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Yakshagana presented in typical vibrant shades

— Pic. by S. Thanthoni

Girija Kalyanam ... enacted with confidence.

IT IS generally described as folk but this theatre form from Karnataka, the Yakshagana or the song of the celestials, possesses a strong classical connection.

It is typically the folk art of the region like Kathakali of Kerala, but Yakshagana is for the people. Its robustness combined with nature makes this truly a people's art form incorporating music dance and theatre.

Usually it is performed in open fields and vast expanses especially during the night so when the South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, sponsored by Yaksha Nandana, came alive on stage at the Krishna Gana Sabha on December 31 it seemed like the cool nights under starry skies was literally brought in for the taste and experience.

No matter how you might sanities within constricted space, the art form has a fullness and openness that transcend physical barriers.

The story of King Daksha and Girija formed the theme of the sparkling evening.

Mythology is the prominent aspect in most Yakshagana performances.

Singing and drumming blended with dancing and the quaint endearing English dialogues from players, clad in striking costumes in myriad hues and sizes, provided for an entertaining evening.

The raucously played out chande, maddale and tala began with an invocation to goddess Durga or Durgambika and moved on to the main story. Characters of King Daksha, Parvati, Siva etc., were all played with great confidence and panache and those who donned women's' robes were by no means awkward and went along with the mood of the story with great aplomb.

— Pic. by M. Moorthy

Mavin Khoo

The entire narration was vibrantly alive to situations drawn from day to day living and sly digs at people and attitudes came frequently adding touches of humour to the proceedings.

Artless yet endearing, the performance highlighted a great story with deadpan humouar and vivaciousness.

Admirable nritta

Mavin Khoo is not an Indian by birth but his spirit seems to have imbibed some of the best traditions of this country. His Bharatanatyam recital for the Krishna Gana Sabha on December 21 saw the blending of two worlds in as impeccable a manner as possible. A student of Adyar Lakshman, Mavin in his energetic exposition of the margam, displayed what it means to adopt an art form without any reservations. Even as the Sri Ganapatim marking the beginning of the evening made its presence, the mood for the recital was set. Leaping on to the stage in a display of energy and vibrancy, Mavin began his recital with a slokam on Lord Shiva followed by a Jatiswaram in Hemavati in Mishra Chapu. The Jatiswaram is not very often on the list of performers simply because the Varnam usually suffices in terms of nritta and bhava. But it would seem that the Jatiswaram was what gave Mavin his identity what with the firm grip over the nritta along with firm stances and confident posturing epitomising the joy of presenting the visual appeal in having anga shuddam. There was nothing that deviated from the firm clear exposition of the jatis that sometimes turned out to be springy, but full of the rounded hand movements so specific to those from the South East Asian countries. The Kamas varnam in Rupakam displayed the very same qualities, but here the play of bhava intertwined with the nritta making for some very dramatic moments in the second half. No one can fault his command over the nritta that is most precise often severe in execution. Wide sweeping hand movements allowed him to soften the austerity of the steps even as he danced the item with abandon, but never once losing control over the stances or adavus. The Shankarabharana Tillana Talam Adi was yet another example over his supreme command over nritta.

Guru Adyar Lakshman on the nattuvangam also provided very good vocal support if a bit tired towards the end. The singing was not tremendous, but very melodious and calming as juxtaposed with the energetic dancing on stage. Supporting him on the mridangam was Baba Prasad, on the violin Kalaiarasan, on the flute Unnikrishnan and Krishna Prasad (nattuvangam).


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