Enthralling Kuchipudi by Rachana Narayanankutty
- Vijay Shankar
e-mail: vijaydance@gmail.com 

January 8, 2017

Thrissur based Kuchipudi exponent and actress Rachana Narayanankutty presented an enthralling performance on the fifth day (19th Dec 2016) of the eleven day festival of classical dance and music, dedicated to Maharaja Swati Tirunal, organised by Vasai Fine Arts at the premises of the Ayyappa Temple in Vasai, near Mumbai.

Entitled Kuchipudi Nattuvamela, the repertoire was unusual, with concept and choreography by Dr. Vasant Kiran and the highlight was the usage of vachika abhinaya that created a lasting impression on the packed audience. Rachana danced with complete involvement, revealing her  mastery not only on the technical aspect but her natural expressions with her sparkling eyes was a pleasure to behold. The performance commenced with an invocation to the presiding goddess of the Kuchipudi village, Balatripura Sundari, followed by an innovative number ‘Kuchipudi Salaam’ in Ragamalika, especially choreographed for the occasion, a complex number in which the dancer pays salutations to everyone, as was traditionally practiced, when Kuchipudi was patronized by the kings and nawabs. The most interesting part was the reverence given to pioneers of Kuchipudi like sage Siddhendra Yogi and Narayana Teertha. This number also exposed the charis and gati bhedas and the brief reference to the mainstay of Kuchipudi - Bhama Kalapam.

An extract from Krishna Leela Tarangini by Narayana Teertha, Kuchipudi Tarangam took the format of the varnam and also included the navarasas dedicated to Lord Shiva, the most dramatic display being the flow of Ganga and Ravana’s devotion for Lord Shiva in which Rachana spoke in chaste Telugu revealing the arrogance and the pride of Ravana. Rachana did complete justice to the role and the dialogue delivery was commendable. In order to reveal his devotion, Ravana removes his intestines and plays the Rudra Veena. Lord Shiva is pleased and blesses him and Ravana is restored to his normal health. This was the piece-de-resistance of the evening that  attracted instant acclaim.

A surprise item of the evening was the Marathi abhang "Pandariche bhoot bhotey" wherein the saint composer Tukaram with a comic satire warns the devotees not to go to the lord, for you will be haunted and would never return. In other words you would attain salvation or eternal bliss. Rachana's natural mukhaja abhinaya was a treat to watch. Swati Tirunal's composition “Gopavadana” portrayed varied facets of Lord Krishna, the highlight being the reluctance of Arjuna to fight the battle and Lord Krishna's Geetopadesam wherein he realizes his ‘karma’ and ‘dharma.’ Rachana concluded with an intricate Balamuralikrishna thillana with precision.

Rachana received fine orchestral support from Vasant Kiran for nattuvangam, vocal by Bhagyalakshmi Guruvayur, mridangam by Kalamandalam Gopinath, flute by Chalakudy Raghunandan and veena by Murali Krishna. On the whole, it was an enthralling performance of both music and dance.  

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