Deeply moving, sensational choreographies
During the month of Margazhi, Chennai geared up for its annual music and classical dance season.
CHENNAI: During the month of Margazhi, Chennai geared up for its annual music and classical dance season. While I glanced at the line-up of artistes across sabhas, my choice was the Bharathanatyam recital of Srinidhi Raghavan, a New York-based dancer who is the disciple of Usha Raghavan and Malathy Thothadri. She shared the stage that day with Usha Raghavan on nattuvangam, Sai on vocals, G Vijayaraghavan on the mridangam, Kalaiarasan on the violin and Athul Kumar on the flute. The performance was under the auspices of Karthik Fine Arts at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore.
Being one among the many rasikas that day, I was excited to know which items the artiste planned on presenting. Srinidhi began with a Nammazhvar Pasuram — Kundram endhi — in the ragam Nattai followed by the varnam, Swami unnaye naan migavum nambinene, composed by the Tanjore Quartet in the ragam Reethigowla. The varnam was executed with crisp jathis, neat lines, a clean araimandi and deeply thought out sanchaaris. I particularly enjoyed Srinidhi’s extrapolation on the notion of faith where she described a scene from the Mahabharatha set right before the Kurukshetra war.
A little bird sees elephants levelling the battlefield in the distance. Alarmed that her nest and her young will not survive the war, she flutters to Krishna and asks for help, surrendering herself and the fate of her young at the feet of the Lord. While the varnam was a testament to the choreographic and execution skills of Srinidhi, the piece that stole the audience’s breath away was an original work — Kunti — an item composed by Usha Raghavan and choreographed by Srinidhi. This is where I want to focus my review.
Kunti and Karna is an interesting and critical relationship from the Mahabharatha. It was Srinidhi’s characterisation of this mother-son duo that inspired me to write an elaborate review. I was at the edge of my seat — eager to see how the artiste would bring to life the superhuman birth of Karna to Kunti. Starting from the introduction of Kunti as a young princess, her services to the great sageDurvasa, his clairvoyance, him blessing her with a powerful mantra so that she could get a son from anyone she wished, to Kunti’s innocence of having fun by testing the mantra the artist was unfolding the story bit by bit.
Her expressions were spontaneous and fluid, slowly pulling the audience deeper into the character of Kunti. I especially remember getting chills when we saw the Sun God — in all his splendour— appear before her. The artiste showed the radiance on her face. As the piece developed, we saw an unwed mother slowly recover from shock, fall in love with her baby, and simultaneously battle the fear of social stigma. The subsequent outpouring of emotions as Kunti decides to abandon the child and as she watches him float away on the river moved everyone in the audience.
In the end, Kunti finally meets her handsome and valiant son, who is now grown up, and she asks him for a boon, which Karna only partially grants. A broken Kunti leaves her son once again, and a tearful audience burst into applause. Srinidhi concluded her performance with a thillana in Hamsanandhi brilliantly choreographed by Malathy Thothadri. Srinidhi captivated the audience with sizzling energy from head to toe. Looking forward to more such mesmerizing choreographies from Srinidhi in the future.
The writer is a ‘rasika’ from the city.
Captivating the audience
Srinidhi concluded her performance with a thillana in Hamsanandhi brilliantly choreographed by Malathy Thothadri. Srinidhi captivated the audience with sizzling energy from head to toe.
Know the dancer
Srinidhi Raghavan is a New York-based dancer who is the disciple of Usha Raghavan and Malathy Thothadri. She shared the stage with Usha Raghavan on nattuvangam, Sai on vocals, G Vijayaraghavan on the mridangam, Kalaiarasan on the violin and Athul Kumar on the flute.