Sri Rama Namam - Entha Ruchira
- B Venkat, Vishakapatnam

Photos: G Murali

April 18, 2010

Kalabharathi, Visakhapatnam - Sri Ramanavami Uthsavalu - March 23, 2010
Bhaktha Ramadasa is a real life example of how devotion achieves divine grace. Such was his bhakthi, that even a nawab, and his punishments did not matter to him, and eventually he achieved the grace of Lord Sri Rama.

Noted musician Nedunuri Krishnamurthy pointed out that the story is a challenge for any dancer to take up as the saint wrote most kirtanas while in jail. Ananda Shankar Jayant handled this tough proposition with ease and achieved praise from the rasikas, he acknowledged. Here is a review of how she accomplished just that.

The concept, narration, and each of her roles, as a director, as a choreographer and as a dancer are taken up separately.

Ananda's concept, direction, narration and sequence
After the pooja, here is the sequence and order of the Kirtanas and the narrative.

With "takkuvemi manaku…" - Sourashtram- Adi, Ananda set high expectations right from the word go and continued the tempo all through the program. "When He is on my side, I need nothing else," Ramadasa says in this Krithi, and this is put to test soon.

With "entho mahanu bhavudavu..." Shanmukhapriya, Kanda Chapu Talam, Ananda conceptualized Ramadasa's vision of Ramayana from vanavasam to the eventual victory over Ravana. The dance item made use of the literature to gain full attention of the rasikas.

Then came "Sri Rama nee namam entho ruchi ra.., (title of the ballet). Ramadasa is seen celebrating "Rama Namam." Devotion brings incredible joy and prompts him to go one step ahead and build a temple. The temple construction and prayers to the presiding deities follow and the dancers create festive appearance all around.

In one swift dramatic twist of fate, blissful Ramadasa is put to test. The turn-about happens within seconds as Taneshah orders his arrest for constructing the temple from out of the coffers. The hall turned silent. Once in prison, Ramadas appeals to his Savior, Garuda Gamana. He then queries, urges, seeks recommendation of Mother Sita, (how typical of a karanam), even admonishes in that order. Sahityam cleverly supported the escalation, "Eey Thiruga...," "Paluke Bangaramayena...," "Nannu Brovamani...," and "Ikshwaku kula thilaka."

The Lord responds, with Rama and Lakshmana settling the debt, Taneshah rushes to the prison and secures release of Bhaktha Ramadas with respect and with gifts. Ananda chose this moment to display her healing touch. Into the open sunlight after many years in jail, Ramadas clears his eyes with both hands, looks at the Taneshah and asks how his temple is! The Saint knew all along that he would secure his release. "Yemayya Rama…. Nee Maya…" shows the happy ending. With mangalam, the program concluded.

Ananda's choreography
Ananda scored a perfect 10 in re-creating the temple construction on stage. This engaged the audience and generated interest at once. It was creative choreography all the way with female dancers becoming figurines of the temple and the male dancers turning to be sculptors! A perceptible playful tension was created that prevailed over for some time.

A rope was used as a prop for construction, for binding the hands of Ramadas, and for creating a contained prison space. The rope proved powerful as it curtailed freedom, restricted space (critical resource for a dancer), and the pain of confinement reached the inner consciousness of the rasika.

Contrasting expressions of the artists, like when the guards showed disgust at Ramadas who was immersed in bhakthi, brought the feel of the situation at prison.

Using the diagonal space on stage when all the dancers were lined up, proved a visual delight. Photographers were able to capture the "effect" and audience was able to have a complete view of all the dancers.

Dancer Ananda
One needs no introduction to Ananda's talent as a dancer. The story of Ramadas had her task cut out, testing her all round capabilities. Notable features are:

- Her joy in "Rama Namam Entho Ruchira..." was incredible.
- Change of mood from "intense joy, devotion to intense pain" at the closing line of "Sri Rama Nee Namam Entho Ruchi Ra…" where Ramadas gets arrested.
- Her abhinaya with eyes, "drishiti bedhas" and her jubilating smile captured the hearts of one and all.
- Expressions depicting Sita and Lakshmana after Rama goes about chasing the golden deer, Sita's hysteric anxiety and Lakshmana's reassuring self brought about in quick succession were enthralling.
- Subtle change of "feelings" demanded by choice of Kritis in the prison between "Ee thiruga.." to "Ikshvaku kula thilaka…" came out well. The array of Kirtanas was both a challenge to and proof of her talent. Perfect co-ordination of emotions of the dancer with and to Venu Madhav's voice, played a key role in the success of the ballet.
- The Karunya Bhava in "Nannu Brovamani…" moved all of us.

Since a real life story was behind the ballet, credit goes to the research team to have the sequence established in perfect order, escalating up to a level where there was confrontation and rescue.

Ananda, Bhakta Ramadasa, in severe pain abandons worldly niceties, chides "Yevadabba Sommani…" and quickly retreats. The guard lashes him and he gains composure, makes peace with "Ee Debaalakorvaka.. abba thitithinayya.." Good direction and expression.

We all recognize at that point of time that "entering into a dialogue with the Divine" is devotion. It happened to Ramadasa then that the Lord came rushing to save His devotee and to Ananda here in her total identification of self with Ramadasa. "Takkuvemi Manaku.."

Team performance
Dancers Radhika Thirumala, Purnima Ashok Kumar, Kirthika, Maithreyi, Zen, Jinakaraj and Raghav Thirumala, did a very good job. The team executed perfect footwork, body language, and eye contact. They responded to each other very well and enacted construction scene with real life activity with only a rope used as prop.

The team consisted of Venu Madhav (music, vocal), Renuka Prasad (Jathi composition), TP Balasubramanyam (mridangam), L Anil Kumar (violin), Dattatreya (flute), Sridharacharya (rhythm), Ganesh Nalluri (costumes), Surabhi Purna Chandrasekhar (lights), Dr Rallabanda Kavita Prasad Raju, AS Murthy, Ranee Kumar (research).

B Venkat, a student of Bala Kondala Rao, is a Kuchipudi dancer in the Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam style.