Certain things are expected from the technically superb, exceptionally expert, experienced, well-rehearsed performances by veterans. In a Bharatanatya duet, under review, these elements beautifully fused. The duo delivered them and more with ease.
Those of us who critique music and dance were filled with joy when veteran exponent of Bharatanatya, Guru B Bhanumathi and her ward Sheela Chandrasekhar created a work that transcended all they have done before. Tuesday evening they presented a Bharatanatya duet at ADA Rangamandira during the Tarang festival and won the laurels for their extraordinary presentations. Lightening the mood as they did with a wonderful choornika set to Arabhi raga, they had a strong choreographic medium where their ideas were even more nuanced and just as dramatically potent. Both Bhanumathi and Sheela have long been known for their exceptionally fine-toned aesthetics and artistry and now, as performers too, the calibre of their movement and execution was simply marvellous, apt according to the technical requirements. Moreover, it was a taut duet, where each performer was in superb condition. The two dancers quickly established their particular characters and situations. Their commitment to their performance was evident in their unwavering yet versatile focus which helped explain the choreographic intention of each piece
Their cleaving body sequences got more and more intimate as they went on exploring their joint physical language. Throughout, dancers elegantly curled and elongated their bodies to sculptural effect. They also performed intricate, exquisitely timed duets that seamlessly entered and exited the stage. In the second item, Jaya Janaki Ramana (raga and talamalika) by Annamacharya mild and graceful nritta was interspersed. The bodyscapes of the duo was hypnotising and the authentic Bharatanatya technique was revealed. The sync with one another was with obvious camaraderie. The way the pose of standing Krishna with his cow at his back was struck by Bhanumathi as Krishna and Sheela as the cow at his back drew an instantaneous audience appreciation. The fact that they pulled this off even more in the following numbers was admirable. The rhythmic buoyancy was uncanny and the realisation of the themes through the abhinaya was sheer brilliance. Time and again we were exposed to the dancers’ versatility as performers as they moved between characters with conviction. The individual talents and experiences of each of them also became clearer as the show progressed.
An Abhisarika nayika (the heroine going to meet her lover) captivated us when Sheela became the one while interpreting Chhodare adi, (Shahana raga) in a vilamba kala.
Bhanumathi performed for decades before leaving to teach, stage myriad types of dance productions and presentations. A veteran dancer of excellence who could perform just about everything, sometimes at very short notice, she has been the ultimate artiste but also a dancer known for the obvious pleasure she has taken in her work and in the passing along of her heritage. Her abhinaya profundity glowed in the portrayal of a Purandaradasa pada Gummana kareyadire (Tillang raga). Innocence of child Krishna and the mother’s interaction with him was beautifully sketched.
The rasikas had an interesting cultural experience and left bedazzled by the sensitive abhinaya of Bhanumathi. Kanakadasa’s Sri Ramana poojisalilla (Shubhapantuvarali raga) in a slow tempo evoked the right mood. The anguish and regret of a man who has wasted his precious life without the worship of the Lord had a mature exposition. A sense of frustration was clearly portrayed in the dancer’s face as she created a web of emotions. I was happy to find artistry, pathos and energy in her dance and abhinaya.
Sheela is an accomplished performer in her own right, undoubtedly mirrored in the rendition of Yaara naa Sami revolving around a Mugdha. The resistance of a nayika was neatly emphasised by her.
There was remarkable versatility in their delineation of yet another Purandaradasa pada addressed to Lord Hanuman (Hanumatha deva namo, Poorvikalyani raga). It was the outstanding segment presented which showed audiences the discipline and precision of a duet steeped in classical technique, yet able to underscore the nuances of the choreography with verve and dedication. The sweep, symmetry and classic beauty of Bharatanatya was excellent to behold. The rendition was cleverly layered with various choreographic elements. Prefaced by a Sanskrit shloka, the piece unfolded like a good book of short stories connected by a stylistically mature movement vocabulary wrought over the years. Varied episodes of Ramayana got depicted with some fine freezes. Bhanumathi as Hanuman was of top class. Moving from one naturalistic pose to another both the Loka and Natya dharma elements were spicy. Her picturisation of Hanuman was remarkable. The dancers moved in and out in unison demonstrating sound duet skills and creating numerous movement pathways.
Seasoned musicians Prasannakumar (nattuvanga), Srivatsa (vocal), Maheshswamy (flute) and Narayanaswamy (mridanga) contributed to the soundscape making the evening as interesting aurally as it was visually.
Earlier, in her Odissi dance recital, an able performer, Sharmila Mukherjee, supported by Ekalavya (Pakhawaxz), Prabhu Prasad (flute), Ganesh Desai (vocal) and others, graphically presented the features of a Swadheena patitha nayika on the basis of Kuru Yadunandana (Ashtapadi). Her slender physique and matching prowess abhinaya prowess did her credit. As per the tradition of Odissi dance, she concluded with the Moksha set to Bhairavi raga.