Rajeswari Sainath's depiction of `Ratna Panchakam' highlighted the performer's classicist style.
Rajeswari Sainath gave her best in terms of `nritya' and `abhinaya'.
The Kalasagaram annual fest took off on the dance front with Ratna Panchakam a five-pronged approach to the five gems in the scheme of divinity. Though a little amorphous as a thematic composition, it served to recast mythological stories with emphasis on certain sterling qualities exemplified by the divine figures. More than anything else, it was Rajeswari Sainath's classicist style of presentation that went well with the audience.
The Ratna Panchakam starts with extolling the divine grace of the multi-faceted mother goddess (Stri Ratna) whose innumerable forms with different connotations have bestowed mankind with boundless love and rescued ardent devotees from peril. A fairly elaborate solo by Rajeswari, this piece was perhaps the best of five both in its technical aspects, music and meaning. It was elating to watch Rajeswari launch into highly structured jatis (footwork) defining the beginning of the verse in keeping with the imposing theme. Perfect positioning, accuracy and alertness are her forte. These are amply evident in every move of her body and gestures to a faultless precision. The tender leaf green costume gave an auspicious start.
With such a perfect display of the divine nature as envisaged in the Puranas, the tempo should have been built in echelons to a grand finale. Instead, it went petering down despite Rajeswari's expertise and her disciples' infallible dancing abilities. The shortcoming was more in the choice of subject rather than the medium itself. From Stri Ratna, we were led to Bhatki Ratna where the young dancers uphold Hanuman as devotion personified. An Annamacharya kriti in Dharmavathi (raga) was chosen to illustrate the incomparable Bhakti of Hanuman. The dancers blended sequences artistically without losing step, especially in footwork delineations all the time with the significant hastha mudra depicting the markatam (monkey). Then came the Guru Ratna with the sterling example of the greatest of teachers Lord Krishna. Rajeswari takes over (again solo) at this point with Krishna Ashtothram (in Ragamalika). A most melodious swara precedes the song Sri Krishna Kamalanaadha.... Her abhinaya in the Poothana feeding baby Krishna, the Arjuna-Krishna dialogue in mime were remarkable. Muthu Kumar made a mark at this apt juncture with his melodic rendition on the bamboo.
The Veera Ratna is depicted in Lord Muruga (Subramanya). This was particularly a bhava-oriented piece where expression and gesture to comparatively simple dance predominated. The duo, Amaram Gita and Sangitha in the typical native costume looked attractive and did a fine job, acting out the Valli-Murugan romantic saga to a keertana in Hamsadhwani. The girls struck picturesque postures and danced effortlessly full of grace. But the emotion seems to have been placed in the wrong quarter. There was more shringara than veera in the story. So also, Hanuman's illustration was more Veera than Bhakti going by the story and song.
The last of the virtues is none but Mahavishnu the Bhuvanekara Ratna (universal). The illustration was to the real-life story of Narayana Bhattathiri and the Lord Guruvayoorappan. Rajeswari's Om Namo Narayana in Karna Ranjani (Khanda Chapu talam) was more song and mime sans jatis, which obviously struck a total contrast with the opening of the Ratna Panchakam. She gave her best in terms of nritya and abhinaya but the inherent lack of grandeur was glaring. Verses from Narayaneeyam interspersed with powerful jatis could have produced the desired effect. Veera Raghavan's vocal rendition was uplifting to say the least. He was able to convey the right emotion giving the cutting edge to the entire presentation. Srinivas' nattuvangam picked up after the initial hiccup. Nellai Kannan on the mridangam was great from start to finish. Chander Rao's violin was not all that pronounced. The group tillana (a Madurai T. Srinivasan's composition) in Sumaneesa Ranjani was a skilled show in good synch with proper aesthetics in place though by and large there seemed to be too many dancers on stage especially given this particular style of dance. The Bhagyalakshmi Kala Bhavan (Keyes High School premises) played host to the show.
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