Satyanarayana Raju's dazzling performance at BIAF
- Probal Gupta, Bangalore    

September 20, 2009 

Bangalore International Arts Festival 2009 organized by Kuchipudi exponent Veena Murthy Vijay and celebrated veena player Suma Sudhindra, showcased the works of leading artistes like Sonal Mansingh, Kathak exponents Nirupama and Rajendra, the country's leading musicians like violinist L Subramaniam, and well known artistes from Bangalore and Kolkata. BIAF has added a new festival to the Bangalore Chapter which is already thronging with umpteen dance festivals happening throughout the year and especially during the December season.

Satyanarayana Raju, one of Karnataka's finest Bharatanatyam exponents, is a senior most disciple of Guru Narmada and later trained under Guru B Bhanumati. He was given an opportunity to showcase his talent amongst the crowd of celebrities. This well established senior dancer of Bangalore, who has already created a niche for himself with his performances both inside and outside the country, bears the stamp of the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Late Guru Narmada's bani. Commencing his recital with an Arabhi Pushpanjali choreographed by Guru Narmada, Satya instantaneously created a spark amongst the aficionados. Dance is a visual art and for a male Bharatanatyam dancer to survive amongst the elfin female dancers and definitely to underlie with the Darwinian principle of "survival of the fittest," the art of presentation is a major factor. Satya's well maintained physique along with his sharp face is definitely a plus point.

Moving on to the central piece of the evening was the crowning item of Bharatanatyam – the Varnam. With the verses taken from Krishna Karunamrutha Slokam with the lyrics "Sri Krishna Kamala Nathoo" set to Raag Reethigaula and Adi Tala, the item is transformed into a Varnam format, a choreography of Guru Narmada. This item vouches for its overwhelming and dazzling jathis with its well thought sancharis describing the Poothana and Geetopadesam episode from Mahabharata, aesthetically synchronized to provide the Varnam an added dynamism. Especially the immediate jathi after the beginning of the Charanam "Gopa Gopi swaro Gopi surya koti samaprabaha" is noted for  its complexities, juxtaposing the various permutation, combinations of the adavus. The stopping of the jathi for a fraction of second and immediately starting them undeniably reveals the choreographic brilliance of the composer with the dancer executing them immaculately. The work of the choreographer shines through the artiste who executes it. Satya has done full justice to the assiduous training he has imbibed, with ease. His neat aramandis are definitely a treat for the eyes and concurrently the impeccable teermanams and the adavus executed is highly laudable.

The piece de resistance of the evening was a Devarnama composed by Guru Bhanumati set to Raag Purvi Kalyani in Adi Tala. With the lyrics "Hanumantha Deva Namo Namo," the artiste successfully brought out with ease, the various rasas of the episodes from Ramayana concomitant with Sri Hanuman. The archetypal gait of Hanuman, his crossing of the ocean to reach Lankapuri, his metamorphosis into a shorter form to avoid the eyes of the demons to reach Sita, were magnificently portrayed by Satya. The convulsion of Hanuman seeing Sita trying to hang herself using the hanging offshoot roots of the tree and the panic stricken Hanuman’s crying of "Amma Amma" to stop her from doing so thereby taking Sri Rama's name and giving her the ring given to him by the Lord, were very dramatically portrayed by the handsome dancer. Satya's geometric sense in using the proscenium deserves high praise. 

The singer Srivatsa's usage of correct diction with his melodious and bhava filled singing especially during the abhinaya sequences of both the devarnama and the varnam (the Geetopodesham episode) deserves appreciation. Orchestral support with Shakuntala Raghavendra as a nattuvanar, Nataraj Murthy on violin and Gurumurthy on mridangam, definitely speaks for a rounded performance.
Probal Gupta trained in Kathakali under two legends Late Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty and Guru Fact Padmanabhan under whom he is presently continuing his specialization in Stree Vesham genre of Kathakali. He has also been a student of Bharati Shivaji. His active performance career has taken him to prestigious dance festivals. He is an empanelled artist of Doordarshan and has established a Solo Margam for Stree Vesham Kathakali under the able guidance of his Guru Fact Padmanabhan. Probal is a graduate in English Hons from the University of Kolkata.