Indian Classical

Bharatanatyam performances by Rama Vaidyanathan and Shobana in Palakkad showcased their virtuosity

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They performed at the 9th National Cultural Festival organised by Gowri Creations

The last two evenings of a week-long festival of dance and music at Rappadi Open Air Auditorium, Palakkad, proved to be an aesthetic treat with Bharatanatyam performances by Rama Vaidyanathan and Shobana, which showcased their virtuosity and artistry.

Rama commenced her recital with ‘Skandamoorthi’, a production eulogising Lord Muruga. The birth of Skanda came alive on stage through graceful execution of gestures, fluent exercises in rhythm and captivating expressions. Rama then moved on to Dandayudhapani Pillai’s famous varnam, ‘Swamiye Azhaithodi Vaa’. Here again, Murugan is the ‘nayaka’ whose separation lands the ‘nayika’ in anguish.

The dancer astutely portrayed the myriad moods of the viraholkhantitha nayika, who is unable to withstand the arrows of Lord Kamadeva (God of love). The vyabhicharibhavas (transitory expressions), such as the “cool rays of the moon” and the “fragrance of sandal paste” that heighten the female character’s desire for the protagonist, contributed to the sthayi (enduring) bhava considerably. The dynamics of Rama’s movement in the jathi and swara segments was succinct yet spell-binding. Sudha Raghuraman’s rendition of the piece in raga Poorvikalyani was evocative and the bhava of each and every word was illuminated in consonance with the dancer’s immaculate abhinaya.

Next, she presented an abhang of Janabai, zooming in on Panduranga Vittala. In the piece, the female protagonist perceives the Lord in three different forms — as mother, as co-worker and friend and finally as the supreme Brahman, her saviour.

The dancer, as a devotee, depicted Vittala as a deer and herself as her child. As friend and co-worker, the character’s chiding of Vittala and her insisting on him doing household chores were amusing to watch. In contrast, Rama then showed the character transforming into a devotee for whom Vittala is the ultimate redeemer.

In the Tamil padam ‘Edungaanum’ that followed, the dancer portrayed a visibly exasperated nayika who learns that her lover has spilled the beans about their secret union to all, including her friends. As the lover approaches her while pretending to be pious, the wounded nayika reacts furiously. Rama presented her feeling of shame, irritation and embarrassment with ingenuity.

Rama concluded her recital with a thillana, once again bringing to the fore the image of Muruga and the kavadi (ornamented arched pole) that is integral to him. S Vasudevan’s nattuvangam, Sumod Sreedharan’s beats on the mridangam and G Raghuraman’s flute were well attuned to Rama’s efforts.

Shobana’s performance, on the concluding day of the festival, adhered to the canons of Margam. She began her recital with Mallari, characterised by a chain of swaras that illuminated the rhythmic grace of the dance. Shobana then moved onto a piece in praise of goddess Kaali. The terrifying form of Mahakaali confronting a demon and her mood in contrast to being a benevolent goddess were portrayed with theatrical flavour.

Visual dynamics

The varnam of the Tanjore Quartet, ‘Sarasijakshulu’, set to raga Kalyani and Roopaka tala, captured the state of mind of the nayika through whom the lotus-eyed Krishna’s magnificent feats were unfolded. Shobana wove a series of alluring visual phrases in Sreekrishnathulabharam that put down the arrogance of Satyabhama and held aloft the true devotion and concern of Rukmini. Her expressive upangas intensified the hastabhinaya (hand gestures) and made the vinyasa memorable. She then infused a fresh tone to the clichéd Sudama-Krishna reunion by presenting a condensed version.

Afterwards, Shobana’s disciple, Srividya, presented a Kshetrayya Padam, depicting a nayika whose long-cherished union with Muvva Gopala is repeatedly intercepted in different venues by the crowing of a rooster. Shobana then took up a Javali in raga Chengurutti depicting the distress and trauma of a nayika deeply disenchanted by the nayaka’s infidelity as she comes to know of his dalliance with another lady. The dancer’s instinct for emotive acting entranced the audience when she enacted the female protagonist’s sentimental outpourings in front of her sakhi.

Shobana then depicted the acclaimed lines of the Gitagovindam that highlight Lord Vishnu’s incarnations as Narasimha and Vamana. The closing item of her recital was a thillana of the Tanjore Quartet.

Accomplished artistes usually become part of the orchestra for Shobana’s recitals. With Radha Bhadri as vocalist, Anantha R Krishnan on the mridangam and Sruthi Sagar on the flute, the dancer was in her element throughout. Yet the absence of the violin was conspicuous as it would have added punch to the visual fluidity of the dance.

The performances were held under the auspices of Gowri Creations, Palakkad, as part of its 9th National Cultural Festival.

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