Photos courtesy: Sandhya Purecha
March 24, 2019
I happened to be in Mumbai when Dr. Sandhya Purecha, disciple of Guru Parvati Kumar, celebrated his 99th birthday on 27th February at Ravindra Natya Mandir Mini Hall in presence of Guruji's wife Sumati Parvati Kumar and several leading dancers and disciples of Acharya Parvati Kumar. The Late Guru brought the Marathi Nirupanas, a set of 18 rare items written by Raja Sarfoji II, from Tanjore to Maharashtra, composed and choreographed them and even compiled them with intelligible notations in the form of a book called the Thanjavur Nritya Prabandha.
On this occasion to celebrate Guruji's memory, Sandhya Purecha and other disciples of Guruji presented a few items. This is a rare tradition which Guruji has revived and his prime disciple Sucheta Bhide Chapekar in Pune and Sandhya Purecha in Mumbai are preserving and popularizing.
Guruji's first disciple, a Parsi, 84-year-old Soonabai Desai spontaneously got up and paid tribute to Guruji. It was such a pleasure and surprise that at the advanced age Soonabai performed to the delight of all, Alarippu as she has studied in 1956 from Guruji. Age did not bother her. She was in her element, though not even dressed in Bharatanatyam costume. The dancers recited the mnemonic syllables of Alarippu and she performed with her face lit up in joy. Not only that, she also recalled a rare Sanskrit shloka and enacted abhinaya in a charming manner. What a gem of a shloka it is and also full of humour!
I am quoting it:
In a reverie on Krishna, Radha is churning an empty curd pot; likewise intending to milk a cow, Krishna is coaxing an ox, mulling over the bouquets called her bosoms - love is whimsical, isn't it? Let both Radha and Krishna in such an unified state bless the world.
This stanza is reflected in Haribhaktirasamritasindhu with the same opening line, with some word changes. But it depicts that state of love of Radha and Krishna. I was wonderstruck at Soonabai's memory and ability to enact state of Radha and Krishna and create such humour.
The Varnam which was presented was from the third Nirupana of Serfoji Maharaj II - "Sakhine Nayakis Buddhivad Sangnyachi Kalpit Katha." The narration is of an imaginary story wherein a young, childish, bashful, unnamed Nayika - one of the innumerable queens of Yadupati Krishna - is imparted worldly knowledge in a friendly manner by an elderly, mature and affectionate harem attendant. The Sakhi wants to give a few words of advice being aware of the queen's innocence. This is a dialogue between two intimate souls where the queen's eloquent silence is amusingly expressive. The Sakhi's words were danced to the tune of the Bharatanatyam score in raga Pantuvarali, tala surfakta tisra ata. The three performers were disciples of Sandhya Purecha - Chitra Dalvi Vartak, Pushkara Deochake and Suhani Dhanki Mody. Young, vivacious and with full command over nritta and delectable abhinaya they revealed the strength and beauty of Parvati Kumar's bani.
The other performers were disciples of Guru Tejaswini Lele - 'Alaru sa' performed by Greeshma Lele and 'Shollu' by Akshay Ayre; 'Jakkini' by Shefali Shah and Chaitali Shah, disciples of Kirti Naik; 'Gitam' by Nandini Kamath, disciple of Parul Sastri, who specially came from Bangalore, and the finale was a Kautvam by Geetanjali Orpe, disciple of Pt. Venugopal Pillai and Jayashree Pillai.
Sandhya declared that during 2020 for 100th year of Guruji's birthday, during the entire year from February 2020 till end January 2021 she and her institution will present all over India in major cities, performances which will be 100. The assembled audience welcomed her declaration. I was moved when revisiting the choreographic works of Acharya Parvati Kumar.
Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and critic, Padma Shri awardee and fellow, Sangeet Natak Akademi. Dance Critics' Association, New York, has honoured him with Lifetime Achievement award.
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