Akhanda Maargam by Madurai R Muralidaran & Deepa Mahadevan  
- B M Sundaram, Pondicherry 

February 12, 2006 

Madurai R Muralidaran is a very competent dance-teacher, composer and choreographer, which he has proved on a number of occasions. On 16th of January, he presented a dance program by his student, Deepa Mahadevan, (originally a student of Usha Srinivasan), billed as AKHANDA MAARGAM.  

Maargam is the traditional repertoire in Bharatanatyam, but the prefix 'Akhanda' (meaning 'wide') is a bit confusing. But to compensate, the whole program consisted of Pushpanjali, Alaarippu, Varnam, Tillana and such other items all in one tala. In the recent times, it has become common to find programs publicized as Eka Raga Sabha and the items rendered therein are in one raga throughout. Muralidaran's program was in one tala, Khanda Ata. It is too difficult to compose an Alaarippu in such a lengthy tala, that has 14 aksharas, but the composer-choreographer has done a wonderful job and did justice to it.  The introduction of Misra Nadai in the Chaturasa level of the tala, even at the outset was highly appreciable. Most of the lyrics were in Ragamalikas.  

The Varnam was extensive with astounding laya-manipulations.  Deepa, who started to learn from Muralidaran only about six months back, was quite at home while doing all the items, without even a single flaw. She was very precise in her adavus and proved her mettle. The nattuvangam by Muralidaran was awe-inspiring, very meticulous in every laya detail, which has become a rarity, nowadays.  Equally highly appreciable was the music provided by the members of the troupe. Kuldip Pai with a rich and flexible voice poured nothing but melody. Dhananjayan deftly handled the mrudangam.  

The audience was aghast, as to whether it was flute or oboe, when the mellifluous music came out of the violin strings of V L Kumar. V L Narayanan was soft in delivering good music on his veena. Sivakumar aired the flute. For the concluding item, the Tillana, tabla by Chandrajit and tavil by Arulanandam, though a novelty, added colour to the show.  

The efforts of Madurai Muralidaran and Deepa in such a successful presentation, which evoked not an iota of boredom all through, are worthy of encomiums. 

Scholar B M Sundaram is an eminent musicologist and art critic. Son of the great tavil player Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai, he received early music training from Melattur Narayanasvami Iyer, Vaiyacheri Janakirama Iyer, Tanjavur K Rama Iyer, and later, from M Balamuralikrishna. The author of important books and research papers on Indian music and dance, he was music composer and producer for All India Radio from 1978-92.