Salabhanjika: Mystical and delightful Mohiniattam
- Satish Suri
Photos: Nrityangana

January 26, 2017

The classic composition of Dr. C.P.Unnikrishnan was transformed on stage through the grammar and language of Mohiniattam by Swapna Rajendra Kumar, a student of Sunanda Nair and undergoing training under Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, and members of her school Nrityangana.The thematic presentation of the poetic imagination of a conversation between a Devadasi and a sculpture in the temple as it narrates how she came to be a Salabhanjika (sculpture of a woman displaying stylized feminine features, standing near a tree and grasping a branch) was the focal point of her presentation on 13th January at Seva Sadan, Bangalore.

The presentation began with Purva Ranga, an ode to Ganesha and Nataraja, the cosmic dancer and Saraswati, the source of wisdom, performed by Nisha Mammen, Megna Madhavan and Deepika Nair set to the choreography of Dr. Kanak Rele. This was followed by the Kalarpana in Ragamalika performed with felicity and grace.

The narrative moves to the story of Ahalya and the curse she received on account of her dalliance with Indra, who assumes the form of the sage Gautama when he is away taking a bath and approaches Ahalya who unknowingly falls into the trap. The turbulent river tells Gautama that something is amiss and he returns to see the embracing duo.The curse of the sage turns her into a stone.The inert rock remained the body and soul of Ahalya till her final redemption by Lord Rama whose blessing liberates her. In the meanwhile, a sculptor approaches the rock that once harboured the body of Ahalya and understanding the inner feelings of the rock converts it into an attractive Salabhanjika.The sculptor, however, decides to depart after looking into the eyesof the Salabhanjika leaving her yearning for his presence. The  Salabhanjika appeals to the Devadasi to request Lord Rama to help her to see the sculptor once more. The narrative ends with a prayer by the dancers to the lord to bless the Salabhanjika to realise her yearning.

Swapna Rajendra Kumar s choreography and skills of abhinaya and footwork took the rasikas on an emotional journey that never transgressed the boundaries of traditional Mohiniattam crafted with finely nuanced movements and expressions as she enacted several roles as Devadasi, Ahalya, Rama, sculptor and Salabhanjika with grace and aesthetics.The evocative soundscape creating the emotional landscape withKottakkal Madhu (vocal) Shankar Raman (veena), Anish K.V. (mridangam), Kalanilayam Prakasan (maddalam), Vivekanandan (flute), Shruthi Viswas (nattuvangam) and additional flourish enhancing the flavour provided by  Nandakumar (edakka) provided soulful music that captured the mood of the rendition and characterisation by the artist. It was an impressive performance of creative and classical Mohiniattam by Swapna Rajendra Kumar ably supported by Nisha, Megna and Deepika.

Bangalore based Satish Suri is an avid dance rasika besides being a life member of the Music and Arts Society.