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Sober and mellow presentation of Jayalakshmi Anand
- Chandra Anand
Photos: Aarish M and Varshalakshmi P

May 16, 2024

Jayalakshmi Anand, a Bharatanatyam dancer and dance teacher, performed at the "Natyakalavardini" series of the Fine Arts Society, Chembur, Mumbai, at FAS RCF Academy Hall on 3rd May 2024. In this monthly event, Fine Arts Society presents young upcoming artistes. The institution has been promoting cultural excellence for over 6 decades. Jayalakshmi Anand is a senior disciple of Guru Anita Guha, Chennai. She along with her husband Anand Satchidanandan is currently director and head faculty of Bharatanatyam at the Shanmukhananda Sabha and Sangeeta Vidyalaya.

The theme of the present program was to explore a few dimensions of the Nayikas. As was announced, this recital was a "natya seva" by the artiste and all items were offerings to that effect. The program started with a Pushpanjali, an invocatory item, a musical composition by late Balamuralikrishna, choreographed by Guru Anitha Guha. A simple prayer to Lord Vinayaka, it set the composed flow of the recital.

Kamakshi Shabdam, a composition of Vageyyakara Mumbai PS Krishnamurthy, "Annaiye, unnai dinam vanangiyum" in Ragamalika and mishra chapu talam, is choreographed by Jayalakshmi in the usual sabdam format. The korvai in it had been changed to a flowery one. The nayika beseeches the Goddess to bless her with knowledge as she sings and dances. Devi is described here as Saraswati in the first verse, then as Kanchi Kamakshi, Madurai Meenakshi and Shivakamasundari. The simple costume of the dancer suited the demeanor as she prayed to the various Goddesses.

Jayalakshmi Anand

Then she presented a Tana Varnam choreographed by Anand Satchidanandan and herself. This type of varnam is normally used as a warming up music piece in classical Karnatic concert, or in simple terms, to ground young students of music in understanding the bhava of a raga. So it was a surprise to many, that this genre of music was selected as a main item in an important stage performance which could be a stepping stone to many other recitals to come. Yet one could notice that a lot of thinking had gone into it in giving it a form of the Pada Varnam and extending it into a 20 minute item. It was Nrtangaharam (varnam) based on the Tana Varnam by Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar in Kalyani ragam set to adi talam. In this song, she is a virahotkandita nayika telling her friend her plight and asking her to go seek the lord to come to her. It is dedicated to Lord Soundararaja who resides in Nagerkoil.

It started with a trikalajati, composed by Anand Satchidanand. Then for sahitya part both lines of pallavi were taken together - "vanajakshiro... vasudevunni todi teve" to retain the complete meaning of the matu. It was composed in different gestures about four times. Then the same was followed with another jathi before presenting the anupallavi. The korvais of the Muktayiswaram was elegant and the dancer covered the stage very gracefully. The charanam expressed the Nayika getting enamoured in the beauty of Lord Narayana and describes him as "pada-adi-Kesha" leading to the thattimettu. The korvais for the chittaiswarams were elegantly choreographed. As they had no lyrics, the charanam "nee lupa rani" was repeated, and the sancharis shown here were messengers being sent to give message to the Lord - parrot (symbolising the Vedas), brahmara or bee (symbolising the pranavaakara) and last the Megha (final sambhoga) to urge the lord to consider the Nayika's state.

Next item was the delineation of Ashtarasa shloka from Adi Shankara's Soundaryalahiri. The artiste took a stance of an uttama nayika and thus again there was this sober and mellow presentation of abhinaya as uttama nayika's expressions are subtly nuanced and not dramatized. For sringara, she described each aspect of Shiva with great love and admiration. In bhibhatsa, she showed dislike that he was teased for applying ashes over his body and carrying a begging bowl. Roudra was portrayed a little differently. Here she sarcastically tells Ganga that her place was only in his hair but she was sharing half his body as in ardhanareeshwara that showed her place was higher in comparison to Ganges. During adbhuta, Siva's tripura dahana was shown and how she was amazed at hearing this valorous deed. For bhaya, she showed fear of snakes and of her husband's drinking of the poison and hence being named Neelakanta. In veera, her face was all bright, calm and energetic as she arrived to rescue her devotees as Durga. And, finally karuna portrayed her as janani (the compassionate mother) of all living things. Though she is very expressive, Jayalakshmi's abhinaya was a bit marred by short breath due to the cold she was suffering with.

Jayalakshmi Anand

Another rare happening of the evening was the dancer rendered an abhinaya piece in a seated position. It was a Malayalam padam, "Tarunin jaan enthucheyvu", a composition by Maharaja Swati Thirunal in ragam Dwijavanti and misra chapu talam. She learnt this padam from Guru Jayashree Nair and her daughter Sujatha Nair. This padam was chosen as it particularly had a situation where the heroine could sit and speak to a friend. Also, as the space of the auditorium was small, this could have been attempted. But, sadly, the padam missed the mark as the light did not light up the artiste's face well enough for abhinaya to be seen clearly.

The presentation had a lot of surprises. The thillana in Shankarabharanam, tisragati, adi talam was composed by Ponnaiyya Pillai on Lord Brihadeesha, and the surprise in this item was it was choreographed by Guru Ramaiah Pillai of the Vazhuvoor bani. But Jayalakshmi missed out on the araimandi stance and so the beauty of the thillana was lost to an extent.

Finally another surprise was the presentation ended with a mangalam for which a thalattu was used. This is a first attempt by anyone. The song used here was a thalattu by Periazhwar's pasuram "manikkamkatti vairamidaikatti". Perhaps the natya seva had to end in a lullaby like one does seva at the temple and the God is put to sleep as in "palliadaikaradu". Though the presentation had a lot of premieres and out of the box thinking, the joy factor in presentation was missing.

The performance was ably supported by Anand Satchidanandan on nattuvangam, Mathangi on vocals, Prajesh Nair on mridangam, B. Anantharaman on violin and S. Sanjay on flute.

Chandra Anand
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

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