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Portraying the life of Saint Tyagaraja
- Vijay Shanker
Photos courtesy: B Bhanumati

June 28, 2017

As part of the 250th Jayanti celebrations of saint Tyagaraja, Fine Arts Society presented the dance drama 'Tyaga Brahma Loka Charitram' at Sivaswamy Auditorium in Chembur, Mumbai on 19th May. Besides the exposition of the exquisite musical compositions of the great saint composer, the dance-drama portrays the charitram (life-sketch) wherein like normal beings he had to face adversity too. Presented with powerful music and characterization, the production creates a lasting impression for its thematic quality and dance choreography.

Conceptualized and choreographed by veteran Bangalore based Bharatanatyam Guru Bhanumati Balakrishnan, director of Nrityakalamandiram, and Sheela Chandrasekhar, 'Tyaga Brahma Loka Charitram' takes you on a journey of the life of the saint composer Tyagaraja. Born to devout parents at Tiruvarur, young Tyagaraja was a blessed child with religious fervour. In his early teens, he composed his first song "Namo Namo Raghavaya"(ragam Sindhubhairavi) and his parents realized that he was no ordinary child. But life was not all that easy as his brother could not understand his religious inclinations and hence to teach him a lesson, threw away the idol of Lord Rama. After the disappearance of the idol, Tyagaraja was greatly disturbed. He went out searching for it and found it on the banks of the river Cauvery. After he returned home, he asked his brother to worship Lord Rama by offering flowers with his right hand which was paralyzed. His brother was hesitant but Tyagaraja urged him to do it and the miracle happened; as he lifted his hand to worship the Lord, he was cured of paralysis. He realized his folly and asked for forgiveness and Tyagaraja blessed him. The role of Tyagaraja was enacted by B Bhanumati and the role of Tyagaraja's wife by Sheela Chandrasekhar. Over the years the fame of the composer spread far and wide and he became the most respected music composer of his time. Several compositions are sung in the production, the most popular ones being, "Gurulekha yetuvanti", "Brocheva", "Endaro Mahanubhavulu" etc. The glory and varied manifestations of Lord Rama are portrayed in most of his compositions.

The group choreography combined with the theme creates a fine spectacle for the eyes and the soul too for which the credit goes to Bhanumati. The most outstanding aspect of the dance was the fine coordination of the movements, clarity and precision in execution, which reflects on the expertise the dancers have achieved over the years. The dancers are also empanelled performers for Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

The dancers who performed were Priti, Aishwarya, Sneha, Priyanka, Mekhela, Rashomitha, Manaswini, Josephine, Vandana, Suma, Hema, Pratima, Devaraju (only male dancer), Parvathy and Geeta. The excellent musical support was rendered by D.S. Srivatsa (vocal), Narayanaswamy, Prasanna, Karthik and Saipriya. On the whole, the production was noteworthy for its substance, structure and presentation.

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