Thiruvaimozhi ... well-researched Pic. by S. Thanthoni
WITH A dignity of bearing acquired from playing the male lead in many of Kalakshetra's dance dramas, Sheejith Krishna cuts an impressive figure on stage. His strength and passion stem from the rhythmic nuances embedded in the structure of the classical art, apparent from his explorations with laya in a percussion-dominated recital.
Besides the induction of the tavil played by Arunkumar Somasundaram into the orchestra, Sheejith offered both percussionists including mridangam-expert Ramesh Babu, their time in the sun with the tani avartanam added on to the tillana, in which he tried to participate with an impromptu showing. Not that this move achieved any new distinction for the dancer, it just presented him in a new light as someone who is willing to take chances and push the boundaries of his comfort-zone. But this is what endeared him to his audience.
The brilliant nritta commenced with a well-crafted Nandi Chol set in Khanda triputa talam that had been incorporated into the Shiva Panchakshara Stuthi.
This was followed by the demanding teermanams composed by tavil vidwan Haridwaramangalam A. K. Palanivel, in the Misra Sivaranjani varnam, "Angayarkanni Neeve Arulvai'' by T. R. Subramaniam set in Adi talam. While the teermanams were executed by Sheejith with clarity and agility, the tisra nadai jathi stood out for the tavil sollus recited with forceful fervour by young nattuvanar Haripadman, and another for its unique imagery of worshipping Goddess Meenakshi.
The charana swara arudis were also impressive. But there were some disappointments: one was the insufficient use of the tavil that ended up only as an embellishment; another was about the composition of adavus in the teermanams that seemed to restrict the dancer to a small area on stage.
The choreography of the Nalinakanti ragam, Adi talam tillana though, was exceptional. This composition of S. Rajaram, senior musician and principal of Kalakshetra, started with elaborate mei adavus and slowly built up to a crescendo of music and movement, with a pronounced rhythmic quality not obliterated by speed.
The consistent tenor of Sai Shankar's voice provided unobtrusive melody, with the harmonious support of young Ishwar on the violin and Sashidar on the flute.
Classic in a capsule
The 16th century saint-poet Tulasidas, most well-known for his immortal classic, "Rama-Charita-Manas,'' also penned the popular "Hanuman Chalisa,'' a hymn of 40 verses recounting the virtues and adventures of Hanuman. Written in a dialect of Hindi called Avadhi, the Hanuman mantra is considered an excellent remedy for all Mars and Saturn-related troubles. This sacred hymn served as the core of Divyasena's production of the same name presented by a cast of 25, including Divyasena and her students, scheduled fittingly by Bharat Kalachar to celebrate Hanumath Jayanthi.
Illustrating lengthy prose poses a challenge that is furthered when the chronological order of events has not been maintained in the composition. To contain the presentation within a 75-minute time frame, the verses were dealt with in smaller-sized capsules, now and then interspersed with illustrations. While this took care of the text, the narration dominated the recital like a book with more words than pictures. Though the verses were mounted on a pedestal of rhythm and accompanied by short teermanams and thatti mettu sequences, the choreography felt repetitive. It did not help that the interpretations were restricted to padarthabhinaya that is, literal translation.
Fortunately, the problem was only with the visualisation aspect. The group dances were remarkable for their variety in presentations and the dancers were uniformly involved and skilful, their discipline, kaala-pramaanam and thoroughness evident in the confident display. The music composed by J. Ramesh was good, and so was his vocal effort, except for the indistinct pronunciation.
Aadith Narayan, dancer-nattuvanar, was the vital link between the dancers and the orchestra, while B. P. Haribabu on the mridangam was supportive as Divyasena's husband and composer of the rhythmic segments.
Violin by M. S. Kannan, flute by G. Nataraj and veena by Radha Venkateshwaran provided all the harmony for the frequent enjoyable interludes of melody.
The sancharis of the young and brave Hanuman (Suchitha) with his 12 friends was a delightful segment of good music in Priyadarshini ragam and good dance in tisra nadai; the tiny tots with painted faces playing on stage most naturally.
The Asoka vanam scene in Lanka was equally well captured with Divyasena as Sita and Varsha as Hanuman and the raakshasas playing their roles admirably. The chief narrators Shakthi, Sneha, Bhargavi, Raghavi, Vinaya and Durga dressed in simple costumes of maroon and orange did their job with dignity. Divyasena, a student of J. Suryanarayana Moorthy and the choreographer of the pantomime, was dressed as simply in Mangalgiri cotton and juggled the many roles with consummate ease.
``Thiruvaimozhi" was a dance presentation of select Periyazhwar paasurams strung together to form a garland of devotional hymns capturing divinity in the form of the delightful infant Krishna. This well-researched work was presented by Niveditha Parthasarathy and her students with the assistance of her mother Padmini in the research and Meenakshi Srinivasan and Padmini Venkatesan in the music composition.
The presentation started with the Mallari and Todayamangalam, performed with much enthusiasm by the younger students, followed by a lively exposition of verses from the Prabhandam Thiru Pallandu by the older group. This impressive beginning promised much but eventually failed to deliver. The subsequent verses were split into ten parts according to different phases in the infant's growth like a series of short portraits. Without a strong narrative to bind them together, these literal interpretations hung loosely, some seeming to overlap.
The introductions to each item were well-documented, but far too long, and on occasion exceeded the duration of the portrayal itself. The young dancers excelled themselves that evening in their illustration of the Vamana avatar in the paasuram, ``Siriyen endru" and in the kummi in the Chappani Paruvam.
The finale, a pancharatna thillana composed in Aadi talam by K. N. Dhandayuthapani Pillai, was as invigorating as the opening anjali. This was followed by a paasuram, ``Kaliyan poigal" tuned in Madhyamavathi and choreographed beautifully as a mangalam with all the students on stage creating a grand visual. The orchestra was led by efficient nattuvanar Swaminathan who was supported ably by Srirangam Varadarajan on the mridangam. Devarajan on the flute was melodious, but Annapoorna with her husky voice struggled to keep to the challenge of this presentation.
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