Nandanar Charitham: A visual treat
- KP Shruthi
January 15, 2023
Deepa Sashindran's Nandanar Charitham was presented at Chennai's Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore (for Kartik Fine Arts) on 30th December 2022. The two-hour production based on "Tiru Nalai Povar" Nayanar saint Nandanar, captivated the audience with its energy and verve. Deepa Sashindran spoke very few words on stage, allowing her work to speak for itself. The multi-media production radiated enchantment and spotlighted her wisdom and experience as a Manju Bhargavi and Vempati bani disciple.
The beauty of the production lies in its simplicity, connecting easily with the audience. It was a meeting of traditional Kuchipudi natyam and the modern stage. With the skillful display of projections and lighting that Janardhan Urs technically supported, the production received its due applause at the magical moments. The production begins with a tribute to Kuchipudi natyam, which in itself is a rare dedication that artistes seldom place in compositions. It then follows Nandanar's journey to see Sivalokanathar Temple, Tirupunkur, and his longing to visit Chidambaram. The song of opposition by the village folk against his worshiping lord Shiva leaves its lasting flavours in the audience's hearts. The timing of Nandanar and his people looking at the temple of Tirupunkur and the Nandi moving for fleeting seconds to facilitate gazing at the lord allows us to be a part of Nandanar's group gazing at the miracle. The image of Shiva and Shivagami perched at their abode is visually dazzling. The climax of Nandanar meeting lord Nataraja accelerated the euphoria with certain members of the audience standing up with folded hands in reverence.
The most interesting was the nataka (dramatic) aspects of the production such as the conversations between Nandanar and the arrogant landlord who questions his need to visit Chidambaram temple. Interestingly in the whole presentation, there seems to be only one conventional group dance presented in the folk form while other forms of dancing were solo performances by characters. The power play constructed by the artistes on stage and the masters was striking.
Venkat Gadepalli's lyrics and Swetha Prasad's music composition anchored the production. The casting heightened the dramatic effect. During each role Smrithi Vishnu as Nandanar exuded stage presence. Anita Rao as the landlord acted the role methodically. The Shiva family was apt; Shiva - Aarathi Nair, Shivagami- Himansee Katragadda, Ganesha - Kalamandalam Arun, Murugan - Kalamandalam Sharath shone with their physicality and energy flow. Each artiste in their role, presented professionalism and involvement. Kalamandalam Roshin Chandran, a disciple and troupe dancer, overlooked the intricacy of the dancers' flawless makeup.
Sashindran's disciples from various states came together for the production. In addition, a few guest artistes such as Kuchipudi exponent Kasi Aysola and his disciples, would be included in future presentations. The magnitude of the hard work behind bringing this production to Chennai is imaginably exhausting, but the presentation on stage was exhilarating. A pure Telugu language script presented at the Chennai marghazi season is a Herculean task that Deepa Sashindran and her Kuchipudi Paramapara Foundation executed seamlessly.
Shruthi KP is a dance practitioner, educator, and founder of Taamara Dance Centre. A researcher and qualified dance assistant professor, she often articulates dance propagation and education through her writing.