Mohiniyattam in a new avatar

Classical dance

Mohiniyattam in a new avatar

Vijayalakshmi – one of the best known exponents of Kerala’s most graceful dance form Mohiniyattam – recently presented a composition called Rain and stunned all with the incorporation of Dhrupad, Rabindra Sangeet and World music in her concert. It was based on young litterateur Sudeep Sen’s book of poetry ‘Rain’ – again a combination unheard of earlier.

Vijayalakshmi – daughter of the Mohiniyattam legend Bharati Shivaji – is known to come up with experimental but exemplary pieces. In the past, she has created Unniarcha – Mohiniyattam combined with Kerala’s martial art form Kalaripayattu, Swan Lake – inspired by the great Russian composer Tchaikovsky and Paryapti which draws upon the music of Bengal. With Rain, though, she has prepared a pan-Indian plus global musical arrangement for
sMohiniyattam.

Dhrupad music, for this piece, has been provided by none less than Wasifuddin Dagar, contemporary elements arranged by renowned American composer Mac Quayle and the Rabindra Sangeet rendered by Vijayalakshmi herself – probably better than any Bengali would be able to.

She informs Metrolife, “Poetry is very close to my heart. When I read Sudeep Sen’s Rain for the first time, I felt, every line in the book reflects my own feelings. Also, the poetry as a background narrative would allow me to assimilate various musical traditions which will enrich the work. I am very happy to present Rain – a fresh attempt in Mohiniyattam.”

It was a surprise to see how well this dance style from Kerala adapted to Dhrupad – a most ascetic and rigorous musical tradition from North India. Vijayalakshmi depicted the aggressive churning of clouds in an overcast sky to the tunes of Mian ki malhar. Then came Mono mor meghero shongi – a popular Rabindra sangeet on monsoon – on which the dancer depicted falling of raindrops through a fine movement of fingers.

Kerala rhythms followed – a familiar sound of percussion instruments from the South – to which Vijayalakshmi strutted like a peacock and bounced like a deer, expressing their joy at the heavens opening up finally. Mohiniyattam indeed has a way of absorbing all kinds of musical traditions thanks to its fluidity and ability to convey various moods and emotions.

Mother Bharati Shivaji, who was one amongst the audience, expressed, “I am proud of Vijaya and her latest composition. Her mission is always on a different note, exploring different dance and musical styles, but I am happy that she has been able to retain the essence of Mohiniyattam. Even in fusion arrangements, the original dance form must not be lost.”

Dr Suresh K Goel, DG, Indian Council for Cultural Relations which organised this programme, commented, “Rain is a beautiful arrangement and we are so glad to have premiered it. We will now, of course, take it abroad. It’s a composition of international standards and deserves international attention.”

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