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Captivating performance

HAREESH BAL

A Mohiniyattom performance by Sunanda Nair enthralled the audience.



SYMBOL OF GRACE: Sunanda Nair

When `puritans' of the dance forms frowned at what they called `dilution' it was Kanak Rele, who silenced those critics with her style and technical excellence. And one of her disciples, Sunanda Nair, and her troupe braved the floods in Mumbai and came to Kochi to give a wonderful performance that drew a crowd of aficionados.

The program for Dharani society, which started with a Ganesha stuti, proceeded to a breathtaking number, `Ashta Nayika.' The eight different heroines described in Bharatha's `Natyashastra' came alive in full bloom in the emotion of love.

Rainbow of emotions

Each nayika is characterised by a different state of emotions and body language. The manner in which Sunanda depicted even a simple act of wincing her eyes after applying colirium was very natural. So was her performance of the different acts - shringara and alankara of the `Vasaka Sajitha Nayikas.' The resoluteness of the nayika was brought out when she cleaned the house, decorated the house with a rangoli and lit a lamp, the light of hope. Another beautiful portrayal was that of `Swadheenabhadrika,' who has her lord under her control. In a ludicrous act of chewing betel and nut, Sunanda brought out the vanity and daringness of the heroine. While the `Kalahantarita,' the quarrelsome one, demanded the same bunch of flowers the beau gave to another young woman, `Khandita' the enraged one was angry, jealous only to repent in the end, for her beau goes away.

Sunanda's vibrant movements and unrestrained abhinaya were a delight to watch. "If Bharatnatyam can accept and thrive with so many schools, why is there such a fuss about variations in Mohiniyattom?" asked Sunanda.

"If one's body accepts a movement and you can do it gracefully within the ambit of the grammar, one should go for it. And when the folk tradition of Kerala is so rich, it provides great scope for variety; so borrow from them, why from a `neighbour'?" Sunanda revealed her stand.

The portrayal that was outstanding was that of `Pranita Bhadraka,' whose anguish knew no bounds when her lord left her to attend to duty. Lachrymose and shaken, she hazily goes through a process of aarti and adorns him with a tilak. A sly abhisarika removes her anklets and goes out to meet her lord. Sunanda held the attention of the audience throughout this long piece, which offered a lot of variety, one moment the dancer was languorous or tearful, the next moment she was graceful and full of girlish charm.

The `Ashtapadi' brought out the vocal prowess of Kalamandalam Girish who traversed through myriad shades in a ragamalika in `Sakhi he.'

In `Oru Makal,' which portrays the worries of a mother whose daughter eloped with a warrior, Sunanda's abhinaya of sarcasm for the warrior brought guffaws from the audience.

`Kubja' depicts a hunchback maid of Kamsa, who is liberated from his shackles by Krishna, and Sunanda equated the character as a symbol of oppression. She brought the performance to a finale, as the music soared, and at the height of devotion she portrayed the yearning and fulfilment of the character, who prostrates at the vision of the lord.

A grand blend of technique, talent and soul.

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