Delightful thematic performances
- Satish Suri
July 8, 2019
The month of May heralded the bloom and glory of the Mayflower as much as interesting performances gracing the proscenium stage. A striking feature was that all performances except one were ticketed and drew full houses,which augurs well for the artists.
'Sarvasya- The many paths to Oneness' by Divya Ravi
Divya Ravi's exposition explored the many dimensions to attaining Oneness. Her production began with Melaprapti, starting from the ordinary ritual of ringing a bell or offering flowers in a temple and the individual sensory feelings of prayer that culminate in the feeling of Oneness. Antaranga extrapolates the sublime devotion and surrender of the Saint Periyazhwar orVishnuchitta to Oneness within. The adaptation from verses of Periyazhwar Thirumozhi describes the intrinsic inner yearning for the Lord who resides within. "I have placed your divine name on my tongue and inscribed all your valiant deeds on the walls of my heart and your lotus feet on my head. All I desire is to always keep you with me." Divya Ravi's exposition encapsulated through poignant abhinaya, Vishnuchitta's intrinsic depth of devotion and surrender.
This was followed by Abhanga wherein five Gavlans (milkmaids) dressed in finery dance with joy to the mesmerism of Lord Krishna, to the Eknath composition in Marathi. The Sufi poet Syed Ibrahim Raskhan draws parallels between love and god through his composition "Prem Hari ko roop hai, tho Hari prem swaroop" epitomising 'Love is God and God is Love.' Titled Utsanga, the composition describes a conversation between Radha and Krishna - one talking of Hari and Krishna talking of love. The artistic exploration by the poet breathed life into the enactment by the artist making it a lively number.
Prayathi, the final segment explores the individual Sarvasya, ways one can be one with the Supreme, a path that qualifies a clear conscience and true intent, a statement and template enunciated by Lord Krishna and laid out in the Bhagavad Gita. The Nrittavali followed by verses from the Bhagavad Gita calibrated the artist's performance with dynamic serenity and involvement in expression.
The excellent music on a recorded track composed by Mahesh Swamy and Rohit Bhat assisted by Srihari Rangaswamy, Suma Rani, Karthik Datar and Y.G.Srilatha provided the lyrical progression. Divya's compelling stage presence and the attractive aharya depicting the moods, the finished movements and communicating skills, the vibrant sense of expression and intensity of the dance, stood out leaving a lasting impression on the audience.
'Apara-The Unbound' by Trayee
Photo: Ananya Raghavendra
The thematic presentation by Anuradha Venkatraman, Radhika Ramanujam and Ramaa Venugopalan under the banner Trayee, celebrating the limitation of the human body to the limitless freedom of the human spirit through the genre of Bharatanatyam through Dhwani, Prakriti Bandha and finally Swayam was profound in its inspiration, vivid in its portrayal and poignant in its execution. The opening statement 'The Beginning' expressed through sollus that had a hypnotic rendering on a slow tempo, the syllables translating with transposed foot movements, body sways and a pregnant silence harmoniously synchronised to the sounds of the mridangam and nattuvangam was a vibrant sense of expression by the artists capturing the essence of the spirit as it binds itself to the silence of the womb.
The next segment showed 'Prakriti-bound to nature,' the spirit dancing to the moods of nature. Depicting the season's Summer - raga Suryakantha, Spring -raga Vasanta, Monsoon - raga Amrithavarshini, Winter - raga Chandrakauns, the artists encapsulated the vagaries of the seasons and the many moods of the journey of the spirit as the cord cut from the womb explores the emotive landscape and multitudes of nature. Following this, the narrative describes the bondage of the spirit, 'Bandham' which elucidates the triumphs and turmoil of human relationships through poetry as the voice of the spirit traverses through the emotive markers of lust, jealousy, loss. The poem of Vidyapathi in Mythili–"What more can I tell you? Having taken my clothes off, my shyness left me. His lovemaking acts have weakened my heart's courage. What more can I tell you?" The voice of lust enacted by Anuradha, refreshingly creative, captured the mood of the poet in all its entirety.
Radhika Ramanujam, in a skilful presentation of the voice of jealousy of the Devadasi Muddupalani's poem in Telugu,who claims of her accomplishment in the art of love. "O! Dear Parrot! Warped in jealousy, as I send that young girl to him, I wonder what she is thinking? Revelling in her foolish youthful arrogance, how dare she poison his mind? Doesn't she know who I am?" The flow of expressions by the artist blended seamlessly with the bhava of the composition.
Ramaa Venugopal's rendering of Prof H.S.Shivaprakash's poem in Kannada proved her calibre in essaying the anguish and trauma of the loss of a loved one. "All the men who went to wage a war, have returned. But not my husband. He who promised to love me forever, the foundation of my home, has fallen. Having orphaned me, where have you gone, my beloved?" The dancer's interpretation marked by an intensity of internalisation made it an absorbing number.
The final segment depicts 'Swayam,' the freedom of the spirit as it questions the ideas and perspectives through rebellious voices. Says Janabai in Marathi, "I now slip my pallu from my head to my shoulder, holding the veena and taal, I will set up my whorehouse in the bazaar of Pandarpur. I will now become your whore, O Keshava, I come now to wreck your home." "Having pledged myself to one, if I pledge myself to another, they will strip and kill me. They will cut off my hands, ears and nose...." says Sule Sunkavva in Kannada.
Roopa Bhavani in Kashmiri," I did not come to this earth as a seed, to fall into the cycle of births. I am not the earth,water, fire, air and ether. I am beyond, I am the supreme consciousness. I am Apara-The Unbound." The dramatisation by the artists with clearly articulated hand gestures and movements that captured the essence and spirit of the composition depicted the final liberation of the spirit breaking norms and transcending the limitations of bondage. The delineation was visually delightful, the character portrayal subtle, the emotional states skilfully woven into the narrative to showcase a meaningful and absorbing presentation, celebrating the limitation of the human body to the limitless freedom of the human spirit.
The music ensemble of Deepthi Srinath (vocals), Prasanna Kumar (nattuvangam), Mahesh Swamy (flute) and Ramamoorthy Sriganesh (mridangam) created the aural landscape that provided an ethereal backdrop to the flow of the storyline with Mahesh Swamy lending voice to the final call of Apara -The Unbound.
'Streeratnam' by Gowri Sagar
The thematic Bharatanatyam performance by Gowri Sagar was an eye opener to all in the audience including Chitra Visweswaran, the guest of honour who complimented the artist for her sterling performance.The script by Arjun Bharadwaj and music composition by Tirumale Srinivas provided the ideal backdrop for the characterisation of the "Pancha Kanya" - Ahalya, Kunti, Tara, Mandodari, Draupadi and the incidents in their lives that shaped their destiny. Her opening statement began with a Swarajanjali and a Kautvam.The narrative begins with Ahalya who succumbing to the wiles of Indra impersonating as Gautama is cursed by Gautama Muni for transcending her dharma and to be redeemed by the grace of Rama. Ahalya finally questions herself whether it was a mistake on her part and seeks refuge in Rama.
Kunti, who receives five mantras from Durvasa Muni, invokes the Sun God with this mantra. Kunti is not keen to be an unmarried mother but Surya assures her that even though a child is born to her from him that will not affect her virginity and Karna is born. She marries Pandu and saves him from the curse of early death and the five Pandavas are born. Kunti questions whether it was her choice or destiny that had brought her into this state of conflict.
Tara, a devotee of Rama, discharged her obligations as the wife of Vali. Vali is killed by Rama and as per the law of Dharma, Sugreeva marries her. Tara lives her life dwelling in the duality of justice and injustice and accepts her destiny. She questions whether Vali trusted her. "Sugreeva is the cause of my husband's death, Rama could have bought about an agreement between them instead of killing Vali, the only love of my life."
Mandodari: Madhura, a celestial damsel, visits to pay obeisance to Shiva. Parvati who is absent at that moment returns to find Shiva's ashes on Madhura and curses her to live as a frog in the well for twelve years After the lapse of the curse she grows up to be a beautiful damsel and Ravana enchanted by her marries her as Mandodari. She tolerates all the misdeeds of Ravana and questions the captivity of Sita. Reflecting the layers of meaning of the dichotomy of thought between Shiva and Ravana was interesting. She says that her love for Shiva is pure and divine. She was forced to marry Ravana and how can she accept her husband's love for another woman. Her husband was killed by Rama and questions his right that she should marry Vibhishana after Ravana's death.
The story of Draupadi is well known. Married to the five Pandavas on account of an order of Kunti, Draupadi sees many interventions by Krishna in her life. She was subjected to dishonour in the Sabha by the Kauravas but she triumphed over all the challenges in her life drawing upon her inner strength. She questions, "What was my fault? How can I be a wife to five husbands? How can I accept my husbands when none was there to protect me and my honour? The war must go on."
Moving with grace, full of the joy of movement, Gowri Sagar touched many high points of evocative expression, finely balanced nritta and abhinaya and each entry associated with the character presented had its own aesthetic signature including the jewellery and the embellishments that signified the character, the stage set up and the choreographic inputs of her Guru Satyanarayana Raju.Traversing the various landscapes of the emotions of the women, Gowri Sagar's histrionics, adavus and movements was personified by grace and dignity. Her eloquent eyes conveyed the mood and sentient feeling of the characters who finally stood out singularly as women of substance and torchbearers revered even today, in spite of the trials and tribulations they went through. The narrative provides an insight into today's women to draw upon their inner strength be it physical, emotion or spiritual to meet the challenges and live a life of dignity.
The music ensemble led by Vasudha Balakrishna (vocals), Chaitra Jagadish (nattuvangam), Lingaraju (mridangam), Raghunandan (flute), Prasanna Kumar (rhythm pads) and Madhusudhan (violin) provided the foundation with beautiful swara passages for the dancer's dramatisation, holistic and professional in its totality.
'Tenali Rama' by Ranjana Wodeyar
The icing on the cake was 'Tenali Rama.' A brilliant script by Shadakshari Sugganahally, with an emphasis on hasya rasa and an admirable music compilation by Balasubramanya Sharma, provided ample inputs to the dancer Ranjana Wodeyar to showcase her skills and give a perky and peppy performance, laced with humour. The pravesh patra was a refreshing presentation by the artist.
The early life of Tenali Rama, who roamed the streets like a vagabond, was accosted by a Muni who asks him to pray to Kali at the temple.The transformational change after having a darshan of Kali was captured by the artist with delightful ingenuity showcasing the wit and wisdom. His fame soon spreads and he is appointed to the court of the King Krishnadevaraya. His practical and innate solutions to problems earn him praise and fame. The second episode describes how he outwits the robbers sent by the king to rob his home by applying common sense logic. The dialogue between Tenali Rama and his wife to divert the robbers was enacted with flair by the artist.
He is soon admonished by the King to go out and never to show his face again. The final segment describes how Tenali Rama using his wisdom covers his face with a pot and approaches the king who accepts him back again. Ranjana Wodeyar displayed exemplary skill in her delineation with mime synchronising with the bhava of the sahitya to provide an absorbing rendition of the story and captivating the audience with wit and humour. The program was enlivened by the live orchestra with Rohit Bhat (vocals), Mahesh Swamy (flute), Janardhana Rao (mridangam), Pradesh Achar (violin), Dr.Sadhana Shree (nattuvangam) and Prasanna Kumar (rhythm pad) who handled the jathis skilfully with his intonation.
Bangalore based Satish Suri is an avid dance rasika besides being a life member of the Music and Arts Society.