Artistic homage to the Cosmic Dancer
For five days starting from Sivaratri, the legendary Chidambaram temple reverberated with the sound of ankle bells and divine music. NANDINI RAMANI gives glimpses.
THE SUCCESS of the Chidambaram Natyanjali festival remains in the fact that all dancers are equal at this holy altar of the Lord of Daharaakasa, which occupies a special place among the Panchabhoota Kshetras. Such is the unique nature of this festival, organised and conducted by the dedicated team of local aspirants of this art, headed by Mr. A. K. Natarajan, a senior lawyer at Chidambaram. The 21st Natyanjali festival supported by the Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu (Department of Tourism), South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, Neyveli Lignite Corporation and Good Knight, was held at the outermost open quarters of the temple. It was a grand success this year, spreading over for five nights, giving opportunities for nearly 500 artistes and attended by nearly 5,000 people every day.
Mr. T. T. Vasu, one of the Founder-Patrons of the Natyanjali Trust, who inaugurated the festival, said in his speech that Natyanjali plays a vital role in not only promoting cultural and inter-cultural activities but also aims at spreading the message of peace, unity and mutual goodwill among the dancers. This year, the Natyanjali committee had improved upon various factors and that it had been noticed could be gauged from the surging crowds of spectators. Tourists, especially were present in large numbers. Mr. Vincent D'souza of Kutcheribuzz had arranged a mini folk-art festival on East Car Street and a kolam competition in front of the temple. With the Podhu Dikshitars organising a 10-day Gaanaanjali inside the temple, the entire town was reverberating with non-stop cultural activity.
As in the past years, V. V. Ramani, stage expert, had created a very appealing replica of the inner sanctum-sanctorum of Sri Nataraja temple. The performances that commenced on the auspicious Sivarathri, continued well past midnight on all days. Credit goes to Mr. A. Sambandham, secretary and the main driving force behind the festival, not only for this skilfully drawn scheme of events, but also for efficiently managing the entire show. Another striking feature in this year's festival was that unlike as on the previous occasions, most of the dancers focussed on the main theme relating to the Celestial dancer. Also quite a few interesting new compositions on Siva-Nataraja were introduced. The festival included Mohiniyattom, Kathak and Odissi, performed by senior artistes. However, in general, the younger artistes fared better than some of the well-known performers who participated. Muralidharan and Chitra with their group were the first to perform in the inaugural session on Sivaratri. Two of Muralidharan's compositions presented by his students and the dancing couple, glorifying Siva are lively additions to the dance repertoire. ``Anandam Pongum Tandavam," a song number had interesting nadai patterns, inter-woven into the dance set up and was skilfully presented by young Amrita Ashok Kumar. Veteran dancer Nirmala Ramachandran's disciples including Sasha Denissova from Russia offered an interesting rendition of ``Ananda Natamidum."
Pandanallur Srinivasa Pillai's new Varnam composition ``Karunai Vadivana Kayilaivasa," is a very worthy inclusion to the Bharatanatyam format. Meenakshi Chittaranjan, a sincere propagator of the Pandanallur tradition, performed this number with dignity. Students of Meenakshi also participated in the event. Pandiyan led the team of the orchestra.
Shobhana, with her disciples, performed a pure dance number to the accompaniment of two mridangams. The exposition was called a jugalbandhi. While Shobhana and her team danced with a lot of spirit and enthusiasm, a total fusion of the dance and percussive format was not to be seen.
The second evening had a pleasant beginning with well-known young dancer N. Srikanth, and his disciples, Aswathy K. Nair, Nithya Ramasubramanyam and Ashika. Nithya was noteworthy in her presentation of Sambandhar Kavutvam. Srikanth gave a lively portrayal of the joyful dance of the deity in ``Ananda Natamaduvar."
Two bright students of Radhika Surajith and Shobhan Balachandra, performed a brisk jatiswaram which is mostly ignored these days in the Bharatanatyam recital. The other items like the dance of Shakti, Pandattam and Siva Panchakshara (By Radhika and Shobhana) were neat presentations.
Srekala Bharath was bubbling with enthusiasm in her production of ``Jai Santhoshi Maa," portraying a story version of Lord Ganesa, having two consorts, Siddhi and Buddhi and the birth of Santhoshi. This short ballet was lively, particularly with the participation of little Sudharma who has a bright future in dance.
Dancers like Srekala should be careful about pushing very young children to the stage, much before their skills are honed, like the other little one who presented a Pushpanjali. Watching her, one felt that it was a kind of exploitation done in the name of promoting the banner of the school.
With Aniruddha's strong percussive support and monitoring, senior disciples of Sudharani Raghupathi (Priya Murle, Nalini Prakash, Aruna Subbiah and Usha) presented Siva Tandava Stotram and a Varnam (Madurai N. Krishnan) with good control.
Natyanjali trust had invited three leading artistes from the North to present three forms of dance together on this occasion. Shovana Narayan (Kathak), Kiran Sehgal (Odissi) and Bharati Shivaji (Mohiniyattom). Although these are names very well-known in the field, their performances were not all that enchanting.
It was heartening to see young Harikrishna, son and disciple of Guru Kalyanasundaram of Rajarajeswari school, Mumbai, present a couple of items with lot of commitment to their artistic lineage, hailing from the illustrious family of Panchapagesa Nattuvanar (author of ``Abhinaya Navaneetham").
It was a joy listening to the exquisite Nattuvangam of Guru Kalyanasundaram and his melodious vocal support to the main singer, Vidya Balasubramaniam who sang very well. Vedakrishnan (mridangam) gave perfect visualisation for each and every adavu and embellished the orchestral effect.
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