The Hindu, Chennai – The Sarabhai legacy continues

Rupa Srikanth, The Hindu, Chennai

With his lanky frame, expressive eyes and dashing looks, Revanta has an undeniable presence on stage.

The star attractions at 20th Anniversary celebrations of ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India) were the renowned dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai who was awarded the title ‘Natya Kalanidhi’ and her grandson, Revanta Sarabhai, who was dancing in Chennai for the first time. Due to ill health, the former could not make it, but Chennai got to see the dashing, third-generation Sarabhai dance.

As 23-year old Revanta came on stage to perform the opening ‘Garland of Kauthuvams,’ one felt a sense of déjà vu seeing those beautiful, big eyes that he has inherited from his mother, dancer and social activist Mallika Sarabhai. With his lanky frame, expressive eyes and film star looks, Revanta has an undeniable presence on stage. He also has the style and the involvement, the fitness and the timing- important ingredients for any dancer. But there is a slackness in the finish; in both the arm movements and in the footwork, that mars the picturesque landscape.

Supported by a full-throated Jayan Nair, vocal and nattuvangam, Palanivel, mridangam, T.K.Padmanabhan, violin and B.N.Ramesh, the recital had strength in the music and dance departments. The choice of items for Revanta’s brief debut in Chennai stuck to well known and rhythmically inclined compositions; four kauthuvams followed by ‘Natanam Adinar’ in Vasantha, Ata tala and ‘Sankara Sri Giri’ in Hamsanandhi (Adi). There was continuous action on stage without a break; a pity really because one did not get to see more of Revanta’s promising bhava.

Three local dance schools also took part in the evening celebrations. They presented the cosmic activities of the Supreme Being — ‘Srishti, Sthithi and Samharam’ or creation, preservation and dissolution in that order. The concepts were from Hindu theology, but the interpretations were individualistic.

Gayathri Balagurunathan and her well-trained dancers chose to portray Siva as the creator. With lyrics by V.V.Subramaniam tuned by violinist T.K.Padmanabhan, the process of creation had a clear flow from the opening dawn-like sequence in Bowli ragam, ‘Yengum nishabdam’ followed by Siva thandavam in Hamsanadham, ‘Aaduginrar Aranaar’ and the ‘Uruvagum nerum idu’ in Husseini. The visualisation was backed by a sense of aesthetics, but midway a sense of monotony crept in because of the lack of variation in the pace of music and dance.

Colourful depiction
Sheela Unnikrishnan and her students from ‘Sridevi Nrithyalaya’ portrayed Vishnu in a colourful but straightforward ‘Dasavathara’ depiction. Sheela’s choreography is dramatic enough without the avoidable theatrical add-ons in costume, music and dialogue. The dance segments were enjoyable and were handled skilfully by the good group of students. Especially eye catching were the young bhaktha Prahlada and the Kalinga Narthana Krishna. One wished there was more dance and less drama.

Lakshmi Ramaswamy’s ‘Samharam’ or ‘Layam’ as she chose to call it was well-researched under the guidance of S. Raghuraman. Subramanya Bharati’s ‘Vedi padum’ in Mohanam (Adi) and his concept of ‘Oozhikkoothu’ wherein Sakthi, created from Siva, is the force behind dissolution and regeneration, was used. Dressed in blood red costumes, the dancers were dramatic and vigorous conveying the violent mood of destruction. But after destruction or dissolution should come silence… But the harshly intonated nritta never ceased. If there was regeneration, it was obviously achieved without harmony. There was no flow, no melody and only cacophony.

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