Expressions of India
- Chandra Anand
Photos courtesy: Insync Music TV
September 12, 2023
The insync TV channel for music completed a decade in running. To celebrate the occasion it held a 2 day cultural festival of dance and music presenting 12 hours of nonstop performance on each day. The venue was the Sivaswamy auditorium of the Fine Arts Society, Chembur, Mumbai. The first day, 5th August 2023 was nonstop performance of 12 hours of dance called ‘Expressions of India’ curated by Guru Deepak Mazumdar, presenting 12 professional artistes in all forms of classical dance.
The day was split into three sessions. The morning session presented Jayashree Nair and her disciples, Maya G. Shivakumar, Gayatri Subramanian and her troupe, and Charanya Gurusathya with her disciples.
Jayashree Nair presented her students of Upaasana Academy in a margam format of about four items. The first item, an invocatory number, Nartana Ganapati, brought out the poignant features of Lord Ganapati, all along extolling his greatness as remover of obstacles and grace he bestows on his devotees. It was a visual treat. The second item was named as Chollukettu, a pure dance item number of the Mohiniattam margam format with devotional fervor. It is not a very common item and was set to taalamalika. Like the alarippu and jathiswaram of the Bharatanatyam margam wherein their function was to pull the full focus of the audience mind into the vortex of the dancer’s performing sphere with beautiful dance cadences woven beautifully into korvais, the Chollukettu brought out the essence of pure dance movements of Mohiniattam. This item carried some devotional fervor interspersing korvais with shlokas describing various deities. This held a picturesque appeal very akin to Jayashree Nair style of presentation.
The next item was dedicated to lord Krishna. It touched almost all episodes in Krishna’s life at Vrindavan. The song was in Malayalam. The depictions of all the episodes were brief and enticing. One could feel Krishna’s life happening in our tangible presence as the story came unfurling in front of us. This item had a good mix of nrityam and natyam with enthralling music engrossing one and all in the presentation.
The last item was “Rasarajaan Siva”. It depicted Siva undergoing various rasas. Lord Siva being a Maha yogi or the Adi yogi is supposed to hold equilibrium in all phases and facets of life, but here our artiste using the creative and imaginative license has depicted him in all rasas. The idea behind is, Shiva is also Nataraja, the king of actors. And then, it is quite natural, he ought to pass through all emotions in life. So presenting Shiva in various rasa - Shiva is in sringara rasa while he is with Parvati, goes through veera rasa as Neelakantha; hasya rasa watching his sons play and fight; beebhatsa is evoked in him by seeing the recurring misdeeds of the asuras; roudra at Sati’s humiliation and self-immolation; bhayanaka with the story of Bhamasura; adhbuta when he sees Lord Vishnu transformed in guise of beautiful Mohini; karuna rasa when he releases Ganges from his head at the request of Bhageeratha and Shanta rasa as he sits at Kailas in meditation. The simple lyrics are by T. Sudhakaran Nair, the pillar behind Upaasana Academy of Jayashree Nair. With just the mention of the bhava and the episode in the lyric, the music and dance explains out the stories in a very dramatic manner. A true and perfect piece of art as defined in Natyashastra - music, dance and literature entwined in its simplicity and dramatic presentation.
All artistes that participated in this production had equal opportunities. Sujata Nair and Rajani Jayan stood out with years of experience to their credit. Music ensemble which was a studio recording also was excellent.
Maya G Shivakumar
Disciples of Maya G Shivakumar - Pallavi Redkar, Divya Sabnis, Pooja Bhalerao, Satvika Ramesh, Vanasri Sridhar, Priya Suryavanshi
The next performance was of Maya G Shivakumar who presented a thematic presentation ‘Sri Rama Jayam’. The story of Rama was brought out through a traditional varnam format and the story of great devotee of Rama, Hanuman through a kirtanam by Annamacharya. The first part of the varnam presented episodes that normally are not done in detail as main part of short narrations. The song was composed by Thenmadam Narasimhachari in ragam Karaharapriya, talam adi. Episode of lord Rama as protector of Sugriva and the way he provided justice to Sugriva by fighting his brother Vali was well enacted. In the second sangathi, the beauty of Rama that even mesmerized the demons Kara and Dooshan, in spite of their enraged minds was indicated. Rama releases the Mohanabaana to make them hallucinate into seeing multiple Ramas all around them. Rama used this state of awe of Kara and Dooshan to manipulate them in losing their battle against him.
The next sangati dealt with story of Shabari who lives her life always uttering his name and doing deeds in his name. When she gets to experience his presence her deepest desire is fulfilled. The joy of Shabari and her feeding Rama the fruit was a beautiful spectacle. The paaduka story was enacted with Bharata coming to see Rama and convince him to return home and sit on the throne; it brings out how Rama upholds the word he gave his late father and completed the promised term of exile. Bharata requests and receives Rama’s paaduka to adorn the throne of Ayodhya till he returns from exile. Maya depicted all episodes briefly. She got into the skin of each character and the difference between each character was well depicted by her stances. All parts of the stories were depicted well in right proportions. The jathis and korvais were graceful. The traditional format of varnam she maintained during her presentation gave a wholesome look to the item.
The second item she presented was the kirtanam in praise of lord Rama’s devotee and faithful follower Hanuman, in Annamacharya kirtanam - Mangambudhi Hanumantha in ragam Dharmavati, talam adi. Episodes of Hanuman’s life of crossing the ocean to find Sita, Hanuman as a child trying to gobble the sun mistaking it for a fruit and its aftermath, his successfully saving Rama and Lakshmana from patala after defeating Ahiravana by burning him after decapitating him were well depicted. Thus rare minor stories of Hanuman were brought to notice and brought freshness to the Bharatanatyam repertoire. Later her students presented thillana composed by Shatavadhani R Ganesh in ragam Sumanesaranjini set to talam adi. The choreography of the thillana used a lot of mei adavus and formations done gracefully. The sahityam extolled the greatness of Rama thus completing the theme well on a happy note. Maya has proved her adeptness in all the aspects of Bharatanatyam.
From left: Aarish M, Sanjana Pillai, Krishnabhadra Namboothiri and Bharath Devanpalli
Next performance was a dance drama ‘Draupadi,’ the heroine of epic Mahabharata presented by GV Ramani Natya Kala Foundation. With a good intro given by their head Gayatri Subramanian, the production presented the story of Draupadi’s life. Though born out of fire, her life was filled with multiple tests, multiple struggles. She was married to five princes but got humiliated and her single resolve to avenge her humiliation led to everyone witness the war of Kurukshetra. Though the presentation was about tests, struggles and other upheavals in her life she undergoes - like being shared by five brothers, living in forest in exile, in hiding, facing and enduring torments from other princes – there was an aura of underlying calmness throughout the presentation. All episodes were enacted to the point without too much crying and cursing. One could sympathize and empathize with Draupadi very easily. For not a second did the storyline drag or laze. It held the audience’s rapt attention. Wonderful crisp narration was witnessed.
Through her trying times, the only one who truly held Draupadi’s hand was her sakha Shyam. Her surrender to him, and Krishna’s protection that she never fell was totally felt. The music was by Saraswati Subramaniam. The lead dancer Krishnabhadra was very expressive, with good support from her co-participants. The production held a very professional look.
Disciples of Charanya Gurusathya
The morning session ended with the presentation by Charanya Gurusatya, artistic director of Natyashala Academy of Fine Arts, Pune. ‘Tandavam’ was presented by her along with her disciples. They started with the Ganesha number as invocatory piece. Sankata Nashanam Stotram in praise of Lord Ganapati, asking him to grant us his love and self-discipline so humans may lead a peaceful living was simple and graceful.
Sandhya Tandavam, the serene dance Lord Shiva performs on the request of Goddess Parvati, was presented through story of Ardhanareeshwaram. In Samhara Tandavam, the story of Shiva opening the third eye to kill Manmatha was depicted. Gauri Tandavam, an expression to experience the love and life towards Shiva, was presented through Bho Shambho, a composition of Swami Dayanand Saraswati. The Nataraja kavuthvam was interspersed in-between the song. An apt thillana in Ragamalika and talam adi was performed to showcase Ananda Tandavam, a dance of bliss that Lord Shiva is believed to perform as Nataraja in Chidambaram. Verses from Shiva's Rudranamavali were chosen to offer the prayers to the ultimate Lord and surrender at his divine feet as Mangalam. This group with little more polish in their formation and synchronization could reach professional standards. Overall, it was a good attempt.
Chandra Anand is a Bharatanatyam artiste and teacher. She has an MA in Bharatanatyam from Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, and her series on 'Education in spiritual values through Bharatanatyam' is featured in narthaki.com.