Sakthi Darsanam 
- Radha Bhaskar, Chennai

November 6, 2004

The ultimate objective of any fine art be it music, dance or drama is to elevate and transport the rasika to a state of aesthetic bliss. Very rarely does one experience this state when techniques, skill and expertise all fuse together and ultimately it is the spiritual experience that pervades the entire atmosphere. Watching Padma Subrahmanyam dance to the theme of Sakthi Darsanam for Kalamandir Trust at Music Academy Hall, Chennai was a great experience in terms of rasanubhava. Every piece had a fine presentation both in terms of choreography and content. In the composition, Mookambikaye charanam in Hindolam, Padma depicted the Goddess Mookambika and how she had blessed a dumb person with the power of speech, thus making him burst into a stream of five hundred slokas known as Mookapanchasati.

The core piece was Shyama Sastri’s monumental Bhairavi Svarajati. Everything about this, including the music conceptualisation was done in good taste. The relaxed gait helped unfold the minute nuances of the lyrics rather effectively. The playing of veena by Kannan to the svara passages and singing of the corresponding lyrics by Gayathri and Vijaylakshmi was noteworthy. One thing, which could have been avoided, was the singing of the theme line Kamakshi in the tara sthayi which seemed to distort the musical structure as intended by the composer. The jumping of octaves may be convenient for the voice but at the cost of marring the melodic beauty.

In Padaravindame (sriranjani) the sowmya aspect of Devi was portrayed. This composition by Padma’s mother Meenakshi Subrahmanyam had Abhirama Bhattar’s story as the sanchari bhava. In the line Nee thamadam seyya thagumo, the different interpretations of the line lent a distinct colour. A fast folk number Amman Kondadi, a typical dance of the folks of Thirunelveli district, went to emphasise that the sakthi cult is prevalent in all traditions. Goddess Kali and Durga were immaculately depicted by Padma.

It was in the final piece that Padma left an everlasting and indelible impression. Uzhikoothu of Subramanya Bharathi and Soundarya Lahari of Adi Shankara were finely blended and here Padma reiterated the truth that the Mother Goddess is beyond one’s comprehension. She appeals to Mother – wherever my mind wanders, let there be your form, wherever my eyes wander, let there be thy feet. The serene and sublime way in which the meaning was unfolded made the rasika’s eyes moist and throat choked with emotion.

The stage décor having beautiful images of the Goddess Sakthi as well as the lighting was just apt to suit the theme. Finally, when Padma instead of making the usual exit, merged behind the goddess’ image on stage, one really felt as if it had been Goddess Sakthi who had taken the incarnation of Padma and given her blissful vision to the audience. The orchestra was a live wire, which enhanced the mood of the theme rather appropriately. 

Radha Bhaskar is the editor of Samudhra.