Mohiniattam recital at Chicago 
- Anu Chellappa 
e-mail: anuchellappa@yahoo.com 

 June 17, 2009 

 
At the invitation of the organizers of the Chicago Tyagaraja Utsavam, Smitha Rajan presented a Mohiniattam recital on 23rd May 2009 at the Samrathi Auditorium within the Rama temple at Lemont, Chicago. 

In her welcome and introduction, Smitha said: "Mohiniattam is the second and the latest addition into Indian classical dance forms from Kerala, the first being Kathakali, which is incidentally the oldest classical dance drama in Indian classical dance field. "Mohini" means "beautiful lady" and "attam" means, "dance." So literally, "Mohiniattam" means, "dance by a beautiful lady." Extremely soft, graceful and gentle movements characterize Mohiniattam. In Mohiniattam, the emphasis is on 'abhinaya' or facial expressions. 

Mohiniattam is deeply indebted to the constructive contributions of the three great persons, namely Swathi Thirunal, Vallathol (a great poet and founder of the institution, Kerala Kalamandalam), and Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma (who is considered as "The Mother of Mohiniyattam") for its revival. Guru Kalyanikutty Amma cleared the mythical mystery behind the name of this dance form and gave it the most convincing explanation based on truth, social and historical evolution, interpreting Mohiniattam as the dance of a beautiful lady than that of a mythical enchantress from heaven." 

Smitha commenced the program with a Ganesha sthuti, "Unni Ganapathi Thampurane," written and choreographed by Guru Sreedevi Rajan (Smitha's mother), set to Raga Anandabhairavi and Tala Adi. The story of Ganesha and Muruga having a contest to see who would go around the world first, was shown in this first item. 

The second item was "Kanden kanden Sitayai," a padam of Arunachala Kaviraayar, choreographed by Smitha Rajan, set to Raga Bhageshwari and Tala Tishragati Tripuda. Hanuman goes to Lanka in search of Mother Sita, finds her and comes back to Rama to give him the news this is what the piece depicted. That beautiful moment when Sita hears the name of Rama being uttered in an alien land (by Hanuman) was portrayed very poignantly and was the high point of the program for this writer. 

The third item was "Yahi Madhava Yahi Keshava," an ashtapadi by poet Jayadeva, choreographed by Smitha, set to Raga Sindubhairavi and Tala Adi. The nayika waits for a long time for Krishna to return and when he does, late at night, she immediately sees that he has been with another woman and tells him, "Go away." A multitude of emotions were portrayed with finesse in this item.  

The grand finale was the Rama Saptham, written and choreographed by the late Guru Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, in Ragamalika and Tala Eka. The major stories within the Ramayana were told with ease and a flow so typical of Mohiniattam and grace that seems so natural to Smitha. 

She concluded the program with a mangalam.