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Feats of grace, skill

JAYA NARAYANAN PISHAROTY

The participation of leading practitioners of various Indian classical dances made Lasyotsavam a treat for the audience.

Photos: K.K. Najeeb

Sterling performances:(Clockwise from top left) Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon; Pallavi Krishnan; Sadanam Balakrishnan and Leela Samson; Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha Kashi; Aruna Mohanty.

Lasyotsavam in Thrissur was a well-attended three-day festival that gave rasikas an opportunity to watch and experience various dance forms of India.

The opening performance was by Mohiniyattam artiste Pallavi Krishnan. Based on Adi Shankara's ‘Shiva Panchakshara Stuti,' set to ragamalika and talamalika, the opening item ‘Namashivaya' was a salutation to Siva.

Her new composition, ‘Urvashi,' based on Kalidasa's famous work, takes up the story from the point when Urvashi and her friend are captured by the demon Kesi. They are rescued by King Pururavas. Urvashi and the King fall in love with each other and they live together.

Once when the King looks at another damsel, Urvashi leaves in a huff and enters the forbidden Kumaravana, where, as per a curse, she turns into a creeper. This story of mortals and men was superbly related by the dancer in a delightful montage of abhinaya. She quickly changed from the evil demon to the frightened maidens and then again to the brave hero before finally losing herself in the twirling creeper. Thillana set to a Swati padam was the final piece.

Talented couple Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon, both alumni of Kalakshetra, Chennai, treated the audience to an exuberant performance that was embellished by some extraordinary singing and accompaniment. The invocation to Chandramoule, the one who wears the moon on his matted locks, was full of energy.

Varnam was an elaborate treatise on Lord Padmanabha and his 10 incarnations. The portrayal of ‘Gajendra moksham' and ‘Draupadi Vatrakshepam' were filled with devotional fervour. This did not in any way take away from the rigours of a full fledged varnam with all its fast paced jatis. The couple proved their expertise in precise foot and handwork, too.

Tale of Kuchela

‘Sakhya,' based on Kuchela's story, was the highlight of the performance. It tells the heart-rending tale of the poor Brahmin who wonders whether his childhood playmate Krishna would remember him. The theme of nostalgia and awe were well portrayed. They closed with Lalgudi Jayaraman's thillana in Revathi (Mishrachapu tala).

The second day of the festival featured an Odissi performance by Aruna Mohanty. The opening Pallavi composed in raga Bageshree was a pure nritta demonstration of chauka and tribhanga poses as well as perfectly executed mudras and meticulous footwork.

Sensitive interpretation

The popular item in an Odissi performance is undoubtedly the Ashtapadi. Aruna lived up to expectations with her ‘Ramate Yamuna Pulina Bane,' a moving account of a gopika's complaint about her beloved Lord Krishna. She suspects that He is spending time with another woman on the banks of the Yamuna and wonders sadly why she should pine for him. Aruna's sensitive portrayal of the emotional canvas of a lovelorn nayika was commendable.

The duality of human existence was illustrated thorough the item ‘Ardhanariswar.' Aruna's poses illustrated the feminine and masculine attributes in a harmonious blend.

Next was the turn of the mother-daughter duo – Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha Kashi. Their Kuchipudi recital was electrifying. What the daughter possessed in terms of youth and freshness, the mother more than made up with sheer expertise. The invocatory ‘Ganesha Pravesha Dharavu' had a ‘madhyama purusha' or a ‘sutradhara' introducing us to the powers and charm of Ganesha. The ‘Dashavatara Shabdam' was a quick retelling of the 10 incarnations and the various feats of Lord Vishnu. The two dancers alternately donned the different roles.

Next, Prateeksha danced to a Swati composition on Lord Shiva in raga Hamsanandi, ‘Shankara Sreegiri Natha Prabho.' Choreographed by Vyjayanthi herself, it was packed with energy. The ‘Satyabhama Dharavu' was a detailed piece on the love between Krishna and Satyabhama. Vjyayanthi essayed the role and represented Satyabhama in all her femininity.

Finally, Vyjayanthi performed her highly acclaimed creation – Kubje, the story of the hunchback woman who waited anxiously for the arrival of Krishna. Her sense of worthlessness and self-doubt and the ultimate moment of revelation when He stands before her were brilliantly conveyed. Vyjayanthi as Kubje and Prateeksha as Krishna seemed to submerge their identities in the portrayals.

On the last day of the festival, a Kathakali play on Shakespeare's ‘Othello' premiered in Kerala. Written and choreographed by Sadanam Balakrishnan, the play was adapted for Kathakali by Kalakshetra, Chennai. Leela Samson, director of Kalakshetra, breathed life into Desdemona. Iago's character was played convincingly by P.T. Narendra. The presentation of ‘Othello' (played by Sadanam Balakrishnan) reminds us of brave heroes like Arjuna.

Instigated by Iago and troubled by his own inferiority complex, Othello becomes suspicious of his wife and ends up murdering her. The moment of realisation and the deep regret that leads to his suicide were depicted skilfully.

Transcending barriers

The story of human frailties transcends borders of language and culture. The transposition has been sensitively handled and the libretto sounds natural. Haripadmam excelled as Brabantio. Jayakrishnan and Terance as Roderigo and Cassio and Geetika as Emilia played supportive roles.

Palanad Divakaran and Nedumpilly Rammohan gave vocal support. Sadanam Ramakrishnan (chenda) Sadanam Devadas (maddalam) and Manikandan on (thimila) were the accompanists.

The festival was organised by Lasya Academy of Dance, Thrissur.

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