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Captivating ballet

Despite a hackneyed theme, the performance was riveting.



ENGAGING AFFAIR Padmaja Reddy's `Kalyana Srinivasam' kept the audience glued to their seats.

Close on the heels of the Bhagavad Gita under the auspicious of the Chaitanya Art Theatres was Kalyana Srinivasam by Padmaja Reddy and her troupe. It was appealing despite the theme being a hackneyed one. Among the mythologicals, the Srinivasa (Tirumala Tirupathi deity) fable is wrought with discrepancies that are glaring in the present-day scenario and defies rationale. Certain sequences like goddess Lakshmi being brought to the level of a common housewife leaving her consort in a huff; of gods being born as cows and cowherds; of the Padamavathi-Lakshmi squabble and such others are too contrived and incredulous to a modern mind.

Despite these shortcomings inherent in the story, Kalyana Srinivasam was able to hold the audience to its seats by a quick succession of scenes, aesthetic stage settings, judicious pairing of artistes, flowing lyrics and melodious vocals. Footwork varied with dancers and a sequence of events, which was fair enough.

The first half of the ballet was captivating with Bhrigu and other rishis at the yagna in Naimisharanya visited by Narada whose row over the greatest of the Trinity spurs Bhrigu to undertake a test himself. All the five male artistes were deft dancers too. Then opened up three different worlds — Satyaloka, Kailasa and Vaikunta as Bhrigu calls on each. Among the couples, Shiva and Parvati set the stage afire with statuesque stances and flowing jatis. Samidha (Parvathi) seemed to be a speedy dancer who was able to keep absolute pace with her male counterpart Shekar. Though they executed extensive rhythmic patterns, they seem to have avoided getting into complex footwork that could have further enhanced the scene.

Awry `mudra'

The intermittent mingling of the rishis and devakanyas as chorus with the divine couple was a beautiful piece of creativity. Ramani as Saraswati and Satyanarayana as Brahma also proved to be good dancers except that Ramani performed a mudra of holding the veena from above her left shoulder to below her right. The least the dancer could have done is to watch the positioning of veena in the orchestra on stage. The celestial Lakshmi and Vishnu in Vaikunta were the only mismatch among the Trinity and their consorts. Manju Hema Malini as Lakshmi who walks out on Vishnu post-Bhrigu insult and later Padmaja Reddy as Padmavathi, both looked physically over and above Madhavi Mala — the female impersonation of Vishnu/Srinivasa. Till this point, the ballet seemed well-positioned with males donning male roles. Shiva Adinarayana as Bhrigu and later Chola raja looked good but lacked eye language. Lakshmi trying to extol Vishnu's virtues through mime and song looked ridiculous. Padmaja Reddy looked imposing as the regal Padmavathi in a gorgeous costume. She kept her dance to optimal footwork but had the knack of taking up the entire stage space. The third person narration through a group of dancers served its purpose but not without sounding awkward in parts.

The Padmavathi-Srinivasa romance could have been edited a little and the run up to the kalyanam could have been smoother. There was an abrupt leap to the divine wedding and the last scene where Srinivasa turns into a stone idol unable to solve the squabble between his present consort and the previous one looked like a post-script. The group of female dancers lost coordination towards the end and looked exhausted. Ravindra Bharathi played host to this Kuchipudi ballet.

P.V. Sastry (also choreographer and music composer) on the nattuvangam sounded good. Rajagopalachary on the mridangam and Srikanth on the tabla were at their usual best. Sudhakar on the veena made his presence felt and overpowered the violinist Saikumar and Dattatreya on the flute.

R.K.

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