Dr Sunanda Nair says she’s still a student despite being the first in India to acquire a Masters degree in Mohiniyattam. At the threshold of Namamrtam, her upcoming dance presentation presented by the Navaneetham Cultural Trust, she invites patrons of the arts to behold her humble ode to Narayaniyam, a popular and celebrated medieval text in Sanskrit by revered poet Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiripada.
In his 100 dasakams or cantos here, Bhattatiripada praises Lord Narayana. “Each contains about 10 verses which emphasise on the incarnations of Lord Vishnu and all achieve a soulful and devotional fervour by surrendering completely to the Lord,” reveals Nair.
The text holds significance historically and continues to make its place in the present times because of its remarkable lyrical and poetic robustness.
“The final episode is an exceptional one as it takes us on a picturesque description of Lord Krishna, Kesaadipaada (from his head to toe) and ensures his devotees of aayur aarogyam aisvaryam soukhyam or get relief from mental and physical afflictions,” she explains. These are set to the music composed by Ajith Edapally.
Nair completed her PhD thesis in Intrinsic Lyrical Feminism in Mohiniyattam from Mumbai University, and since nine years now has been a lecturer.
“Studying dance has given me a way to express and celebrate womanhood, something I take pride in deeply. I bring out her strengths and weaknesses in a comprehensive narration,” says the dancer, admitting these ideas were planted by her guru.
For 35 years, Nair has seen Padma Bhushan Dr Kanak Rele portray strong women role models from history and mythology such as Gandhari, Kunti, Satyavati, Draupadi and others, she learnt about a women’s resilence and benevolence.
“She told me to be strong and not give in to anything I didn’t believe in. She made sure I brought it out through my dance too,” she says, adding, “And because Mohiniyattam is devoted largely to women (except a few men), it’s the responsibility of us women to protect it.”
About the danseuse
Dr Sunanda Nair the first in India to acquire a Masters degree in Mohiniyattam. She completed her PhD thesis in Intrinsic Lyrical Feminism in Mohiniyattam from Mumbai University, and since nine years now has been a lecturer.
On: November 10, 6:45pm
At: Triveni Kala Sangam