A standout performance of Mohiniattam by Sandra Pisharody
- SK Venugopal
Photos: Sreenath Narayanan
May 22, 2023
Sandra Pisharody performed Mohiniattam at the Koodal Manikyam festival on the 10th of May 2023. The evening was memorable in many ways. Despite a brief spell of rain, the enthusiasm of devotees thronging there was worth to be seen. The ambience of the sprawling grand temple was a great sight to behold. A packed audience waited impatiently at the shamiana in front of the stage, for the start of the program which commenced sharp at 9.
Sandra presented a 'Cholkettu' to begin with, which was an old choreography of her Guru Nirmala Panicker set in ragamalika and talamalika. The typical Natana Kairali (Irinjalakkuda) style inspired from the teachings of the great doyen Late Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, was beautifully and gracefully presented by Sandra doing absolute justice to the choreography of her Guru Nirmala Panicker, a first generation disciple of Kalyanikutty Amma. Sandra has been learning Mohiniattam from Nirmala teacher right from the age of 5. She also had special training in abhinaya from Guru G Venu. The Gurukulam like training from such a tender age did help the god given talent of the artiste, so much that today Sandra has blossomed into a complete performer with a captivating presence on stage. The ease and elegance of her dancing moves are comparable to the best in the field.
Her next presentation was a varnam choreographed by the artiste herself as a dedication to Lord Sangamesha (Bharatha). One must appreciate young dancers attempting newer choreographies using their acquired skills in the dance form rather than repeating same old familiar items that they have been learning over the years. The one chosen for the day was a composition in raga Varamu, written by Sreejesh Medangal, and beautifully composed by Suresh Kumar Neelamperur, perfectly matching with the brilliant choreography of Sandra. The vocal by Suresh Kumar Neelamperur complemented the performance a great deal. Maddalam by Kalanilyam Prakashan, veena by Murali Krishnan, and edakka and sankhu by Kalanilayam Ramakrishnan jointly provided mesmerizing musical support to Sandra highlighting the nuances of her performance. Meenakshi Menon made a worthwhile contribution by providing nattuvangam.
It was a divine experience watching her present the glory of Lord Bharatha as envisaged by the poet and beyond. Her brilliant interpretation of the 'Dhyana Sloka' authored by Uddanda Sastri (Gurveem manikya sobham) unravels the magnificent form of the lord so beautifully. She then takes us through the episode of Ramayana where Bharatha returns to Ayodhya and realises how his mother Kaikeyi seeks the two boons from King Dasaratha and manages to send Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha to the forest for 14 years, how he gets angry with his mother and sets out to the forest to meet Rama and plead for his return to the kingdom, how Rama convinces Bharatha to go back and rule the kingdom, how Bharatha takes the 'paduka' of Rama and keeps it on the throne respectfully while honoring the commitment given to his brother to take care of the kingdom and its people till Rama returns from the forest. Her facial expressions and movements, particularly the hasthas and eye coordination, the flowing adavus and chuzhippus (techniques typical of Mohiniattam) were remarkable. A complete artiste that she is, her confidence level was exemplary and noteworthy.
The concluding item was a lullaby, a popular one by Purandaradasa on Udupi Srikrishna, where Yasodha, the mother of Krishna, sings praises of the lord as he is put to sleep. The artiste showed her class by keeping it simple and natural yet graceful.
Sandra has done post-graduation in English Literature from Kerala Varma College, Thrissur. She has won several awards and recognitions including young artist scholarship from Ministry of Culture, Govt of India, Junior fellowship from Kalavahini Trust of Malavika Sarukkai, Nalanda Nritya Nipuna Award from Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya of Dr. Kanak Rele. She is also an A grade artiste in Mohiniattam at Doordarshan (Prasar Bharati). She is presently pursuing her research studies in Mohiniattam at Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University.
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.