Celebrating the Mysore tradition: D Keshava and Sumitra Keshava
- Satish Suri
e-mail: satishism@yahoo.co.in
Photos: Shandilya Srivatsa

July 26, 2013

A heavy downpour of rain heralded the dance performance of Keshava and Sumitra Keshava at the Alliance Francaise, Bangalore, on 19th July under the banner of The International Music and Arts Society. It however did not deter the many that turned up to watch the performance.

The father and daughter duo from Switzerland opened the performance with a shlokam “Yam brahmendra  varunendra rudra.” This was followed by a keertanam on Lord Ganesha “Mahaganapatim” in ragam Gowla, adi tala, a composition of SL Mariyappa of Mysore and choreographed by the legendary Dr. Venkatalakshamma, a favourite piece in her dance repertoire. The performance however did not set the tone due to sound glitches. After a while, the technical problems were sorted out and though it dampened the spirit of Keshava, his daughter Sumitra made ample amends as she went through the paces with supreme confidence and aplomb.

Sumitra Keshava performed a solo in praise of Amba “Aadavanden annaiye” set in raga Shanmukhapriya and adi tala. The dancer comes to the temple of Goddess Parvati to praise Mother Earth. ‘You, the mother of Lord Shanmukha, your face shines like the full moon .You are the one that killed the demon Mahishasura .You are protecting me every day, I bow to you.’ Sumitra’s presentation was evocative with crisp footwork and the abhinaya aspects clearly defined. 

It was the turn of Keshava to present the padavarnam “Ye maguva bodicinchera” in praise of King Krishna Rajendra. Keshava settled to a fine rhythm as he delineated this varnam which had the artistry and choreographic skills of Dr. Venkatalakshamma enshrined in it, with adavus, jatis, hand gestures and abhinaya characteristic of the Mysore style. The stylized  grace of movement and the predominance of abhinaya  accentuating the rasa and the bhavas were clearly evident and brought forth seamlessly by Keshava. Brisk and energetic footwork and the fast pace added vitality to the presentation. 

The next presentation by Sumitra Keshava was a devarnama “Adahodalli,” a composition of Saint Purandaradasa, where the young Krishna complains to his mother about his peers. ‘My friends do not allow me to play. They say I am not your son and that I was born in the prison to Devaki and Vasudeva and brought here to take care of the cows as a cowherd. I, as a baby, had killed Putana while she attempted to kill me by poisoned breast feeding. They say the snake is my bed, the eagle is my vehicle and that I stole butter. Oh mother, look.’ Sumitra explored with a great deal of verve and expression the choreographic composition of this piece.

The next piece “Gummanakareyadire,’ another composition of Purandaradasa was performed solo by Keshava where little Krishna requests Yashoda not to call Gumma as he would sit quietly and do no more mischief or make others angry. The satire expressed evocatively had a fine sense of balance and credit for singing it also goes to Keshava.

The duo Keshava and Sumitra presented the well known story of ‘Noah’s Ark’ from the Bible set to instrumental music. On the command of the father of God, Noah builds a huge ship to collect all the living creatures to save them from the ensuing flood. As the sea becomes calm and Noah sights the Earth, the ship is grounded and the animals step on to the earth with great joy and a new world is born. The story was expressed by both the artistes with excellent technique, hand gestures, facial expressions, body and foot movements   characterized by leaps and jumps, the building of the ship, the collection of the various creatures and finally the joy of landing on earth.
Keshava and Sumitra concluded with a brilliant and dynamic tillana, a composition of Swati Tirunal in raga Dhanasri, celebrating the great tradition of the Mysore style.

Satish Suri has been an ardent follower of dance and music for more than 40 years, starting with being on  the committee of the International Music and Arts Society founded by Vijaya Devi, sister of the Late Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar and now presently is treasurer of World Dance Alliance Karnataka Chapter. He has presented several artistes, both dancers and musicians, over the last 40 years.