Medley good in parts
Raghunat Manet... heady mix of talent.
RAGHUNAT MANET presented a medley of dance and music at the Narada Gana Sabha. The programme was titled ``Chidambaram". It would be rather difficult to call it Bharathanatyam as it did not follow any of the requisites of the style. The programme began with a long speech in Tamil eulogising Chevalier Raghunat Manet as if he were a political leader.
When the curtain went up the audience saw an Udukkai player walking in slowly to the front of the stage and singing``Kunitta puruvamum... '' describing in his sonorous voice in the folk style the attributes of Siva. The Udukkai player joined the large musical assemble which had the mridangist also reciting the Jatis, a woman playing the cymbals performing Nattuvangam silently and two main singers who sang beautifully.
Raghunat Manet entered with his back to the audience. He then went on to cover the entire length and breadth of the large stage with such an effort that within minutes his body and face were covered in sweat. What does one call it? It had musical phrases with a little bit of a Tillana right in the beginning, a line from a Varnam and suddenly a kavutuvam in the middle of it. Manet managed to confuse the audience with the depiction of a garden with deer, etc., and suddenly showing the birth of Ganesha with Siva going to the end of the stage to cut the head of an elephant, carrying it over his head and fixing it on to the little child.
Then Manet went off the stage, came back wearing a Banaras silk coat over his Bharatanatyam costume, carrying a veena. He sat on the stage and played a ragamalika with twists and turns of his body. He struggled in the beginning with Shanmukhapriya and by the time he reached Varali, he went off Sruti. One got glimpses of a very good training now and then but gimmickry consumed took most of the effort. He stood up, carried the veena in slow motion striking his foot in rhythm, placed the instrument in front of the picture of Swami Gnananda, removed his coat on the stage and dropped it by the picture and began his dance again. In the middle of the dance that had many jumps, turns and long strenuous adavus, he also spoke some lines on Siva, showing a painful expression on his face. His Kalakshetra grounding in pure dance has not deserted him so there were moments of excellent Nritta.
A piece Manet performed in Abheri was in a Varnam format but not quite so in structure. The varnam suddenly led into a phrase of a Tillana. Since the title of the programme was ``Chidambaram'' one expected only pieces on Siva but Raghunat came back with ``Alaipayude Kanna'' on Krishna. Here one saw a sober dancer. Interesting was the quick turns that he took. He partnered with a girl for the Swati Tirunal Dhanyasi Tillana which led to excerpts from another Tillana before he dragged the girl off the stage. Then followed a piece that made a mockery of Konnakkol. A tavil artiste and a western drummer joined on the stage and performed a talavadyam while Raghunat changed. There was a dance and Talavadya medley. Part of the choreography was Raghunat running off the stage to bring in a microphone, running to the musicians to pick up the cymbals and performing an incredibly aggressive Konnakkol with himself reciting the jathis.
One had to admire the courage of the dancer in trying to tell the seasoned Narada Gana Sabha audience how much he knew of the different arts. But actually is not everything composite? Raghunat Manet also failed to introduce the musicians and the dancer he partnered with. Does he not know that musicians are the Bahirprana (outer life) of the dancer and hence equal partners in a presentation? Good qualities of the programme? Excellent laya and tala, very good singing. With a little focus and thinking about sthayi bhava, Chevalier Raghunat Manet may win over the Chennai audience too as he has the French one day. The organisers were heard exclaiming, ``We had specifically asked him to do Bharathanatyam. He has presented something else!"
V. R. DEVIKA
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