In pursuit of perfection
Why did Chitra Sukumaran's Mohiniattam performance lack the authority of solid training? Read on...
Suggesting Draupadi by indicating tresses was a delicate touch.
HEART AND SOUL ENDEAVOUR Chitra Sukumaran performing at the India Habitat Centre. Photo: Sandeep Saxena
With an impressive dossier of performances both within and outside the country, a Yuva Kalaratna award and Nritya Bibhushan title, Mohini Attam dancer Chitra Sukumaran, mentioned in the Habitat brochure as "equally proficient in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathakali", would seem to have credentials any dancer could envy.
And yet this dancer trained under a line of teachers like Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, Vasundhara Doraiswamy (Bharatanatyam), Nirmala Panikkar and Kalamandalam Sumathy, in her Mohiniattam recital under Habitat's HCL Concert Series, had this critic puzzled with unanswered questions. Despite the palpable earnestness of effort, the lack of an andolika sway in the torso and spring-like grace in the dance made one wonder about the kind of sustained training the dancer had had. Perhaps pre-occupation with too many dance forms has eaten into necessary in-depth involvement in one dance.
Too much weight round the hips could have resulted in the straight-bodied dancing with crisp hand movements more in the Bharatanatyam tone rather than the lasya fluidity associated with Mohiniattam. And movement vocabulary was limited. Both in the tyani paying homage to Lord Ganesh and in the mukhachalam in ragamalika and talamalika, the indifferent singing compounded the shortcomings of the dance.
After beginning with a neat enough Hamsadhwani "Shuklaambaradharam Vishnum" prayer, singer Kavalam Sanjivan brought in unmistakable touches of Sri raga into the Madhyamavati.
The Nattai, Todi, Revati and Madhyamavati in mukhachalam found sruti alignment ambivalent. The best part of the singing effort was in the Kanada raga in Gandhari, where both raga control and bhava matched the heart and soul endeavour of the dancer. Gandhari's disillusionment and the pain of a young starry-eyed princess tricked into marriage with a blind king were brought out through some strong emoting, which could benefit with more internalised subtlety in mukhabhinaya. Suggesting Draupadi through just gestures indicating lustrous tresses was a delicate touch.
In a tangled web of deceit and hope turned to hatred, the "Yatho Dharmah Tatho Jayah" acceptance in the libretto flowed naturally.
Raghuraman's very melodious flute accompaniment in the Valaji raga segment was too pacy and out of sync with the slow-spun character of Sopanam music. Shiva as Ardhanariswara in kuttichhedam inspired by verses from Silappadikaram where a male dancer performs this before King Cheran Senguttuvan in the Kannagi temple, forfeited in rendition the opportunity for a decisive Tandav/Lasya contrasting statement in Mohiniattam. For an HCL evening, compering and presentation were poor.
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