STRAINS OF music filled a near empty Narada Gana Sabha Hall on January 8. The vocals were more an exercise of devotion than performance. And even as the curtains went up for the actual recital, it made one realise that overkill of anything is indeed counter-productive. It must have taken great courage for the artiste of the evening to dance with the same amount of dedication and enthusiasm, as she would have before a full audience.
This is probably the price one must pay for the over abundance of programmes spread through the season. So much so that genuinely talented artistes never really get their due or viewers.
Prateesha Suresh is one such performer. Her stage presence and her sadhana make her a very delightful dancer. And it did seem a great pity that there were not too many to enjoy the lustre she imparted to the items that seem to be the common fare in most recitals.
Beginning with the Pushpanjali in raga Hamsadhwani and talam Rupakam, she warmed up to the Ragamalika Shabdam that followed. In a way, it was really pleasant to see the traditional item come alive with Prateesha's interpretation in an age where the Shabdam is passed over.
The varnam in Ragamalika and talam adi, "Swami Vara Solladi," unfolded slowly with no haste over the nritta. It was not so much a display of energy but thoroughness to get the pretty patterns of the piece in full impact. And one watched with growing respect as the varnam progressed, enhanced as it was by very good nattuvangam and vocals. As the nayika entreated her sakhi to bring the lord to her, Prateesha brought about an honesty to her bhava. "Mahadeva Shiva Shambho" in raga Revathi, talam adi, brought focus to the dynamic, dancing deity. The kriti received a lot of passion and bristled with good footwork especially when Shiva was being described. Not only was it striking but also brought in a sombre mood of devotion. The accompaniment was strong from the orchestra comprising nattuvangam (D. V. Prassana Kumar), vocal (Ramesh Chadaga), mridangam (Harsha Saarraga), violin (Nataraja Murthy) and flute (Narashimha Murthy).
In the guru's footsteps
It has been said before and probably will be said yet again that a good dancer need not necessarily be a good teacher. And vice versa. But there are always exceptions and Urmila Satyanarayana is one who not only excels as a performer, but also a teacher. Which is pretty evident from the performance of her student, Anwesha Das. Anwesha probably also happens to be her best example of someone who can carry on the tradition.
Anwesha's performance at the same venue on January 9 had many elements of the clear, systematic and thorough training she has received from her guru.
Completely in the traditional margam, she began her recital with the Pushpanjali in Gambhira Nattai, a Lalgudi composition. Paying obeisance to the remover of obstacles, Ganesha, Anwesha moved with surety, and lightly as a doe covered the stage confidently.
The varnam that followed, which was a test of stamina and dedication, was very nicely rendered replete with nritta that was crisp but not enough to take away from the intrinsic softness of the style.
Much of the angularity vanished with the grace Anwesha imparted to her teermanams. She invested a great deal of emotion, especially in the portions where the nayika gears up in anticipation of meeting her lord.
It must also be kept in mind that much of the bhava gets honed with experience and in her case with each performance it gets better and better. This aspect showed up in the javali in Khamaj and talam adi where the artiste brought some truly fine moments to the item. No dance can be above a certain level if the accompanists are average.
Happily in this instance they proved to be the ones adding the charm, especially the vocal where Swamimalai S. K. Suresh brought tremendous beauty to the items chosen.
Urmila's nattuvangam was unobtrusive and supportive, while Haribabu on the mridangam, C. P. Venkatesh on the flute and Veeramani on the violin seemed in sync with the proceedings.
Nalini Prakash from Coonoor is a fine dancer and there are no doubts about that. Usually her performances are of a uniformly good standard. What varies from one to the other is the level of passion she invests in the items especially in ones like the padam or javali.
And in her performance at the Mylapore Fine Arts on January 10, Nalini gave much of herself to the nritta aspect where vibrant footwork and assured confidence took centre stage.
It was evident right from the beginning, where Nalini did the "Tirupuzgazh" in Ragamalika in praise of Lord Muruga. The item was joyful as the artiste went on to describe the wonders of the lord the blue of her costume complemented the visual imagery of the peacock that is the vahana of Muruga.
The "Mahadeva Kautuvam" in praise of Shiva the cosmic dancer in Mohana and talam rupakam, a Vidwan Madurai Krishan composition, was simple in its delineation equally matched by the simple nritta patterns and stances.
The beautiful Tanjore Quartet varnam, "Sami Ninne" in praise of Lord Brihadeeswara in Ragamalika and talam rupakam, retains the original jatis composed by the Quartet and passed on, through generations, to Nalini's guru, Sudharani Raghupati. The varnam got its appeal from the fanatical adherence to the margam and the originality of the composition.
The bhakti aspect came to the fore as she drew upon her inner resources of spirituality to impart to the narration and description of the presiding deity of Tanjavur. Every step, every expression reflected the nuances of the bhakti-shringara. Whether it was in the stringing of the flowers for the garland or the praying, appealing or beseeching. And all along, Nalini never once lost her grip over the adavus and nritta even if in the second half she literally raced through the item. Her pacy footwork was matched by equally forceful nattuvangam by Priya Murle whose voice dipped and rose with each emotion and movement. Aniruddha's mastery over the mridangam is not just technique.
Very often the feeling he imparts to his playing elevates the performance. Which is probably why in parts the recital turned out to be an audio-visual spectacle. Sharanya Krishnan's vocal gathered the performance in its sweetness. If only she is more confident, she will go far. Vijayaraghan on the violin proved to be the last but vital angle to the synergy provided by the accompanists.
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