When smaranam becomes a thematic narrative
- Anita Vallabh
e-mail: aniaeka@gmail.com

August 6, 2016

If ever a performer allowed himself / herself the privilege of artistic exploration unburdened by public expectations, material accouterments, thematic requirements or monetary/publicity considerations, the outcome I know now would be an honest work of art that is both intimate and personal for the artist and the rasika. On the 24th of June, at Bharata Kalanjali, Chennai, to a small audience of dancers and teachers, G. Narendra offered a prayer in remembrance of his late father in the expressive language of Bharatanatyam that he best communicates in with unabashed honesty. When he performs he takes ownership of the creative space juxtaposing dual worlds of reality - imagination, complexity - simplicity with an integrity that is a visual treat. As he is in person, Narendra’s choreographic intent is filled with liberated energy that comes from years of intellectual engagement with life, finding its expression in dance without a care for a critic's good word or a guru’s pat on the back.

Here are some highlights of the performance by Narendra and Deepa with support from Mahalakshmi and Avigna Dance ensemble comprising of dancers Rosia, Aparna, Pratisha and Vasavi.

Each of the five songs presented were an inspired work of passion and devotion to his father. The opening Marathi bhajan “Ganarajarangi nachato” by Narendra and Deepa offered a visual treat of pure delight by employing significant spatial patterns of movement to an energetic rhythmic structure and refined abhinaya. Unique to the performance was the choreographic perspective in Purandara Dasa’s “Jagadhodharana” challenging the dominant conception of gender identity - the father as a sympathetic/unsympathetic disciplinarian and the mother as a compassionate care giver. Expressing an emotion Narendra was most intimately connected to, he became Yashoda, seeing in her love for Krishna, a reciprocity of his father’s abiding love for him. In the Tulsidas bhajan “Bhaj man Ram” and Hanuman stuti “Hanuman lala mere pyare lala” by Pundit Jasraj, Narendra visualized the last few days of his father’s life and subsequent passing away with powerful poignancy, spontaneously inviting audience participation and involvement in chanting the phrase “Bhaj man Ram charan dukh dayi” while he surrendered to the pulsating rhythm of the music, and the raw overpowering emotions that wracked his body in remembrance of his father.