Depiction of outstanding women
THE NUNGAMBAKKAM Cultural Academy, which has lined up several dance performances this season, featured Srekala Bharat on December 16. Taking a slight deviation from the normal routine items that form the margam, Srekala went to a thematic presentation, by incorporating some of the most outstanding women in Indian history. Taking their achievements into account, she wove them into the traditional pattern of Bharatnatyam - Mahila Mahima thus came into being. Along with the choice of the women, she has taken the most striking aspect of each one of them and has suitably choreographed the pieces - with emphasis on abhinaya. While nritta was not given the go by, it was in the expressions and the delineation of the characters, that she scored very well. So if it was Andal, the bhakti or devotion aspect came into play. With inspiration drawn from Tiruppavai, Andal Kautuvam, Srekala, resplendent in a blue costume and with the Andal kondai, went back in time - to describe Andal's devotion to Lord Ranganatha. With Avvaiyar, poetry was in focus. A woman of incredible knowledge, the poetess with her simple and lucid expression, provided the basis of the piece in ragamalika. Her devotion to the Lord was given life by Srekala's inherent talent for expressions. Rani of Jhansi who was known for her bravery came through with some very emphatic jati portions, which was very much in keeping with the character she was portraying. While the song taken from the composition of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, was impassioned, sung in the Carnatic flavour seemed a little out of place.
Muthulakshmi Reddy, the social worker who was instrumental in abolishing the Devadasi system and whose name is synomous with social welfare, was delineated within the confines of traditional dance. A bit in the varnam format, the piece moved at an even pace with the show of the Devadasi tradition, tellingly. The story of Kannagi is of course, very dramatic and lends itself to the dance format - that too abhinaya- and it was perhaps the best piece in the whole theme with Srekala giving this well repeated story, renewed life. Srekala interpreted Mother Aurobindo of Pondicherry for philosophy and her offering to the mother of the different kinds of flowers for each day of the week had a sweet quality that made up for the trifle nasal singing by Chitrambari.
Anne Besant and Rukmani Devi Arundale both of who have made the south were abhinaya and thillana pieces respectively. Dekh na sakta the prelude to the Annie Beasant episode and which went on to the Tamil lyrics was nicely done, the concluding number in the tillana format was an ode to Rukmini Devi, who elevated Bharatanatyam against all odds to where it stands today against all odds. Short and swift, the tillana was the finale to an evening of soothing Bharatnatyam.
Providing good vocal support was Shobana and Chitrambari. N. Dhananjayan played the mridangam and Sivaganesh the violin.
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