The Music Academy Dance Fest: Day 3
- Veejay Sai
January 10, 2012
What do you do when you arrive expecting a good show of Bharatanatyam and get ample doses of every other dance form except that? You sit back and watch helplessly waiting for it to finish. On the third morning of the festival, the first show, a solo Bharatanatyam presented by Anita Sivaraman wasn’t any lesser than watching a marathon blurred beyond recognition.
Flipping through the Academy brochure and reading the biographic information given on Anita, one learns that she is supposedly trained in Kuchipudi, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam. Now Anita decided to give a glimpse of all the dances she knows in each and every piece she performed. Taking the audiences along with her for a marathon she decided to put up on the stage, Anita’s feet paced faster than anyone could imagine. One had to wonder which of the dance forms she supposedly learnt taught her to rush so fast. At some point she also mixed up her Kuchipudi and her Bharatanatyam. Is this a problem of an over-ambitious dancer who ended up learning way too many dance forms and neither of them complete? In the current era of global dance baanis and guru-hopping, it is no surprise to see such trends that lead to a severe decline of the art form. Except for the brilliant nattuvangam by Shijith Nambiar and flute by Sruthi Sagar, audiences didn’t have much to sit back and listen to.
The second performance for the morning was the much hyped new production of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam titled ‘Paavai Nonbu’. Padma with her scholarship and erudition over dance theory manages to come out with some new themes to work around with. In the current production she compiled themes from two well known texts, the Thiruppavai by poet saint Andal and the Thiruvempavai by Saivite poet Manikkavachakar, choreographing them with a dance narrative. Going by the philosophy that Vaishnavism and Saivism are two eyes of the Vedic Hindu tradition and Saktam as an inter-linking node, Padma’s idea to create a presentable production for the stage is for sure an original and innovative one and she could have stopped there.
No one is denying the excellent scholarship Padma possesses over dance but wouldn’t she be the best judge to know who performs what roles in dance-dramas? Was character-casting such a huge problem? What could have been a wonderful production ended up being a comedy of errors. Padma decided to take on all the main roles over the course of the production in spite of there being a dozen other dancers along with her in the show. She enacted the roles of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Parvati and everything else. In her portrayal of Parvati, the Shiva behind her (performed by Bhavajan Kumar) didn’t match up to her personality. With an undersized Shiva behind her, all of Parvati’s charms went in vain. In the scene where she becomes ashtabhuji Durga and gets deified on stage (getting her students to give her a mangala aarati et al) the mahishasura at her feet looked like an innocent calf instead of the mighty monstrous buffalo. With such serious miscasting what could have otherwise been a well-put show, fell short. The best dance sequences in the production were those performed by the male dancers Sai Santosh Radhakrishna, Bhavajan Kumar and Sanatkumar. Even the group of girls stood out in all its oddities.
The first performance for the evening was a solo by Mythili Prakash. Dressed in a striking yellow costume, Mythili’s stage presence is undoubtedly one of the best we could have seen amongst the younger generation of dancers. She presented an eclectic mix of items for the evening, all equally pleasant and poised.
Presenting the Varnam, Mythili sashayed over the stage effortlessly. At some point, the fan of her costume partially fell away and she stuck it back with simplicity and continued dancing. In the exit she took for the next piece, she repaired her aaharyam and back she was with a bang! Older dancers who have such wardrobe malfunctions could take a cue from Mythili on how to pull it off gracefully and not mess up their performances or become too self-conscious. It was a proud moment for her Guru Malavika Sarukkai who sat there watching her with confidence. It is no crime to smile when needed and Mythili sports a sweet smile at that. But if the dancer’s teeth are going to turn into a constant distraction, one doesn’t get to enjoy the art. Other than that, Mythili is a proud promise to the next generation of Indian dancers.
Mythili has an envious luck that no other dancer has with a musician brother. Aditya Prakash’s singing is probably the best vocalists we have heard this season in music for dance. The dancer-musician chemistry worked its magic through every item Mythili presented. He sang and she improvised on her sancharis and they knew what to expect from each other with an air of assurance. No other dancer has been as lucky after the brother-sister duo of the legendary Balasaraswati and T Vishwanathan performing on stage together and history has witnessed their artistic genius. Hope Mythili and Aditya also continue their creative journey together and come out with some exciting and innovative works of art. Mythili concluded her performance with Swati Thirunal’s famous thillana in Dhanashri ragam. Viji Prakash must be a proud guru and a prouder parent for having such gifted children.
The last performance for the day was ‘Parishvanga Pattabhishekam,’ a choreographic production by Anitha Guha with music provided by Neyveli Santhanagopalan. A combination of Kishkinda Kandam and Sundara Kandam from the Ramayana, the production was a deadly double bill for the evening.
What was noteworthy was the portrayal of roles of Rama by Yatin Agarwal, Hanuman by Sathvikaa Shankar, Vali and Sugriva by Thiruchelwam and Madhusudhanan of Kalakshetra, Tara by Medha Hari, and Ravana by Pavitra Bhat. Kishkinda Kandam got too long with a recap of Bala Kandam done in a Varnam format. The sequence worth remembering was the duel between Vali and Sugriva where Thiruchelwam and Madhusudhanan exhibited their artistry.
The comedy elements in Sundara Kandam made the production rather lokadharmi in parts. The strange female voice-overs for the important characters like Hanuman and Ravana was a bit problematic. But overall, one could say the monkeys (Hanuman and Vali) stole the show.
On a general note, maybe it is time the Music Academy also have a minimum age and weight requirements as seriously considerable qualifications when they do their selections for such prestigious festivals. It isn’t too much to ask for, from serious rasikas.
Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and a culture critic.