Ankle bells resound in the rain
- Chittaranjan Mothikhane

April 27, 2017

April 16th saw the monthly Articulate Festival at the Premier complex, Jayalakshmipuram, Mysore. At 6pm dark clouds rumbled, flashed and poured the summer rains, raising the fear if any audience would be there that evening. But Mysore's rasikas chose over spicy bajjis and coffee or other art festivals to come and witness a lineup of dancers, all female, performing Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak and Odissi. The rains too settled as the artists took to stage.

Malini Agrahar, standing tall and trim, presented a pada varnam in Bharatanatyam on lord Krishna, who was beseeched by the nayika, to remove the pain and suffering caused by love. She exclaims, “The one who, even without asking, bestowed wealth and essentials to Sudhama, why keep silent when I openly ask. The one who showed the universe in his mouth to mother Yashodha is now tricking me with his separation. Like the tide that rises on seeing the full moon, I rise in anticipation of seeing you. Like the crop that faces the cold and the wind, I face hurdles that prevent me from seeing you. My body and mind fill with joy as you come and hold my hand. With flower like eyes, moving curls on your face, you wear the peacock feather, my Lord! This is the time to come, you are the symbol of true love. Your smile lights up the whole world.” For the Lalgudi Jayaraman composition in Charukesi raga, adi tala that was choreographed by the artist's guru Shama Krishna, Malini's effective use of bhava and meaningful movements with couple of nritta put in-between as a varnam demands were pleasing to watch.

Malini Agrahar

Archana Punyesh

Archana Punyesh's Kuchipudi performance was aesthetic and appealing. The devotional undercurrent in the first composition "Akhilandeshwari" continued in her second presentation of Nataraja Sthuti enhancing the concept that dance is an act of worship and the body an instrument of devotion. The sublime expression in the first and the volatile movement in the second, highly contrasting, was befitting the lyrics. Akhilandeshwari was seen as mother and a creator while Nataraja was seen as the cosmic dancer who destroyed. The benevolence showered by the Mother was eulogized while Shiva's dance was extolled. Archana showed grace and grandeur while depicting the cosmic mother, and contrasting vibrancy and virility in the delineation of the cosmic dancer. The artist proved her control and command over the nuances of Kuchipudi dance form. Both compositions were in Ragamalika and adi tala.

Kavyashree Nagaraj's Kathak was like mercury floating on mirror. The ease, the grace could be seen in the series of dances she chose to present. Weaning herself from the nritta and focusing on the abhinaya she set the evening with flames of love that oscillated between sensual and spiritual. Kathak being a North Indian art totally danced to languages of that region, Kavyashree took advantage of South Indian language Kannada that fits well for rendition in Hindustani music, presented two acts in that language and one in Brij-awadhi. Haridasa sahithya of Vijaya Vittala, with an opening with Purandara Dasa ughabhoga, demanded an explanation from Lord Krishna on how could he entice with sweet fruits but hand over bitter poison to a devotee. Whatever be the reasons, the devotee always expresses his longing to be with the lord and can't bear the separation. When one has surrendered unto him body and soul, the devotee wonders why the lord plays with them right from birth to death. The composition "Ninnanagali pogalareno" was Kavyashree's opening number. The artist chose two Bindadin Maharaj thumris, that she strung together to bring out the vipralabdha nayika and the khandita nayika aspect. In the first thumri "Aavatha Shyam lachak chala mukutadhara," Kavyashree went through the anticipation of Krishna's arrival, the strange thoughts she gets in anguish, the suspicion she harbours on seeing his faltering footsteps with intensity. In "Kaheko mere ghar aaye ho" the Gopi turns him away after seeing all signs of having spent the night with another women while she waited for him, addressing with deep emotions of agony and anger.

The concluding rendition, yet another Kannada composition, this time based on vaachanas was beautifully danced. Akka Mahadevi having seen all auspicious articles in her dream and the vision of the fair, matted locks, ash smeared man with the pearly teeth flash through his smiles was driven mad making her abandon all worldly possessions and set foot in search of her Lord Chenna Mallikarjuna. She pleaded with the birds and the bees to reveal where her lord is until she merged herself in the divine light of Shiva.

Kavyashree Nagaraj

Veena Surya and Kanika Mitra

The concluding dance segment of the evening featured Veena Surya and Kanika Mitra's Odissi recital. Though the two items selected were routine in the repertoire of Odissi dance, what captivated was their elegance and the gentle pace with which they took the audience was blissful. In the mangalacharan their stances oozed devotion and gave fleeting glimpse of Goddess Lakshmi born from the churned ocean and in the Pallavi set in raag Yaman, the synchronous movement, coordinated stances, the freezes were sculpturesque.

When the recitals concluded, the moist breeze that was set in motion at sunset continued to blow late in the evening, giving a sense of having spent the rainy evening worthwhile.