Reading Time: 3 minutes
A Bharathanatyam performance explores the relationship between mother and child
In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. This was the concept explored through the Bharathanatyam dance performance “Amma” by Shobana Suresh recently at the Casula Powerhouse Performing Arts Theatre.
Starting with a vibrant kauthuvam on “amma” by Madurai Muralidharan leading to a varnam by the doyen of dance Dandayudhapani Pillai, Shobana took the audience on a journey through the various aspects of one’s relationship with their mother, starting from conception to maturity. Be it the little tickle that amuses you as a baby, the patient feeding and rocking to sleep routines that lead to your development, or the moments of pure joy in playfully engaging your time: the mother’s selfless role in an individual’s life is incomparable. Shobana portrayed the role of the mother, and these myriad subtle expressions were found through her graceful angika abhinayam (body language and facial expressions), and appropriately chosen vacika abhinayam (the lyrics of poetry presented in song and dance).
Expressive dance was punctuated with energetic jathis presented to precision by Chidambaram R. Suresh on the Nattuvangam (cymbals), and Pallavarajan R. Nagendran on the mridangam (percussion). This slotted into varied patterns like the colourful glass chips of a kaleidoscope.
The second half of the performance saw the many aspects of a mother’s pride, patience and persuasion as she raises her child from the stage of a toddler to an adult. Shobana changed roles with ease and was convincing accompanied by talented musicians, Arjunan Puveendran on vocal, Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda on the violin and Mohan Ayyar on the synthesiser. She aptly conveyed parental pride in one’s offspring as explored in Bharathiyar’s timeless composition chinnachiru kiliye, and the patient persuading of a young child to see sense in the riveting conversation between Yashosha and Krishna in maadu meikum kanne.
Shobana also performed a scene of the mother giving advice to an adult daughter who is impatient in her relationships as portrayed in the padam ethanai sonnalum. The penultimate piece was an explosion of rhythm, a Thillana, a composition fully home-grown, with rhythmic syllables composed by Chidambaram. R. Suresh and music composed by Akhilan Sivanandam from Melbourne.
“For some time now, I have been wanting to do a dance production about a mother, as I lost my mother at a very young age,” said Suresh who partnered with Shobana for the choreography. “Working with this theme brought her back to life in a way and made me connect to her spiritually through this art form.”
Added Shobana, “For me, I thought a production on maternal love is something that people from all cultures could relate to. I felt a sense of joy and gratification as I danced in front of both my mother and daughter which made all the difference.”
The concluding piece, the mangalam, brought the performance to an auspicious close celebrating amma (mother) as the one who fills every atom of a living being, mind, body and soul.