Love - The
- VAK Ranga
April 4, 2010
Over the last
seven decades, say from the forties till now, the presentation of Bharatanatyam
has undergone a sea change. Apart from the rare ‘Sarabhendra Bhoopala
Kuravanji’ and the dance dramas put up by Rukmini Devi through Kalakshetra,
most were regular item wise performances following a particular order:
alarippu, jathiswaram, sabdam, varnam, keertana, padam, javali, slokam
and thillana; a little later, Andal or Kurathi were being done as the last
alarippu was tagged on to the opening pushpanjali; jathiswaram and sabdam
disappeared and in the second half, bhajans, stotras, abhangs, sangam poetry,
oozed onto the card of items gradually.
like Padma Subrahmanyam’s yardstick to measure others by, Sri Krishnaya
Tubhyam Namah, as a solo and others in group, came to the forefront in
the last fifteen years. Then there were fusions of many kinds at various
levels with foreign and Indian ingredients, of music, dance, instruments,
motif etc. As dictated by logic, none of these were good or bad because
of the changes. A group production can be trite and boring; a solo,
exquisite and riveting. An iconoclast might weave a web of enchantment
and traditionalist gets trapped in clichés.
For a person
observing dance for the past sixty-five years, first as a mere interested
onlooker and then, for half a century as a critic striving to grasp the
holy grail that is this art, the answers are far from clear-cut.
What is classical, what is contemporary? What is tradition, a stream, a
river defined by the two banks of changing practice and unchanged science?
What feeds them, acid rain or a cloud burst of crystal clear water?
are unchanging, adherence to the sruti, keeping to the rhythm etc., the
basis so to say. Almost everything else is prone to change. The question
remains: what is achieved by the ‘newness’, the changed contours, the music
presented with a contemporary flavor, slickly presented spectacle? Does
it interest the audience, inform them with good tastes? Here’s a production
A First Xpressions
Studio production, ‘Love - the Rasa,’ sub-titled ‘Kadhalagi Kasindhu’ presented
at Sri Mutha Venkata Subba Rao Hall (Chennai) was a sumptuous production,
filling the eye and pleasing the ear. I was entertained, engrossed
and impressed through its length of two hours.
aspect was its thoroughly rehearsed corps du ballet. Every dancer,
from different schools of dance, melded into a streamlined whole.
No matter what was being presented, it arrested one’s attention. The episodes,
most about romantic love, were taken from known mythology; some, like Usha’s
Dream, not so familiar. The script and dialogues in English were
by an old stage-hand of Madras, Mithran Devanesan; his expertise did not
‘show’ but held the show together with translucent, silken threads.
The Tamil dialogues and songs by Revathy Sankkaran merged without creating
any unnecessary ripple.
The show started
with a mime group-mactrics. Yes. It was like a menu card printed
on velvet, not for mughlai dishes, but for a South Sea spread. No
matter. It gave an inkling of the up-to-date leavening that made
the show contemporary. The entry or the Kattiyakaran (Jagan) and Bhagavathar
(Aparna Gopinath) introduced the main feature. And their popping
up every now and then, more or less as Natisutradhari of the Sanskrit Drama,
was welcomed by the audience, not only for the purpose they ostensibly
served, enlighten the audience, but also for their rib-tickling parrying
of romance. With impeccable English delivery, stage presence, svelte
and spruce looks Aparna Gopinath conscripted the spotlight. Jagan’s
Tamil was fluid, and his fluid English was Tamil; it didn’t matter as it
was the skin of his character.
Most of the
incidents had Krishna as the leavening. The magic of his character
gave a veneer of appeal to the episodes. The romantic interludes
were buoyed up literally by a swing that took the high into the sky, and
figuratively by lovely costuming. As Parvati, Devaki, Usha, Draupadi etc.,
Aparna Pillai was a stand-out. Beautiful both in looks and dance.
Kavitha Ramu fitted the bill as Chitralekha, magical painting or the lover
seen in a dream and all that but as Siva, a show-stopper. Without
trying to be overly macho, something many female dancers mistakenly do
when enacting a male role, she made Siva come alive.
were students of many teachers, KJ Sarasa, Revathi Ramachandran, Anita
Guha, Mutharasi, Muralidharan, Parvati Ravi Ghantasala, Adyar K Lakshman,
Vijay Madhavan, Kalakshetra, CV Chandrasekhar, the Narasimhacharis and
a Kalari artist Vasanth, but on their on-stage dance demeanour, a smooth
and shining unity.
music and orchestration, was melodious and more importantly, totally dance-drawn,
so much so that it became a part of the choreography. The rhythm
quotient was keyed in through the artistry of DA Srinivas, the more illustrious
son of an illustrious father. The Jathis gave a polished pedestal
for Nandi (Nanaswinin Ramachandran) to hoove it up, separately and in combination
with Siva (Kavitha Ramu), a mesmerizing display of tectonic grandeur.
vivid conception was realized with an easy grace by Kavitha Ramu’s choreography.
Intricate patterns were woven and pulled off with a seeming ease that was
deceptive. A rarity in such gorgeous productions, the choreography
was character oriented.
Duryodhana), Madhusudanan (Krishna, Aniruddha), Ranjith Babu (Kalinga),
Jayakrishnan (Dussasana) impressed in big and small roles.
stage lighting and Subhasri Ravi’s stage management were the seen and unseen
merits of this production that left the audience happy during the show
and elated afterwards.
Rao is an eminent critic and dance scholar.