Guru Charanambujam
- Vijay Shanker

March 7, 2013

Anjali Institute of Bharatanatyam presented a Bharatanatyam recital by Lata Surendra at the Karnataka Sangha Auditorium in Mumbai on February 9, 2013. ‘Guru Charanambujam’ was a fitting tribute to a great mentor Guru T.S. Kadirvelu Pillai, a culmination of five decades of imbibing and inculcating, a true reaching out in dance – To sir with love. The scintillating program was marked for its unusual and intricate rendering.

The program commenced with an unusual rhythmic interlude that set the pace for the complicated Alarippu to follow. The unusual Alarippu in 14 beats, khanda jathi, adi thalam, had Lata innovatively enframing Shiva and Shakti through absorbing intricate framework. The ease with which she did this was proof of the long years of arduous executing of the veteran’s complicated compositions. The jathiswaram in Vasantha and rupaka thalam was presented in a unique manner with select verses from the Rig Veda delineating the inherent ‘Nadam’ in the universe. The visual appeal with Lata’s energized footwork and sweeping nritta covering the stage performing the most complicated equations of the maestro were a treat to watch. As she put it, “It was always a challenge to bring grace and visual appeal to his complicated rhythms and present them with no trace of the tension seeping through!”

The padam “Idhai vida” in Saveri and rupaka thalam was an unusual piece wherein you do not see the damsel-in-distress pining away for her lover, or the coy, love struck maiden who is joyously awaiting his arrival. The heroine is a khandita nayika, one who is agitated, furious, annoyed with her lover for his infidelity towards her. The main emotions being depicted in this padam etched by Vaideeswarankoil Subbarama Iyer are as relevant today to the indignation and anger felt by a wife when she confronts her unfaithful husband. Lata tackled the item with the poise of a seasoned artist. With the slightest of subtle gestures and body language, Lata brought out the refined and cool indignation of the khandita nayika evocatively.

This was followed by the traditional varnam “Mohamana” in Bhairavi. This was the piece-de-resistance wherein the culmination of nritta – nritya - natya elements truly merged in a resplendent crescendo of the dancer, the dance and the supportive hands complimenting each other. The rigid and imposing mathematics of a great genius had each supportive hand eager to do full justice to the set challenge. The son of the eminent vidwan, Guru Kaliswaran Pillai  proved that he is the custodian of his father’s legacy. His impeccable chollus and Lata’s energized execution of each of the complicated jathis set by Guru Kadirvelu Pillai and Chandran’s seasoned and challenging mridangam merited the spontaneous applause of the rasikas.

“Sriman Narayana Shriman Narayana” is a beautiful devotional song composed by Annamacharya in praise of Lord Venkateswara, the presiding deity of Tirupati, in  ragam Bhowli, adi thalam. The dancer had truly reached her own with her absolute connection with Paramatma as with apt sancharis, she unfolded the line ‘Sree Padame Sharanam.’ Vamana avatharam, Kalinga narthanam, Ahalya moksham, Kubja moksham were evocative frames. Particular mention must be made of the Kubja moksham that one hardly sees anyone perform. Dance is music made visual and the obvious understanding between the mellifluous vocalist Shivprasad and Lata made the item memorable. The fitting Thillana in Misrachapu and Behaag ragam had Lata reach out with renewed energy and gusto as she executed the Panchajathis set with intricate rhythms by her guru. The accompanying artistes were Kalishwaran (nattuvangam), Shivaprasad (vocal), Chandran (mridangam), Nandakumar (flute), and Sharma (violin). Tech support included Nandalal Rele on sound effects and Pednekar on lights.

The entire program was woven with devotion and humility with its accent on the sensitive bonding that takes place between a committed shishya and her mentor. That is what parampara is all about.

Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.