As part of a performing arts project for the Ministry of Culture, Carnatic vocalist Sudha Raghunathan presented ‘Ashtadarshanam’ at the India International Centre recently.
Her performing arts project sought to illustrate the complex linkages between raga and bhava, and to catalyse the performance she invited renowned classical dancer (Padmashri) Geeta Chandran - a byword on classical dance abhinaya.
Geeta was trained in the art of abhinaya by her first Guru Swarna Saraswathy. Consequently, Geeta has built a solid and unique approach to abhinaya, where movement is defined by raga cadence. So it was wholly appropriate that Sudha invite Geeta to be a part of her creative project.
The opening number was a case in point. To a soundscape that included raga on G. Raghuraman’s flute, raga alapana, swaraprasthana and tanams by Sudha Raghuraman, Geeta presented an abstract narrative where she wove in several stories of nayikas in love.
Thus the vasakasajja - a young heroine waiting for her lover’s arrival, the virahotkhantita - the heroine torn by longing for her lover and the vipralabda - one who has given up hope, were all essayed with magical expressional idiom by Geeta Chandran.
The counterpart of nayikas in love was essayed by a section on men in love. Its first part was a solo musical rendering by Sudha of Arunachala Kavi Rayar’s popular Tamil padam Yaaaro Ivar Yaaro where the poet describes the first stirrings of love that Lord Ram felt when he saw Sita.
The second section of nayaks in love was the exquisite portrayal of Bilhana’s Chaurapanchasika by Geeta Chandran. The Chaurapanchasika is a precious 12th century text in Sanskrit where Bilhana speaks of his (star-crossed) love for Amravati.
Using a simple stool to define the jail (where Bilhana was captivated by Amravati’s father), she used the flashback technique to portray the chauras. Highly sensitive lighting by Deepa Dharmadhikari added rasa to the dance and made the section a truly moving experience.
Geeta then moved to a traditional Padam from the Bharatanatyam repertoire. Ennerammum by Kavi Gopalakrishna Bharati in Ragam Deva Gandhari presented the plea of a devotee to lord Nataraja at Chidambaram that all the devotee wished was to spend several lifetimes at the feet of the Lord. In her portrayal of bhakti rasa, Geeta was sans par.
Geeta and Sudha concluded their performance with a sankeertan dedicated to Radha-Raman, symbols of the man-woman relationship and the ultimate measure of beauty and fidelity.
Accompanying music by Sharanya Chandran (Nattuvangam), MV Chander Sekhar (Mridangam), G Raghuram (Flute), costumes by Sandhya Raman and splendid sets by Arundhati Prasad made it an entirely aesthetic evening.