Classic and contemporary, subtle and dramatic, at the same time, the artform of Bharatanatyam has withstood the test of time enriching the lives of many that practise or witness it. Embarking on the journey of exploring this ancient and aesthetic dance form, Namrata Pulapaka, Thanuja Kuntumalla and Shishira Bindiganavile, under the guidance of their guru Aruna Gandhi, performed their arangetram earlier this month at the Science Theatre, UNSW.
The performance commenced with a crisp exhibition of footwork with rhythmic variations in Thodaya Mangalam which set the pace for the evening. This was followed by the Navasandhi Kauthuvam, on Agni and Yama, rare compositions that were pioneering works by the famous Tanjore quartet. Presenting the Lord of Dance in the Mahadeva Kauthuvam the various attributes of Lord Shiva were portrayed with divine energy.
The three-pronged approach for the event worked well in the presentation based on Krishna. Shishira presented the sweetness of Lord Krishna through her honeyed expression of the composition ‘Adharam Madhuram’. Namrata furthered the longing for the beauty of the Lord in ‘Nachiyar Thirumozhi’, skipping around the stage in the timeless plea of Andal to be one with the Lord. Thanuja portrayed the tussle between Radha and Krishna beautifully in the Ashtapadi ‘Yahi madhava’: life can never be a bed of roses, the beauty of life is in the excitement of its conflict.
The piece de resistance, the Varnam ‘Maye mayan sodhariye’, stood testimony to the dancers’ passion, hard work and commitment for the art form. Rehearsed to perfection the three dancers weaved various patterns on stage with their jathis and narrated exotic stories from the epics. The story presenting the birth of Krishna, who is the brother of Devi, was dramatised in detail, providing great scope for the dancers to express themselves through abhinayam (hand gestures) and bhavam (facial expressions). The popular story of the Tulabharam, where Lord Krishna’s proud wife Sathyabama weighs him on a balance against material possessions and fails miserably, only to be brought to her senses by the selfless offering of Rukmini who tilts the balance with the offering of a single tulsi leaf, a tale replete with the power of true love, struck a chord with the audience. The expansion of the phrase, ‘sringara shruthi laya bhavame,’ enhanced the equal importance of the beauty of silence against sound, the magic of repose versus movement, brought to a climax with the navarasas or the nine emotions.
A breezy Thillana in Ragam Valaji brought the evening to a joyous close.
The live orchestra made up of vocalist Lakshmi Kumaraguruparan, violinist Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda and mridangist Pallavarajan Nagendran certainly added an extra spark to the experience to the evening.
Vandana Anand steered the evening with her confident compering and introduction to the proceedings.
Aruna Gandhi, presenting certificates of achievement to the dancers, remarked, “With the blessings of my revered Guru Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy, our school has grown since its inception in 2009, and today it gives me great pleasure to present my first batch of students in a full-fledged traditional Bharatanatyam performance. It is quite fulfilling to see them pursuing this art with dedication and perseverance and blossoming into competent, aspiring dancers.”
The dancers themselves spoke of the commitment and dedication that went into this major milestone in their lives.
“Balancing a full-time study program, social and cultural commitments with preparation and intensive dance rehearsals for the arangetram was the biggest challenge,” Namrata said.
“However it is not the destination that counts but the journey,” added Shishira.
“Yes it required a lot of commitment and focus, but I am very grateful to have had this opportunity which I view as a milestone in my life,” emphasised Thanuja.
The hard slog notwithstanding, all three came to realise an essential truism, which should inspire others on a similar path: “There comes a point when one decides to let go of all cares and worries, and simply enjoy the moment.”
They thanked their near and dear ones for making the evening possible for them. “Hosting an event like this requires more than one pair of hands, and the positive energy emanating from everyone helped make the event a grand success.”
Photos: Binu Photography