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Rasanubhava in Mohiniattam
- Rubina Sudharman

December 23, 2018

Dedication, devotion and passion come to life when an artist gives her fullest to a performance. That is how one can sum up the evening of pure lasyam by Dr. Sunanda Nair, a product of Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya. With such strong background and structured training, Sunanda’s exhibition of subtle nuances in the Mohiniattam art form was no surprise. The command she had over the subject and the characters reflects on the amount of work that has gone into character analysis and attention to details. Accompanied by vocalist Kalamandalam Gireesan, Janardhana Rao on mridangam and Raman Kalyan on flute under the banner of Sruti Philadelphia, Sunanda enthralled the audience with her graceful movements.

Rasanubhava, a characterization of four women at different periods and backgrounds were portrayed with their emotions and intelligence in depth.  Sunanda Nair commenced her performance with a Ganapathy slokam, an invocation to Lord Ganesha followed by the first character Savitri in ragam Kedargowla where she depicted the story of Savitri and her negotiations with Lord Yama to return her husband to life. Sunanda’s choreography on Savitri brought out the emotions and agony of a woman.

The second character Shikandi was a challenging piece where the striking contrast of female and male characteristics was brought in as the nayika transcended from Amba to Shikandi.  Amba's anguish, insult and disappointment all at once were displayed with so much poise and intensity that the viewers almost felt pity for the character and justified her actions to seek revenge. Sunanda’s clarity in her thoughts and adept handling of this could not have been better conveyed to the audience. Dr. Kanak Rele's choreography with a blend of emotions and nritta aspect brought out the beauty of Mohiniattam in every moment of this piece.

She moved on to her third piece Ghandari in ragam Kanada. A special reference to the princess Gandhari who was heartbroken when she realized her groom was to be Dritharashtra, the blind King of Hastinapura.  A not so commonly depicted character in Mohiniattam of the iconic queen, who was devastated and showed her resistance to life and eventually witnessed the doom of her sons. Here again, her portrayal of the character made the audience feel for the queen’s predicament.

The concluding piece was her all time favourite Kubja in ragam Yadukulakamboji set to mishra chapu talam. The episode of the hunch backed maiden who yearned for Lord Krishna exhibited a river of devotion. Narrating the story, Sunanda’s nuanced abhinaya brought to life the lyrical quality of Late Kavalam Narayana Panicker’s composition. Indeed a well thought out, intelligent and immersive   performance by Dr. Sunanda Nair.

Rubina Sudharman is a Mohiniattam dancer, writer and director of Vedhika Performing Arts.