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A soulful experience

TIME STOOD still, from the moment she offered a Sabha Vandana in an agile posture of Odissi style, revealing the absolute control over her physique and long years of experience in the field of dance. Sonal Mansingh's Odissi recital for Brahma Gana Sabha festival at Sivakami Pethachi auditorium was simply superb. The choice of items for the evening by the veteran artiste was exclusive and exquisite. Sonal gave a scintillating performance, and at certain times, it could be felt that she was in her own world of art and that her thought and action were aimed at a different, higher plane altogether. It was a soul-filling and elevating experience to watch this outstanding artiste.

The invocatory Mangalacharan was on Devi Jagadamba in her varied manifestations, concluding with that of Bhavani, and rendered with the poetry of Kavi Kalidasa - "Manikya Veenaam" etc.

Sonal froze into some of the picturesque poses, and presented this number with grace and beauty. The following was a pallavi, composed specially for her in Hamsadhwani raga by Late Shri Vasanth Dhakar. Sonal's handling of the pallavi gained momentum gradually with aspects of Laya vinyasa, adding beauties of nritta-oriented movements and intricate inter-play of rhythm.

The Ashtapadi of the evening, a major component of an Odissi recital focussing on the interpretative aspect was, `Sakhi he Kesi,' wherein Radha confides to her friend about her first meeting with Krishna.

While describing the discreet meeting of Radha and Krishna (Nibhruta Nikunja) under the bowers, some depictions of Sonal, especially when she demonstrated the silent approach of Radha in search of her Lord-beloved, by removing the anklets and putting off the lamp in hand, were exquisitely portrayed.

An atmosphere of serenity was instantly created as Sonal started the Ardhanareeswara Stotra of Adi Sankara.

The male and female concept, as embodied in the form of the Lord and the innate existence of the same in the individual self, were beautifully and smoothly explored by Sonal, without dramatising at any point of time.

The highlight of the recital was an Oriya song depicting the Vraja women in a gossiping session, where they discuss with wonder the varied mischievous sports of child Krishna — killing of Bakaasura and Pootana, lifting of the Govardhana, vanquishing serpent Kalia, and the swallowing of mud.

Sonal's usage of Natyadharmi in every move was like a lesson for emulation on aspects of developing episodic narrations such as those of Pootana and that of Yasoda's wonderment. Each one was enacted in a subtle, yet effective method.

The approach was refreshing and different from what is normally seen. It was moving when Sonal portrayed child Krishna, who is seeking pardon from the angry Yasoda, and the mother reconciling thereafter to be struck in wonder at what she sees as the child opens His mouth, to show her the entire universe inside.

The reversal of the roles here were done with so much ease and grace, and the reactions of Yasoda, trembling at that sight, was an astonishing display of skill, by Sonal, creating a blissful experience.

The Dasavatara from Gita Govinda, in a crisp depiction and a biblical theme featuring Mary of Magdalene, revealed the reach of Sonal from the traditional repertory of Odissi to cross-cultural experimentation — all based on traditional framework, adding further to her constant quest for attaining the higher values of art and life.

The orchestra, comprising of Niranjan (dhol and pakhwaj), Dayanand Parihast (vocal), Abrar Hussain (sarod), Srinivas Satpati (flute) and Harish Jain (special lighting), gave the dancer solid support, although initially the audio system at the venue lacked proper balancing.

Yet another highlight of the evening was Sonal's fascinating, extempore explanations preceding every item, which again was as poetical as her performance.

NANDINI RAMANI

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