interpreting the varied facets and beauty of Lord Krishna. Performed by seven dancers, the highlight of this number was the dramatic episode of the killing of Kamsa and Gajendra Moksham - the tussle of the elephant and the crocodile and the divine intervention with Lord Krishna saving and blessing the elephant. It was a pleasure to watch the dancers enacting the sequences with fine coordination and synchronization.

Nisha Hareesh in Aliveni
Nisha Hareesh in Aliveni

A beautiful composition of Maharaja Swati Thirunal portraying Lord Padmanabha of Travancore "Aliveni enthu cheyvu" projecting the viraha of the nayika, as she pines to be united with her Lord, was performed well with subtle expressions by Nisha Hareesh in ragam Kurunji and mishra chapu talam. Vallabhacharya's Madhurashtakam (beauty personification) was performed by nine dancers. It was a delightful experience to watch the dancers performing kaikottikali as each gopi feels that Krishna is dancing with her, otherwise known as Maharaas. This number is normally performed as a solo number but in a group there is lot of scope for group choreography, highlighting the grandeur and glory of the Lord. The dancers concluded the performance with the rhythmic and elevating number 'Jeeva' that inter-relates with the jeevatma (human soul) and paramatma. The dancers who performed were Amrita, Avani, Mamata, Sonali, Meenal, Deepika, Sarita, Arathi, Suja, Sneha, Binduja, Parvathi, Dhanya, Sanjitha, Kavita, Nisha, Athira, Jyotsna and Varsha.

disciples of Dr. Sunanda Nair
Sneha Rajesh, Binduja Nair, Sonali Khose, Deepika Bhadange, Meenal Palekar and Varsha Raut in Madhurashtakam

The dancers received fine musical support from Sunanda Nair and Kalamandalam Gopalakrishnan for nattuvangam, Kalamandalam Gireeshan for commendable vocal rendering, Satish Krishnamurthy for mridangam, Baliga for flute, Mangalam for violin and Nambisan for edakka. The wonderful compere of the evening was Bharatanatyam exponent Reshma Shetty.

After the performance, Sunanda rushed down to the audience to felicitate her mentor Dr. Kanak Rele. It was quite an emotional experience as she remarked, "I am so happy to see how Sunanda has taken my 'bani' forward, teaching so many students. I hope her students too will take the legacy ahead."

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

Click here for all links
Reviews | Home | About | Address Bank | News | Info Centre | Featured Columns