The Empowered Woman
DANCING UNDER the aegis of the Music Academy, after more years than one would remember, Odissi exponent Sonal Mansingh did not disappoint the audience, the breathtaking energy of her performance astounding, to say the least, for a dancer well past her prime. Sonal's Nayika, the theme for the evening, was not the dulcet, pretty heroine, wilting in the absence of the loved one.
Instead, one was treated to the empowered Woman, starting with the hymn in the Rig Veda, where the ``Brahmagyani, the seer and sage" as Cosmic energy Shakti introduces herself as the resplendent gilded power linking Earth and Sky. She is the catalytic power propelling the Bow of Rudra. Touching the sky with her forehead, she with the heat of her penance, creates the Universe.
Weaving into the composition the rhythmic syllables of Thai Natta, Sonal made the invocation a combination of strong frozen moments and twinkling rhythm evocative of power.
The climax of the evening was Dasamahavidya, the ten manifestations of the Devi juxtaposed against the ten incarnations of Vishnu. The sentence from the Lalita Sahasranaman ``karanguli nakhotpanna Narayana dasa kritih" that from the nails of the ten fingers of the Devi emerged the ten manifestations of Narayana as Dasavatar, explained the logic of putting the Dasamahavidya with the Dasavatar. The ten manifestations of Sakti Kamala, Bagalamukhi, Bhuvaneswari, Bhairavi, Dhoomavati, Chinnamasta, Tara, Kali, Matangi and Shodashi embody a whole range of attitudes gracious and awesome, benign and destructive. And one admired the dancer's involvement as much as the balance and rock-like stillness in the freezes, coming as punctuation points after fast paced movements. Singer Bankim Sethi, whose voice was not at its best in the invocation and the Pallavi in Hamsadhwani, soon came into its own, and in the ragamalika accompaniment for the Dasamahavidya, he was at his best.
Jayadeva's Ashtapadi ``Ramate yamuna pulinavane vijayi murariradhuna" saw Radha moving between despair and anguish on the one hand and jealousy and anger on the other as she imagines her beloved Krishna dallying with a younger woman, lovingly decorating her dark tresses with a Kurabaka flower. Sonal's rendition of the verses had passion. As one highly responsive to poetry and literature, it is not surprising that Sonal should have been drawn to Orissa's narrative tradition of the Pala, where the highly learned performers, take one theme and describe it through poetry from different sources. The explanations for each of the scenes of Sonal's Su Kuntala (She of the beautiful hair) were heard in parts with the microphone playing hide and seek, what with the fluctuating volume. The musical interlude with Subroto Dey playing on the sitar followed by Bankim's cymbals interacting with Niranjan Bhol's Pakhawaj was interesting and out of the usual. On the flute was Rajkishore Dhola Behera. Harish Jain's sensitive lighting added to the total effect.
Send this article to Friends by