As eminent art-critic V.A.K.Ranga Rao commented in his speech, noted Kuchipudi exponent Lakshmi Mani’s thematic Kuchipudi solo presentation left one "absolutely captivated." Aptly titled 'Sarvam Shreenivasam,' the recital was based on the immortal compositions of the great saint-poet, Annamacharya.
Showcased as part of the Platinum Jubilee Art Festival of The Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai on the 17th of Dec'07 (at 7.30pm), the recital saw a decent turnout of audience, despite the onset of rain. The audience included connoisseurs (such as Ranga Rao), performers (like the Bombay Sisters), administrators (like Mano Bhakthavatsalam of the Music Academy) and several other rasikas of the art-form. The repertoire consisted of an excellent blend of both popular & uncommon songs. All (but one) of the 6 items were choreographed by Lakshmi herself.
The recital was prefaced by a rare sloka in praise of ‘Pada Kavita Pitamaha’ Annamacharya and the customary Kuchipudi prayer 'Vani Paraaku.' Commencing her recital with the popular 'Sriman Narayana' (Bhouli-Adi), Lakshmi thoughtfully depicted the Lord as one manifested in all forms of Nature (viz., hills, rivers, animals, fire, air and humans) to the lyric 'Paramatma Paramaanuroopa.' She then chose to present a popular Sanskrit composition of Annamayya, 'Devadevam Bhajey' (Hindolam - Khandachapu), wherein the Seeta Swayamvara episode was stunningly portrayed to the line 'Shankaraarchita Janaka Chaapa Dalanam.'
The next item was the rare piece 'Kanti Kanti Niluvu' (Ragamalika - Adi), wherein the complete form of Sri Venkateswara is described in beautiful, chaste Telugu. The 'Gajendramoksham' episode was briefly delineated to 'Shanka Chakra Hastamulu.' True to the Kuchipudi tradition, Lakshmi Mani adroitly danced on the rims of a brass-plate, in perfect accord with the jatis, to appropriate lyrics which described the anklets and bells on the Lord's feet. The next item was yet another rare piece 'Oho Yenthativaadey Hari' (Kalyani-Adi), in which the poet wonders at the greatness of Venkateswara. The lyrics spell out the deeds of Vishnu as one who sleeps on the ocean, yet one who married the daughter of the ocean (Goddess Lakshmi), and so on.
The dancer scintillatingly wove the episodes of Kurmavatara and Vamanaavatara into the piece, leaving the audience spell-bound with her exquisite abhinaya. The penultimate piece was the popular 'Muddugarey Yashoda' (Kurinji-Adi), which again was a brilliant exposition of the significant attributes of Krishna, which are compared to the Navaratnas. The recital ended with a lively and exceptionally-performed number 'Thiruveedhula' (Sree-Tisra Adi), which enlists the sheer beauty of the Lord of Seven Hills, as he ascends the different Vaahanaas during the Brahmotsavams, culminating in His Kalyanam on the 10th day. The program ended with the Venkatesha Mangalam, bringing the lovely recital to an equally lovely and graceful finish.
Worthy of mention, especially is the wonderful team of accompaniments – Sundari (Lakshmi's sister) on the Nattuvangam, Naveena (Lakshmi's young daughter, who received special praise from VAK Ranga Rao) who possesses a mellifluous voice and is commendable both for her perfect diction and bhava-rich rendition, Ganesh (experienced mridangist), Sikkil Balu (aesthetically-played violin) and Shankaranarayanan (melodious flautist).
As the Secretary
of the Sabha remarked, Lakshmi Mani truly brought out the essence of the
compositions, "bringing to life every character and episode" she enacted
with her beautiful large eyes, to the utter delight of everyone present!