Off the beaten track
SHOBHANA'S BHARATANATYAM performance at The Music Academy was full of surprises. Breaking norm, Shobhana performed a varnam after a heavy Swarajathi in the raga Bhairavi. ``After the Sampradaya exposition,'' said the announcer Sharada Ramanathan, ``Shobhana will now perform a new varnam". Just as well, because the Bhairavi Swarajathi which can easily take the place of varnam, distracted the attention of the audience from the dance with the addition of Sharada Ramanathan's voice along with Radha Badri's singing. Radha struggled to accommodate Sharada's singing and the different sruti. The discomfort in the orchestra was palpable. Sharada should have sung the piece alone. The varnam written by Gnanakoothan and tuned by the Padma Sheshadri sisters and Shobhana herself also had many problems in the music. Radha Badri found it difficult to fit some phrases of the lyric in to the tune set and the tala and hence the import of the meaning was lost on the audience.
In the opening korvais of the Nritta portions of the varnam, there was no Nattuvangam. In the end portions of the Korvai, veena provided the laya. Later Suma Mani did take up the cymbals to provide the Nattuvangam for the korvais but gave no details of the adavu sequences being performed.
Since the Swarajathi ``Kamakshi'' had already been performed like a varnam, the actual varnam was given a Javali treatment with the interesting duel of Rukmini and Satyabhama in the Parijata episode. The entire varnam was lasya-laden with soft stamping of the feet and extremely delicate movements. There was an interesting tarikitatom movement from the face down in the middle of kitatakatarikitatom adavu. It was a pity Shobhana did not give enough attention to her costume which had the white velcro patch showing clearly. If the varnam was treated like a javali, the Javali was treated with realistic acting! The little girl in the Javali ``Itu sahasamulu... '' was full of life.
The last Ashtapadi of the Gita Govinda,``Kuru yadu Nandana... ''was done in the Hindustani mode, tuned and rendered by Sowmya Madanagopal. Sowmya's thin voice was drowned in the aggressive veena notes and stood oddly with the Carnatic ensemble. The rendering effectively robbed the lyric of its beauty. The Tillana in Sankarabharanam in 19 beats turned out to be the best piece of the evening. Shobhana danced with verve and seemed to be enjoying herself. Shobhana wins half the battle with her stage presence and her joyous attitude. Her engaging style and animated Abhinaya are the aesthetic rewards of her dancing. Ramakrishnan's mridangam was up to the mark and took up the challenges especially in the varnam where he had to play details more to the quick lyrics than to the adavu patterns. Shankaranarayanan's flute was adequate and well played.
V. R. DEVIKA
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