Mature and poignant recital by Sulakshana Jayaram
- A.Boothalingam
e-mail: blingam1940@yahoo.com

February 17, 2017

Sulakshana Jayaram, a senior student of the Pandanallur bani gave a mature and poignant recital at the Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai, on 27th Jan 2017 under the aegis of Kartik Fine Arts.

Endowed with a striking stage presence, Sulakshana commenced her recital with a Mishra Alarippu interspersed with Arunagirinathar's Thirupugazh "Muthai tharu..." in ragam Shanmukhapriya. The use of the mayura hasta in the alarippu was very aesthetic and intelligent. She then presented the varnam "Yennerammum avarai ninaitenadi...," a composition of her Guru Pandanallur Srinivasa Pillai. The sanchari for the pallavi showed a virahotkantitha nayika who paints a portrait of her lord on canvas, but is overcome with emotion as she imagines his visage come to life. The depiction of hearing the constant drum beat in her very heart beat was moving. In the sanchari for the line "Mannavan mel mayyil kondru mayangi nindrenadi..." the well known episodes of Markandeya's saving from the lord of death Yama, lord Vishnu and Brahma's vain attempt to find the finite beginning and end of lord Shiva in his Jyothirlinga swarupam and of how lord Shiva saved the three worlds from annihilation as the blue throated Neelakanta, were well delineated and performed most convincingly. Eventually, the nayika expresses her desire for Brihadeeshwara of Thanjaipuri to come and unite with her. The charanam depicted how the nayika was tormented by cupid's arrows and this was poignantly portrayed. The jathis in the varnam were well choreographed and executed with élan and absolute perfection while maintaining fluid grace throughout.

Sulakshana then presented the Kavadi Chindu in which the well known episode of how lord Muruga came to marry Valli was portrayed. The episode depicted how Muruga assumes the form of an old man, pretends to be very hungry and asks for food, then asks for water and slyly proposes to Valli much to her shock and resentment. On request from his brother Muruga, Ganesha takes the form of an elephant and scares Valli. The frightened Valli reluctantly agrees to marry the old man to save her from the rampaging elephant. Lord Muruga then reveals his actual form much to the delight of Valli. The entire episode was laced with humour and beautifully portrayed by Sulakshana. Both the varnam and the Kavadi Chindu drew repeated rounds of applause from the audience.

"Vazhi maraithirukude..." was an evocative composition of Gopalakrishna Bharathi from the Nandanar Charitram. In this, the devotee Nandanar says "Alas! My view (of you O' Shankara) is blocked by a mountain like bull which is lying down..." Nandanar laments his inability to enter the precincts of the temple on account of his birth in the lower caste. He begs the lord, "Will not your bull move just a little?" Sulakshana's poignant portrayal was moving. The climax of this piece had Nandanar getting a vision of his lord to the voice of Shiva commanding Nandi to move, "Satru vilagum irumpillai, sannidanam maraikuthan..." All of us in the audience also vicariously enjoyed the ecstasy of Nandanar's vision of the lord!

The concluding piece was the popular Dhanashree Thillana of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal which was really a fitting finale for this scintillating recital. It was very apparent that Sulakshana is a mature dancer and in every frame, she showed her poise and maturity. Another important point to be mentioned is the challenging kalapramanam of the varnam and the thillana which normally one finds in very senior artists like Alarmel Valli and Rama Vaidyanathan. Pertinent to say here that the kalapramanam was in no way a deterrent to the effective abhinaya and nrithya in general, and this again can be expected only from an experienced and high caliber artist like Sulakshana.

Pandanallur Pandian wielded the cymbals most exceptionally. The powerful vocal support by Gomathi Nayagam with the effective percussion by Saktivel Muruganandam and the melodious violin support by Ganesh embellished the recital in no small measure. Sulakshana has already carved out a niche for herself and audience will generally welcome a performance by an artist of this caliber any number of times. In fact, there was not a single dull moment in her recital and the audience was left spellbound.

A. Boothalingam is a former columnist at ‘The Hindu', musician, art critic and promoter.