At her recent lecdem, Vyjayanthimala acknowledged her debt to her dance and music gurus including Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai for teaching her such exquisite and unusual compositions
Photo: Sandeep Saxena
Enriching experience Vyjayantimala Bali
Lovelorn nayikas; an adorable, complaining little Krishna; gopikas dancing with delight in Brindavan … all of them came alive on stage at Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali's lecture-demonstration titled Abhinayam-Anubhavam. It was held as the Srimati Ammanni Iyengar Endowment Birth Centenary Celebration Special Programme.
Interestingly, she did the entire lecdem in a seated position and also sang to the delight of the audience, though she had vocal support of course. Her emotive skills, intrinsic dignity and grace, and a choice of compositions which ranged from the rare to lesser-known ones and which spanned a range of rasas made it an enriching experience for the audience. Vyjayanthimala acknowledged her debt to her dance and music gurus including Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai for teaching her such exquisite and unusual compositions.
She started off with the Todi raga, aadi thalam composition by Ghanam Krishna Iyer “Ella Arumaigalum” and went on to a padam by the famed 17th-century composer Karvetinagaram Sarangapani “Maaname Bhooshanamu” in a serene Shankarabharanam with misrachapu talam.
The varnam she picked was Dandayudhapani Pillai's “Mohamaginen” in Karaharapriya raga just after demonstrating a padam in Khamas raga “Ariven Aiyya” by Dharmapuri Subbarayar. Her articulation of the nayika wounded by her lover's deserting her for another woman in “Sakhi Pranasakhuditu Jesene” by Dharmapuri Subbarayar in Chenchuruti raga was as convincing as the lovable little Krishna, who with seeming innocence, complains to his mother about his playmates. This latter was in the Purandaradasa composition, “Aadaahodalle Makkalu”, a ragamalika in Khamas, Panthuvarali, Hindolam, and Maand.
The pleasing geometry of lines and the talukku and kulukku captivated the audience. Like it is with all accomplished dancers, her mudras were never mechanical, but always richly expressive as was her abhinaya –– she managed to effectively create every rasa effect she attempted.
She ended with a tillana taught to her by the legendary M.S. Subbalakshmi, the well-known Swathi Tirunal Dhanasri raga composition in Hindi, “Geetha Dhwaniki Thakadheem”. She managed to hold the audience attention even while demonstrating a pure nritta piece in a seated position!
Post-performance, Vyjayanthimala explained to us that she chose to sit down as she also wanted to sing while doing abhinaya. She smilingly added that she hoped that her guru, the late D.K. Pattammal, was now somewhat gratified! “Pattammalamma sometimes regretted that I had given up classical music to focus on dance –– she used to say I would have made a good performing vocalist!”
She continued: “It took much planning to offer an interesting and comprehensive package today. I chose lesser-known pieces, and also a variety of ragas, talams, composers, forms (javali, padam, varnam, keerthana, tillana), and languages –– Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit and Hindi. Most important, as it was an abhinaya-focussed lecdem, I selected items which showcased a range of moods.”
The absorbing presentation was competently supported by vocalist Anahita Ravindran, Gayathri Sasidharan for nattuvangam, Shaktivel Muruganandam's mridangam and Chaitanya Kumar's flute.
Considering that Vyjyayanthimala is such a crowd-puller it would have been wise to choose a bigger auditorium. This one began bursting at the seams so extra chairs were placed at doors through which dance-lovers craned their necks to peer at the star on the stage. Even well-known classical dancers who trooped in late, ended up squatting on the floor before the stage while some sat on the steps leading up to it! Well, then, but a diva had come to town. And what was a little discomfort for the privilege of watching her up close!
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