HYDERABAD : It was an evening filled with pleasant music, dance and intellectual analysis of a much loved and performed dance number. That’s when Anupama Kylash, dancer/guru/choreographer of two challenging dance forms like Kuchipudi and Vilasini Natyam has launched the ‘Thinking Cap Series’ at Saptaparni: to showcase the interpretative or analytical research in the field of arts; to emphasise the importance of research in the academics and performance, especially with a motive to encourage the younger artists to conceive and present more and more research- backed performances. She aims to present the series quarterly, where experts (with a track record of commendable research in their respective fields), will share their knowledge and experience.
The series kick-started with an enormously impressive lecture- demonstration by S Jaya Chandran, a Bharatanatyam dancer (an alumnus of Kalakshetra), and dance scholar with a boundless passion for informed learning and meaningful research. He presented a highly scholarly ‘Thiruvarur Sthalam’ - as interpreted in Smt Rukmini Devi’s dance compositions. Roopamu joochi valachi vachithini..., a Thodi varnam composed by Muthuswami Deekshitar was suitably demonstrated by Vamsi Madhavi (an apt choice as she too was trained in Kalakshetra).
Jaya Chandran in his highly cerebral lecture threw light on the various components of the varnam in focus and the esoteric secrets embedded in each line of the text and how they have been fully exploited by Rukmini Devi in her choreography. Vamsi Madhavi, spent hours to be dressed as an authentic ‘kondi’ (hereditary devadasis at Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvarur), all with organic makeup – turmeric smeared body, lips reddened with betel leaves in the place of lipstick, several yards of white jasmine in the hair, a bejewelled red blouse offset by a white sari draped in tiers and tucked into place without the help of a single pin! She patiently enacted each line of the lyric following Jaya Chandran’s description elaborating the choreographic nuances, based on various philosophical texts and cryptic riddles.
The scholarly talk by Jaya Chandran, with an ocean of knowledge in his head, graceful mudras in his hands and a highly articulated mind, kept the audience glued to the seats for almost three and a half hours, lost in a different world...that of Thiruvarur, Thyagarajaswamy and the myriad interpretations of each line of the Varnam. The melodious singing by TK Sisters (Saroja and Sujatha) added aural richness to the performance.
This inaugural production provided not only a deeper insight into the various concepts of Thyagaraja Swamy at Tiruvarur but also it established the need to understand the Agamic and ritualistic information before attempting choreography of any such composition that is born of a rich cultural ethos. A heart-warming attempt of Anupama, it should hopefully trigger a fresh approach to the interpretation of art, and in the process, also create an artful society. (The author is a documentary filmmaker and travel writer; she blogs at vijayaprataptravelandbeyond.com)