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Ahalya's tale retold

By K. Santhosh

THRISSUR, FEB. 6. Their love for Mohiniyattom has brought them together.

A bevy of Bengali beauties, led by Pallavi Krishnan, will present `Salabhanjika', an interpretation of the tale of Ahalya, in Mohiniyattom, at the Regional Theatre in Thrissur and the Fine Arts Hall in Kochi on February 7 and 9 respectively.

The production, conceived by C.P. Unnikrishnan, has lyrics by Kavalam Narayana Panicker, and music by Darsan Raman and Kalamandalam Hyderali.

"For years, I've been doing traditional pieces. `Salabhanjika' was born out of the desire to do something different,'' says Pallavi Krishnan, a Bengali dancer married to a Malayali and settled in Thrissur. She played a lead role in T.V. Chandran's Malayalam film, `Patom Onnu Oru Vilapam', recently.

An alumnus of Shantiniketan, she has trained in Mohiniyattom under Kalamandalam Leelamma, Kshemavathi and Bharathi Sivaji.

`Salabhanjika' has been produced under the grant-in-aid project of the Union Department of Culture.

The choreography mostly follows the Mohiniyattom idiom. "Bharatanatyam and Kathakali elements have been employed in certain areas,'' says Suvashish Dutta, a Kolkata-based Bharatanatyam dancer who portrays the role of the sculptor in `Salabhanjika' and the only man in the group. He has been paired with Chandrima Mitra, a post-graduate in dance from Rabindra Bharati University.

The costumes are appealing. "I've tried out variations of the conventional Mohiniyattom costume, for the characters of the sculptor and Salabhanjika,'' says Manjushree Moitre, costume designer and dancer.

Most of the dancers featured are disciples of Pallavi Krishnan at her Kolkata school. Some of them have been trained in Bharatanatyam too.

"The Bharatanatyam scene in Kolkata is dynamic,'' says Uma Nisha Singh. "Bengalis love the south Indian dance form. Walk through some of the Kolkata housing colonies, and you can hear children repeating the mnemonic, `tai tai thi thi tai'.''

The other dancers in the group are Tania Guha, Shiuli Bhattacharya and Poornima Chowdhury. "The choreography explores the spiritual aspect of Ahalya's story: man's quest for salvation,'' says Pallavi Krishnan.

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