Narada Gana Sabha
Sparkling nritta, subtle abhinaya
URMILA SATHYANARAYANAN is one of the stars among the dancers of the younger generation and has performed extensively in India and abroad. Having trained under two famous Bharatanatyam gurus K. J. Sarasa (Vazhuvoor bani) and Kalanidhi Narayanan (abhinaya) Urmila has added lustre to her flair for dance.
Blessed with a captivating stage presence, she combines glamour and good dance technique. Noteworthy features in Urmila's dance are her arresting araimandi, graceful sparkling nritta, sculpturesque poses, subtle abhinaya and a contemporary sensibility. All this was evident in her recital at the Narada Gana Sabha. In Urmila's recital one could see the `peria visiri' (central fan) in the Bharatanatyam costume opening out in all its beauty as she admirably maintained a firm araimandi the basic stance of Bharatanatyam.
After the opening strains of the famous Vazhuvoor todayamangalam ``Jaya Suddha Purivasa," Urmila commenced the dance recital with a pushpanjali and a verse from Viswanatha Ashtakam which she ended with the striking pose of a Sivalinga. Muthuswami Dikshitar's kriti in Sama raga, Adi tala ``Annapoorney Visalakshi" came next. It was more of a padartha (word meaning) interpretation of the song with many poses of Devi woven into the dance.
The varnam in Telugu ``Sami entani telpudura" in Surati raga, Roopaka tala, a composition of Subbarama Dikshitar, provided Urmila ample scope to impress with her nritta and subtle yet communicative abhinaya. Addressed to Raja Ettendra, the sakhi describes the beauty and good qualities of the heroine who has lost her heart to him and requests him to go to her. Urmila's sancharis were imaginative and had the right admixture of persuasion and respect for the Lord. In the second half of the varnam in the fast tempo, the abhinaya was not as evocative, but Urmila held the attention of the audience with her sprightly nritta.
The orchestra comprising Swamimalai S. K. Suresh (nattuvangam and vocal), Nellai Kannan (mridanga), C. P. Venkatesan (flute), Sikhamani (violin) gave good support. The presence of a second vocalist would have helped to relieve the strain on S. K.
Suresh who wielded the cymbals, recited the jatis and sang as well.
The post-varnam segment featured the old Tamil padam ``Kayil rokka panam keladi," Swati Tirunal's popular Hindi bhajan ``Visweswara darshan" in Sindhubahairavi raga and a tillana of Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar in Behag raga. In the padam, Urmila performed with aplomb the role of the brazen old dasi who teaches a novice some of the tricks of the trade. So what if he is Lord Muruga? If he doesn't have cash, shut the door on his face," says she.
In the Hindi bhajan, Urmila vividly depicted the unique impressions of Kasi the narrow lanes, the bathing ghats, the lamps afloat on the river, the cycle of life and death through a joyous procession and the burning ghats, temples, holy men, and finally the Viswanatha temple with its Sivalinga which the devotee washes with her tears.
In her recital, Urmila covered the stage well with her graceful leaps and extended adavus. But in her enthusiasm to do so she at times almost jumped out into the side wings as if making an exit! And, even as one gets immersed in the dance, the dancer must remember to tailor her movements to the costume she is wearing to lift the leg that much and no more in a skirt costume! Overall, a delightful performance. Urmila's thoughtful and imaginative entries and exits for most of the items were like decorative tassels on a finely woven fabric of dance.
Crisp and aesthetic
It was an enjoyable fare with all the ingredients in the right proportions. Meenakshi Chitharanjan's dance at the Narada Gana Sabha was neat and crisp, the music was good, and her choice of colours for the two costumes parrot green with red border and a sari costume in majenta was appropriate and made her stand out against the light brown backdrop. Meenakshi Chitharanjan, senior disciple of natyacharya Pandanallur Subbaraya Pillai, is a well-established artiste and runs a dance school of her own.
A crisp invocation to goddess Meenambika in which Adi Sankara describes the fish-eyed Mother Goddess as the embodiment of Omkara, sound and light, flowed into a pleasing melody in Ranjani raga, a prayer to Devi (composed by Yoganarasimham) to protect her devotee. This too described the beautiful eyes of the goddess, but in this song, ``Sada saranga nayane," the eyes were compared with those of the deer. Meenakshi presented the various attributes of Devi with appropriate poses.
Meenakshi's traditional grounding was clearly apparent in the presentation of the Tamil varnam, ``Sarasa nine" in Karnataka Kapi raga/Roopaka tala, a composition of the famous Thanjavur Quartet. Her opening trikala jati was crisp and well structured.
The nayika tells the handsome Lord Sundareswarar of Madurai that she has lost her heart to him and requests him to come to her. In her sancharis, Meenakshi aesthetically used the beautiful imagery of two birds, the deer, the bee and the blossom to depict the nayika who eagerly awaits his kisses. The abhinaya sancharis had a good old-time flavour as Meenakshi performed them in three directions right, left and centre with slight variations.
The orchestra comprising Pandanallur Pandian (nattuvangam), Radha Badri (vocal), Sakthivel (mridangam), Kannan (violin), and Srinivasan (flute) was well balanced and an asset to the dance. Radha Badri sang soulfully, but her singing can have better impact if she improves her depiction intonation one had to strain to catch the lyrics. She even missed a cue for a teermanam and was looking into the songbook now and then.
In the post-varnam segment, Meenakshi presented a Kshetrayya padam ``Choodare" in Sahana raga in which a group of women gossip about the audacity of a married woman from a respectable family who walks out boldly to meet her lover Lord Muvvagopala.
Meenakshi's abhinaya for this piece was straightforward, crisp and communicative. The next item ``Pogum vazhiyil edirpattu" was an interesting portrayal of a vignette from Sangam literature. Meenakshi used poet Gnanakoothan's simplified Tamil version of the original poem. It was in ragamalika set to melodious music by Pandanallur Srinivasa Pillai. Meenakshi painted a pretty picture of the teasing dialogue between a young man and a girl in an interesting manner through uncluttered abhinaya.
The concluding tillana, a composition of M. Balamuralikrishna, in Dwijavanti raga, had a folk touch. Meenakshi had composed fast jatis punctuated with pauses in the dance to suit the music composition, and the accents fell right on the beat. Overall, an enjoyable evening of traditional Bharatanatyam.
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