KOCHI: With lucid steps and expressions, Thiruvananthapuram-based Bharatanatyam dancer Gopika Raj Pillai retells the story of Mahabali through her recent performance, Mahabali Shabdam. The performance, which was released on YouTube under the banner of NEWNMEDIA as part of Onam celebrations, is gaining viewership for the artist’s unique dance approach.
The 12-minute-long dance video conveys the story of King Mahabali and how he offered his head to fulfil Vamana’s wish. Rather than exploring the usual repertoire, Gopika experimented with the genre ‘Shabdam’—an item in Bharatanatyam that is used to address adoration towards a god or goddess.
Gopika choreographed her novel performance without disrupting the structure of Shabdam. The virtual performance was conceptualized and directed by dance writer and photographer, Dr Hareesh N Nampoothiri, who also composed the song for the dance performance.
The vocals for the dance performance is rendered by Payyannur Mahendran. Though Gopika performed the usual genre, the dance piece had a tinge of uniqueness as she began the performance with the customary raga Kamboji, and later transitioned with ragas like Revathi, Anandabhairavi, and Sindu Bhairavi, which are unusual in Shabdams.
Apart from praising the virtues of Mahabali, she narrated the whole story of the king and how he met the unfortunate end. The youngster in her maiden choreography composition has also showcased the difference between present-day outlook and old times.
Following the recorded rhythms of Vypin Satheesh on the mridangam and Nisha Ponni on the veena, Gopika made the story of Mahabali more expressive to the audience. Adding the beauty of her performance was the costume which had a mix of tradition and creativity. The young artist for half a decade has been learning Bharatanatyam from Chennai-based dancer Dr Kalakshetra Nirmala Nagarajan. Gopika is also skilled in Kathakali and Kuchipudi.