CV Chandrasekhar: A life devoted to dance

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HAMSA VENKAT is convinced that Prof. CV Chandrasekhar sees dance as a form of sadhana\

“Dance is my passion; it is my life,” said Prof. Chandrasekhar as he addressed the audience at the end of his Sydney performance recently.

A pin drop silence welcomed his address and not a single person in the audience wanted to leave. They wanted more. When most shows witness people walking out during the interval or before the mangalam (final prayer) is sung, this was a difference and was in itself an evidence of the quality of the program. The show titled ‘Parampara: A heritage in expression through dance’ was staged on 27 March at Ryde Civic Centre, organised by the Samarpana School of Dance.

Padmabhushan Prof. Chandrasekhar truly demonstrated the age old saying from the Natya Shastra. “Yatho hastha, thatho drishti, yatho drishti thatho manah, yatho manah thatho bhava, yatho bhava thatho rasa”. When the hands, eyes, mind and soul are all dancing in unison, one is transported to the sublime. Every glance, turn of the head, flick of the wrist, right up to the tip of his fingers, danced in unison… It was clear he was dancing with joy… and from within. He truly transported the audience from the mundane to the realms of the spiritual.

Prof. Chandrasekhar started the performance with Vinayagar sthuthi, an invocation to Lord Ganesha and Alarippu. The angika abhinaya was so profound that one was totally captivated; the way he held his hands in anjali, folded in prayer, spoke volumes on devotion. The perfect natyarambam and subtle shoulder and eye movement in the alarippu was a treat to watch.

The invocatory piece was followed by the Varnam, the piece de resistance of any Bharathanatyam recital. Here Prof. Chandrasekhar chose the very intense and moving Papanasam Sivan varnam, Swami naan in Nattakurinji. This was preceded by a vritham, describing Lord Shiva. The humility with which he held his body in the delineation of the line manitha piraviyum venduvathen spoke powerfully about the dancer as a human in total surrender to the Lord. Every line of the Varnam was sculpted in detail; the difference portrayed in a split second between the masculine and feminine Shiva and Shakthi, in the line maadhor panga; the elegant flick of the wrist as he chanted the Lord’s name and sang his praises on the Tambura in the line namamrutha paname en jeevaname; the intense look of longing and yearning to have a glimpse of the Lord’s feet in the line nadanam adum sevadi darisanam – all stand out in memory. The jathis were intricate, with variation in speed, and it was a joy to watch the perfect postures of aramandi, swasthikam and prayankanam.

Chidambaram Suresh on the nattuvangam excelled in his art on the cymbals and the sollukattus (rhythmic syllables) were pronounced with majesty and mastery.

The second half began with the sedate padam, Etthai kandu nee, where a mother questions her daughter about her choice of husband, Lord Shiva. The mother says, what attracted you to Gangadharan, the one who has the other woman, Ganga flowing from his matted locks. The mother lists Lord Shiva’s faults with sarcasm and says, maybe you are attracted to his matted locks, maybe the snakes that coil around him, the garland of skulls or perhaps his toddling on nandi the bull? Or perhaps his dancing with the beings of the netherworld, or the gifts that your in-laws will shower on you? The myriad emotions reflecting the angst of the mother was communicated through this item with beauty and subtlety: the puzzled look, transferring to sarcasm, intensifying to scorn and concern, and finally an attempt to persuade in vain.

This was followed by the famous piece from the Rama Natakam, Yaro Ivar Yaro in Bhairavi. Prof. Chandrasekhar donned the role of Rama entering Mythila, picking the ball that falls from the balcony and gazing up to lock eyes with the beautiful Seetha. Prof. Chandrasekhar transported us to that moment in time in the Ramayana as he portrayed the grandeur and prosperity of Mythila, the moment of love at first sight followed by the reflection on who this divine beauty is, the vague sense of recognition from a past birth. The way he walked away at the end of the dance with a backward glance at the balcony at Seetha, brought a smile to every romantic sitting in the audience.

Kalai thooki ninru in yadukula kambhoji, describing the dance of Lord Nataraja couldn’t have been performed by any dancer more appropriate. If anyone has longed to see the dance of Lord Shiva or the devotion of a humble human, this is probably the closest they would get as they watched Prof. Chandrasekhar dance that padam. The recital concluded with the beautiful thillana in Simhendra madhyamam, a composition of the dancer himself.

The orchestra was made up of stalwarts in the field of accompanying for dance, Chidambaram. R. Suresh on the nattuvangam conducted the performance in a vibrant and energetic fashion. Vocalist Ahilan Sivanandan mesmerized the audience with his resonant and expressive voice. Yogarajah Kandasamy accompanied on the mridangam with  flourish and V.Suresh Babu on the violin added a fourth dimension with his soulful playing and special effects.

Shobana and Suresh from the Samarpana School of Indian Fine Arts  have to be commended for bringing to Sydney an event which can be described aptly as a reflection of the words “Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts; it is no mere translation or abstraction from life, it is life itself.”