``Andal Charitram"... high lyrical quality.
EACH KALAKSHETRA dance drama has an individual structure and bhava. But different sets of performers bring in flavours of their own, as evident at the Rukmini Devi Birthday Celebrations held recently. Take, for instance, ``Rukmini Kalyanam'' (Telugu), a dewy romance.
This traditional Bhagavatamela libretto was choreographed afresh by Rukmini Devi, with changes in the music to suit her purpose. The youthful cast's relish of the vira-sringara blend was infectious. It was also good to see some of the nritta passages regaining shape and structure in their handling.
The entrance of King Bhishmaka (Sheejith) and even more, Queen Rukmangi (Shaly), evoked all the grandeur in spectacle and movement. The confrontation with aggressive son Rukmi was all energy. Rukmi's anger had pep, the nritta had precision.And though he appeared in one small sequence, the fortune-teller (Suryanarayanamurthy) impressed with his flowing movements imaging character, as well as the contours of the folk melody.
The introduction of Rukmini (Madhavi) swaying gently on the swing made a tender vignette. Her love for Krishna and fear of Sisupala were clear and straightforward. But her letter-writing interlude lacked the play of diverse emotions.(The music was too hurried here to allow for bhava).
You saw maturity when the priest (Janardhanan) met Krishna (Narendran). The host of successive feelings flitting past on the priest's face as he reads Rukmini's love letter (at Krishna's insistence) was enough to prove that mellowness makes all the difference. Vocalist Sai Sankar, supported by Jyolsna Menon's nattuvangam, brought off his best for this well rehearsed show. Mridangist Anil Kumar was superb in evoking the different kinds of excitements in the narrative.
In ``Andal Charitram'' (Tamil), Janardhanan (as Periyazhwar) again demonstrated that bhava is not an exercise in histrionics, but the result of internalisation. His abhinaya was so convincing, that you almost felt he had a child in his arms when he caressed the infant Andal ``found'' under the garden bush.
Though the musical backing (Hari Prasad) was not as good as it could have been, the young artistes danced well enough to make you perceive the lyricism and the special effects of choreography.
Andal (Radhika) had fluid grace and charm, though requiring more depth, as in the re-enactment of her dream union with the Lord (``Varanamayiram"). With the father of Carnatic music for its subject, ``Siri Purandara'' was assured of excellent music (S.Rajaram) to evoke the ambience of self-surrendering devotion. The musicians of the day were Kamalarani (nattuvangam), Sai Sankar (vocal), Sasidhar (flute), Srinivasan (violin), Anil Kumar (mridangam) and Sundaresan (khol). The first half had the tautness which the second lacked (more tableau than dancing). Some scenes stood out, as when the greedy, miserly merchant (Narendran) and his timid assistants made a sharp contrast to the old brahmin (Balagopalan) begging for financial assistance. Purandaradasa's wife (Ganga) managed to hold your interest through the lengthy verses with devotion as the sthayibhava.
The festival also featured ``Glimpses of India'' by the artistes of the Uday Shankar India Culture Centre, Kolkata, directed by Amala Shankar. This gave the younger generation a chance to see the work of cult figure Uday Shankar. But the dancing (as also the music) lacked the quality to do justice to it.
Amala Shankar's emotional commentary brought the past to life. ``Astra Puja'' was among the dances that worked well, while ``Kartikeya'' with which Uday Shankar dazzled viewers (including the then college student Amala who was to marry him) lost all magic when it was performed by a group of girls.
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