When youth and experience merged
Family reunion: The Dhananjayans come together on stage. Pic. by K. Pichumani
THE AUDIENCE at Bharat Kalachar felt like they were watching a family reunion. It was truly moving to see V. P. Dhananjayan, Shantha Dhananjayan and their son Satyajit, all in white and gold, dancing together after many years. They opened with an abhang ``Prathama sumara" on Ganesha in Abheri ragam, Adi talam.
Every item that evening was memorable. Dasavatharam from Jayadeva's first canto, beginning with the verse ``Pralayapayodhijale" by Satyajit and Dhananjayan was characterised by crisp narratives, superbly crafted to include the static, dramatic and the rhythmic. In particular two episodes stood out; the Narasimha avatar for its splendid characterisation by Dhananjayan, and the Parasurama Avataar for the dancers' athleticism in the beautiful Amritavarshini swaram. The music composition in ragamalika, Adi talam, was by Prof. C. V. Chandrasekhar. In contrast, Shantha's treatment of Andal's paasurams from the sixth Thirumozhi, tuned by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan in ragamalika, starting with ``Vaaranam Ayiram" was a quiet detailing of the rituals of a wedding between Andal and Krishna as dreamt by her and related to a friend. But both were equally evocative. Vocalist Sashidharan's quick changes of tune were commendable, as was his clear diction. As admirable was Sunil Kumar's expertise with the flute and Sadagopan's melody on the violin. Ramesh Babu on the mridangam and Venkatakrishnan with the cymbals provided unerring rhythmic support.
Satyajit as a tender, loving Krishna coaxes Radha out of her temper in Jayadeva's ashtapadi ``Vadasi yadi kinchidapi" tuned in Sindhu Bhairavi, Khanda chapu. With eyes full of passion he asks Radha to place her feet on his head as a ``sublime flower to cool his body of tormented love," the love that one could see in Satyajit shining through these words of devotion. Papanasam Sivan's Kapi raga keerthana, ``Enna tavam seidanai" performed by the maestro Dhananjayan was an experience in subtlety and artistry. With tear-filled eyes Dhananjayan simply stood contemplating Yasoda, and at once one felt the power of his emotions. There was a tangible sense of awe and reverence towards Yasoda. The moment passes and he is back to the mundane wondering what good deeds she must have done to have been so blessed. That one phrase had different connotations every time, and Dhananjayan was now demanding, now admiring.
His uninhibited role-play of the mischievous child Krishna, the vatsalya bhava displayed by Yasoda added another dimension to the delineation.
The finale was a sparkling Nrittangahara, composed by Balamurali Krishna, in Kuntalavarali ragam, tisra gati Adi talam, a kaleidoscope of movement patterns with mathematical complexities of song and step. This was a celebration of the joy of togetherness, of youth and experience merging into an artistic entity.
``Maithreem Bhajatha" was sung as homage to M. S. Subbulakshmi, whose `nightingale' voice has immortalised the melody.
Ballet on Vallalar
Choreographing a dance ballet based on a philosophical text is a challenging task and it must have been no different for guru Krishnakumari Narendran to choreograph verses from ``Thiru Arutpa," a compilation of hymns and prose of the nineteenth century saint Sri Ramalinga Swami Adigalar.
Also known as Thiru Arutprakasa Vallalar, the saint propagated Suddha Sanmarga, the path of truth and purity where compassion and attainment of a state of deathlessness is the base of existence.
This production drew on these teachings along with a strong devotional fervour generated by the depth of the poet's yearning to be one with the Lord. Conceptualised by Justice K. Bhaktavatsalam, the dance production was presented by Krishnakumari's senior disciple Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala and her students from Kalapradarshini Srividya, Pavithra, Preetha, Purvaja, Sunitha, Archana, Nalini and Sankari.
The music component of ``Arul Aadal" tuned by Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, was so strong and vibrant that it deserves prominence right at the start.
Melodious vocalist Radha Badri had the support of an alert Nagarajan on the violin and Srinivasan on the flute, with Padmanabhan on the mridangam and Roja Kannan on the nattuvangam providing neat rhythm.
``Arul Aadal" opened with an impressive view of the doors of the Gnana Sabai opening and the seven curtains representing the veils of ignorance being parted one by one to reveal the sacred flame inside; this set the devotional tone of the production.
Parvathi has an expressive and mature manner of emoting, and was convincing in the role of the faithful devotee and later, as the poet envisioned himself, as a woman longing for her Lord.
The dancer was very communicative voicing the saint's philosophy of life but the repetitions were one too many. This led to a slowing down of pace that permeated through to the remaining components of the programme.
The story of the asura Soorapadman was detailed by Parvathi's students graphically, with Shreya appearing as the young saviour, Muruga. The devotee's impassioned prayer was built up gradually in the beautiful Mayamalavagowla composition, ``Karunai kadalil," after which he is rewarded with a vision of the Lord.
In the second part, the devotee now a young woman is overawed by the procession of Tyagesa in a beautiful Gambhiranattai Mallari with well-co-ordinated movements from the dancers bearing the idol. Her friends tease her about her love for Siva. But the heroine remains steadfast, and suffering from the pangs of separation bemoans her state in a beautiful Hindolam composition, ``Oruthunai."
Finally her unshakable devotion is rewarded and she merges with the Lord in a dramatic moment when the temple doors open and the woman passes through into its mysterious darkness.
This is a dance production that would benefit from some editing and fast-forwarding.
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