NUNGAMBAKKAM CULTURAL ACADEMY
Vibrant and graceful
A SLIM figure made a studied entry onto a dimly-lit stage, half substance, half shadow. Abrar Hussain matched the lyrical advance with a sketch of Malkauns on his sarod.
Gradually, the lights grew stronger, revealing a tasteful costume: vibrant green with a narrow border of golden yellow. Sonal Mansingh set the pace of the evening with the auspicious Mangalacharan, in Ragamalika.
The dancer made an obeisance to Bhoomi, before addressing Matangi, the ninth of the Dasa Maha Vidyas, the Goddess who grants the siddhis of learning and art. Verses from Kalidasa's "Shyamala Dandakam" provided the textual basis for Sonal's dramatic and engaging dance.
The use of lighting, by Harish Jain, as an integral part of the performance added to the theatrical build-up. The Bhairavi piece, Bhavani Dayani, associated for many with the voice of Parveen Sultana, was followed by the Trikhandi Pranam, where the gods, guru and the audience are acknowledged with reverence.
Next came the Ashtapadi, "Sakhi hey keshi," where Radha recalls her first unison with Krishna. She describes how she advanced bashfully towards him while he beguiled her with sweet words.
The contemplative present, Radha's conversation with her sakhi, and the passion-filled past, her dalliance with Krishna in the forest, need to be made distinct.
Sonal's interpretation was busy, full of movement and one wished for a more meditative approach. It was only towards the end that Sonal created the bhava of something unique being remembered, and then recounted. Bankim Sethi, the well-known vocalist sang this Ashtapadi to the raga Maalav.
Sonal Mansingh moved on to a Biblical theme next, in Ragamalika, exploring the poem Magdalane Mariam by Mahakavi Vallathol. This was slower in pace, and had the quality of shantam in it. When the nayika undid her hair, loosening her tresses in order to wipe Christ's feet, it was a beautiful coming together of the Odissi style and the theme.
Of course, there continues to be a debate as to whether the unnamed woman in Luke who wet Christ's feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair before kissing and sprinkling perfume on them, is indeed Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the Resurrection.
During the course of Naattangi that followed, Shakespeare's words came to mind - Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety.
Ably assisted by Niranjan Bhol on the Pakhawaj, Sonal danced with supple and dynamic grace to ukkuttas or syllables denoting rhythm, yielding to the spirit of dance. Sonal Mansingh assumed the pose of a nayika and behind her, a circle of light appeared, holding within it the silhouette of a young, shapely dancer.
Both were real; the experienced, mature artiste in the foreground and the sinuous, feminine figure outlined on the screen. It was like magic.
Send this article to Friends by