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Mayyal, a consummate experience
- Ramya Mani

May 12, 2023

Sometimes when you watch a young Bharatanatyam dancer's scintillating performance nailing all the adavus and the fast nritta pieces, you wonder how great this person would be when they mature a bit and explore the intricacies of the dance. Later in their careers, the same dancers may become more invested in abhinaya and place nritta on a back burner, sometimes making their performances mellow and tedious to the lay audience. To achieve an ever-rising graph on both fronts the dancer needs to have extraordinary dedication to the art form, to fitness and most importantly, a deeper connection from within. This deep connection or mayyal in Tamizh, is what was on display at Deepa Mahadevan's eponymous showcase, Mayyal, conceptualized and choreographed by her for Kartik Fine Arts at Narada Gana Sabha, on May 6, 2023 at Chennai.

Deepa Mahadevan

Opening with crisp descriptions on what this Mayyal was all about, in lyrical Tamizh by Deepa's Guru Madurai R Muralidharan and in English, by Taran Balakrishnan, Deepa's Dwijavanthi Pallavi was a seamless blend of Bharatanatyam and Odissi. The playful Krishna and his multiple consorts were enumerated by a Sakhi to her mistress. The Abheri varnam, Sonna kadhaigal podhum by Madurai Muralidharan, genius auteur, the piece de resistance of the show was simply exquisite in its composition and in Deepa's immaculate portrayal. One could empathize with the disenchanted nayika, who was fed up of all the tales that Krishna was spinning, with sadness and desperation brimming with sobs that might burst anytime into an ocean of tears.

The charanam Mannaiyum alanthai, Vinnayum alanthai, intha penn manathai ariyamal innal thanthai, was riveting. Deepa's portrayal of Mahabali and Vamana, where he measures a foot of land and then the sky, but he couldn't glean what was in her mind, was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes. Another riveting moment was when the nayika was with Krishna, in an intimate moment leaning into his embrace, but then opens her eyes, for he had vanished, transported her disappointment onto the onlookers. As Deepa had said in her opening remarks, this show was not just of a performer and an audience, but a collective experience, as the onlookers were one with the nayika's emotions. We soared in elation with her joie de vivre and shed a tear with her melancholy too.

The entire performance was a master class in intelligent concept and choreography, fully keeping Deepa's strengths, not only her sublime abhinaya, but also supreme physical agility, strong unfaltering 160 degree kicks, her arabesque pirouettes and seductive, lithe Odissi influenced hip movements and usage of every inch of space, smattered in good proportion with Sanskrit, Tamizh and English songs and rich voice overs. Deepa's accompanying artistes were in step with her at every turn of this seamless production of an hour and twenty minutes. She was supported by Srikanth Gopalakrishnan on the vocals, Chenda Kesavan on the mridangam, Devraj on the flute and MS Kannan on the violin. Her Guru Madurai R Muralidharan led the ensemble through the entire process with his energy infused nattuvangam.

Deepa Mahadevan

Overall, this was a sublime experience of the top order. The heart is filled with Mayyal, desires several more outings of Mayyal, at a larger space, so that many more could soak in the passion and fury that is Deepa's art.

Ramya Mani is Pharma professional and an avid art rasika living in Chennai.

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