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Music Season
The Chennai December Festival

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Music Season

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Rich tapestry of emotions


The performance, by Vyjayantimala, who touched upon the miracles of Krishna, retained an old world charm.

Photo: S. Thanthoni

Vyjayantimala Bali.

In the background, a violin pours forth a hauntingly beautiful Madhyamavathi melody while young, excited Gopis take centre stage.

One of them cautiously tests the temperature of the water with her toes before she calls out to her friends and steps in. It feels deliciously cold and they quickly submerge themselves.

Another Gopi holds her breath in the water for a count of 10 and challenges the others to do the same. Ablutions done, the Gopis come out of the water shivering, they find their clothes missing, and look up to see the prankster, it is none other than Krishna.

‘Irumen Saayal Nudanga Nudangi’ was one of many warm anecdotes describing the glory of ‘Tirumal’ in ‘Aiychiyar Kuravaik Kooththu.’ Taken from the Madurai Kandam of Ilango Adigal’s Silappadikaaram, the original kooththu had seven cowherd women who dance to ward off evil omens in the shepherdess Madhari’s home. This was choreographed and presented by Vyjayantimala Bali as a solo show.

The performance, though tailored for a proscenium and a limited timeframe, retained an old world charm because of the informal air the dancer maintained. The draped-not-stitched sari, the simple props and the largely unstructured style of presentation were some points of reference. For example, in the opening scene when Madhari and her daughter go to the cowshed to find the cows restless and the milk not set as curds, Vyjayantimala’s props were a humble wooden buttermilk churner and a rope. It was the simple things that made the greatest impact.

The music and the dance were however not so simple. Researched by M.A.Venkatakrishnan, Bhuma Venkatakrishnan and Prof. S.Raghuraman with the music composed by S.Ramanathan, the verses were presented with respect for its authentic reference. The seven dancers named according to the seven notes of the musical scale with each given a characterisation like Krishna, Balaram, etc. were details that were laid out clearly, as were the original pann and the adapted ragam for each verse.

The dancer wove a rich tapestry of emotions with bold colours and deft strokes. She touched upon the miracles of Krishna always leaving behind a trail of wonderment and devotion. There were many tales to tell and not always connected or in a chronological order, but it was in the simple telling that Vyjayantimala scored. From the mischief of the ‘Gopi vastra haran,’ the mood changed gears to the Kurukshetra battle field and Arjuna avenging Abhimanyu’s death. The dancer was as effective as a hapless father on a bloodied battlefield grieving over his son’s unfair killing. As involved in the rendering were Vyjayantimala’s musicians. Kandadevi S.Vijayaraghavan’s (violin) participation was most enthusiastic, while Vanathy Raghuraman (vocal) and C.K.Patanjali (flute) maintained strong melody. S.S.R. Krishnan (mridangam) and Jayashree Ramanathan (nattuvangam) kept unobtrusive yet effective rhythm.

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Music Season

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