Quiet grace, intricate nrittha and mellow abhinaya characterised Revathi Ramachandran’s December season performance that was a devotional, honest offering to Lord Shiva in his various glorious forms. Performing under the aegis of the Indian Fine Arts Society which had moved the festival to Ethiraja Kalyana Mandapam due to the floods, Revathi’s performance displayed to the fullest extent, the understated elegance and firm footwork that are a part of every move and emotion in the Melattur style of Bharatanatyam that Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer has propagated.
Beginning her recital with an effervescent Pushpanjali in Nalinakanthi followed by a Shloka from the Shyamala Dandakam, Revathi went onto the mainstay of the evening, ‘Swami Nee Rammannave’ in Ragamalika, composed by the Tanjore Quartet, where the pining heroine pleads with her Sakhi to re-unite her with the majestic Lord Brihadeeshwara of Thanjavur. The intertwined, elaborate jati and theermanam patterns of the Varnam were rendered equally strongly by the dancer as her daughter, Manasvini Ramachandran, who was on the sollukattu.
The Sancharis were evocative and pleasing to the eye and ear, as music and dance joined together to highlight the rhythmic fervour of the Lord of Dance, the destroyer and the protector, Nataraja, and the deep love the heroine harboured for her Nayaka.
The second half of the evening saw Revathi take up a very relevant theme of the girl child, through Subramania Bharathi's much loved song, ‘Chinnan Chiru Kiliye’.
As Revathi looked out into the distant horizon, her eyes displaying a mother's pride, anxiety, care and great love for her little girl who has just run out to school, the piece made the reviewer wonder if we are raising our girl children with enough gumption to carve their own paths on life's journey with competence and confidence, rather than move quickly towards inevitable destinations, as traditions and society often compel them to.
Revathi finished with the Sudha Nrittam, a special traditional temple piece that Sri Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer has revitalised, where the only sounds are that of the percussion and the salangai, moving in tune with each other, through synchronizing crests and troughs.
The last piece, a folksy ‘Sankara Sankara Shambho’ culled from Anandakalippu of Thayumanavar, felt a bit abrupt and could have been made longer to enable rasikas to take stock of it.
Revathi was ably assisted by Manasvini Ramachandran on the nattuvangam, a consistent Suki on the mridangam, the enthusiastic voice as well as veena and flute.
With the music and dance season beginning quite tentatively this year, due to the Chennai floods, but picking up pace as rasikas thronged in great numbers, the makeshift stage, dimmer lights and softer sound at Ethiraja Mandapam only seemed to immutably enhance the beauty of art and Chennai's commitment to classicism and tradition, than take anything away from its illustrious Parampara.
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