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A captivating Mohiniattam performance
- SK Venugopal
Photo: B Priyanka

October 12, 2022

Soorya festival is a prestigious event happening every year in the city of Trivandrum in Kerala, showcasing the best and top of the line artistes from India in the field of dance and music. High standards and reputation built by this cultural entity over four and half decades is noteworthy. This year they are on their 45th leg of celebrating arts and culture of India. A magnum opus of all festivals, it's an event that lasts for 111 days with participation of great maestros in classical music and dances of India. The complete planning and execution is managed by an efficient team under the exemplary leadership of legendary Soorya Krishnamurthy.

On 7th of this month, I was invited to watch a Mohiniattam performance of Dr. Sunanda Nair (USA) at the beautiful venue 'Ganesham' in Trivandrum. She is one of the leading Mohiniattam exponents in India with a master's degree in the dance form from Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai, affiliated to University of Mumbai. Her PhD also from University of Mumbai was for her thesis “Intrinsic Lyrical Feminism in Mohiniattam”. A recipient of several awards, she runs a successful and reputed institution by name SPARC (Sunanda's Performing Arts Centre) in Houston, U.S.A.

Dr. Sunanda Nair

She began the day's performance with a short sloka on Ganesha followed by the interpretation of Swathi Thirunal krithi 'Bhavayami Raghuramam'. The original choreography was done by her Guru Dr. Kanak Rele. With the exclusive Sunanda touch and the treatment given to the choreography she did complete justice to the immortal Swathi composition. She captivated the audience with her brilliance in movements, hand gestures, abhinaya and above all her unique skills in getting into each character with absolute ease. Be it Lord Srirama, Seetha, Lakshmana, Surpanakha, Jatayu, Ravana, she was outstanding in her depiction of all the characters and the nuances. While the whole story was unfolding well through her abhinaya and movements, some portions needs special mention where the impact on the audience was profound, such as the breaking of Thrayambakam, the celestial bow of Lord Siva at King Janaka's palace, the fury of Sage Parasurama responding to breaking of Thrayambakam bow, Queen Kaikeyi's reactions instigated by Mandhara, Lord Rama's journey to the forest, Surpanakha's futile efforts to woo Rama and Lakshmana, Maricha episode and how Lakshmana was forced to go in search of Rama, Ravana's entry and transformation as a sage, Seetha being tricked into crossing the Lakshmana Rekha and how Ravana attains his true form and lifts her away to Lanka, how Jatayu tries to stop Ravana and loses both its wings fighting Ravana, Hanuman helps making the pact between Sugreeva and Rama, Hanuman at Lanka meeting Seetha, Sethu Bandhanam and the war etc. She covered the whole story from the birth of Rama to Pattabhishekam post the annihilation of Ravana beautifully with not a single dull moment.

She was well supported by Kalamandalam Vishnu (vocal), Kalamandalam C Gopalakrishnan (nattuvangam), Kalamandalam Kiran Gopinath on mridangam, P. Nandakumar on edakka and Sangeeth Mohan on violin. Overall, I must say it was a great experience watching the show. True to her reputation, Dr. Sunanda Nair captured the hearts of many by not only her exceptional performance but also her graceful interaction with the audience after the show in spite of a tiring 90 minutes on stage.

S.K. Venugopal
S.K. Venugopal is a businessman in the field of Engineering projects, but also a singer, composer, accredited artist in Light Music at All India Radio, auditioned and graded member of panel of speakers in Films Division of India, associated with Mohiniattam for over 4 decades as accompanying musician and music composer.

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