Bharata Natya arangetram in St. Louis
- S Subramanian, Raleigh, North Carolina

October 5, 2004   

The Bharata Natya arangetram of Maheetha Bharadwaj was conducted on Saturday, September 25, 2004 at Clayton High School auditorium in Clayton, Missouri. 

Maheetha is 9 years old and is a Fifth grader at Ellisville elementary school in Ellisville, Missouri. Maheetha trained under gurus Adyar K Lakshman (Director, Bharatha Choodamani Academy of Fine Arts, Chennai) and Sudha Srinivasan (Director, Nrithyalaya, Downers Grove, Illinois, USA). Both the gurus conducted the nattuvangam, and gave vocal accompaniment. Meenakshi Gopalan (veena), Ravichandra Kulur (flute), and Janardana Rao (mridangam) comprised the rest of the music ensemble.

After pooja and prayer to Lord Ganesha, the program began with a Mallari (ragam: gambeeranattai; thalam: Adi), shlokham on Ganesha (ragam: Arabhi), and alaarippu (ragam: nattai; thalam: tisra nadai). It was quickly followed by a shabdam (Ayar seriyar arindhidamalum…in the ragams: kambhoji, shanmukhapriya, bilahari, and madyamavathi; thalam: misra chapu). Maheetha executed both items with subdued dignity.

The next item was the main piece, a varnam, manavi cekonaradha, (ragam: shankarabharanam; thalam: Adi) by Ponnaiah Pillai of the Thanjavoor Quartet fame. In this piece, in praise of Lord Brihadeeswara of Thanjavoor, Maheetha adhered diligently to the technical details. A flower piece fell off from her hairdo but the girl concentrated on what she was supposed to do, without getting perturbed. 

After a brief intermission, the program continued with a keerthanam composed by Annamacarya, shringara murithivi, (ragam: khamas; thalam: kanda capu) followed by a Muththuswami Dikshitar kriti, simhasanasthithe (ragams: saurashtram, vasantha, surati, and madyamavathi; thalam: rupakam). The Annamacarya piece was done at some leisure elaborating the flower boat sequence while the Dikshitar piece was executed with reverence and dignity, culminating in Maheetha’s prostrating at the feet of goddess Parvathi, which was highlighted by darkening of the stage except for a single spotlight on her. 

The final item was a thillana, (ragam: Brindavana saranga; thalam: Adi), composed by Madurai N Krishnan where Maheetha incorporated technical accuracy and grammatical purity.

It was an enjoyable and delightful performance by the 9-year old girl. Throughout the program she never showed any signs of stress that would normally befall a youngster doing an arduous arangetram. This writer chatted later with guru Adyar K Lakshman regarding the girl’s talents. With due reluctance characteristic of a guru, he mentioned that this girl was the youngest of all his current disciples, but exhibits a quick grasp of the technical details and that she has the essential element of “naturalness”, a sort of innate talent. It was his experience that Maheetha was always ready and willing to meet the guru’s agenda more than half way. He felt that Maheetha is going to be a delight to watch when she matures into a young maiden, learns more of the art and performs at various gatherings.

This writer felt that Maheetha demonstrated great talent and her facial expressions were quite that of a young woman rather than a little girl, not to speak of perfect footwork and nimble limb movements.