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When the young get creative with choreography

Bharata Kalanjali’s ‘Jharna’ was conceived to provide young dancers a platform to create original choreographic works, moving beyond the margam they perform regularly. The dancers are selected based on the videos they submit, and they perform for an hour each, over two weekends.

Madhumanti Banerjee, currently being trained by Indira Kadambi, was chosen for the inaugural performance. The first half featured a Dhandayudhapani Pillai varnam ‘Mohamaginen’ in raga Kharaharapriya. The nayika, besotted by Shiva, pours out her love and anguish to her sakhi. Madhumanti’s abhinaya, a blend of shringara and bhakti, had many imageries that drew parallels to nature.

However, the impact of this was lost in the overpowering nritta passages. By the time the first jathi concluded, weariness set in and one didn’t feel much for the nayika.

The creative composition that Madhumanti explored was an excerpt from her ongoing full-length choreographic work on the theme of Ganga. The sequence depicted Ganga’s descent with fury, and Shiva controlling it by holding her in his locks. Besides the normal narrative depiction, Madhumanti had looked at it with sringara bhava, exploring Ganga’s feelings — due to her proximity — towards the masculine energy of Shiva. Certain sections captured the flow of the river beautifully, but incorporating nritta in the depiction disturbed the flow. Using a blue fabric to depict the river was a little outdated too.

Madhubanti Banerjee

Keerthana Ravi

There are innumerable resource materials available to an artiste to explore creative ideas. And, when an artiste makes a choice, delves deep into it and owns the composition, the outcome often becomes a cherished experience for the viewer. Keerthana Ravi’s performance was one such, where the three compositions were not only diverse in range, but also remarkable in expression.

In the Kabir doha ‘Ud ja, hans akela’, which speaks of the cycle of life, Keerthana began her recital with a seed sprouting, spreading its roots, growing in stature, and becoming a tree with leaf-filled branches that fall when a gust of wind hits them — all these were portrayed rendered with intensity. The deep philosophy of the doha came across in every sequence, be it the journey of a human from birth to death or other living species.

In ‘Inquilaab zindabad’, the helplessness of bondage, and the thrill of freedom and empowerment were powerfully conceived using just rhythm. A brilliant multi-percussion soundscape by Satish Krishnamoorthy brought out both sensitivity and fervour, and Keerthana matched this step by step.

Who says ideas need to be restricted to romance, pathos and mythology? They can also be relevant to contemporary times, such as the impact of the flood of information in social media. This was conveyed with clarity and conviction.

‘Soorpanakha-Navarasa Gadhya, composed and sung by Karthik Hebbar, was explored through Navrasas and from the perspective of a woman. From the introduction, where she sees Rama and falls in love, Keerthana’s abhinaya was filled with beautiful nuances. For instance, in the scene where she’s getting ready with adornments in front of a mirror, the depiction was not that of a coy woman, but one with confidence and style.

To sustain the interest of the viewer, an artiste’s presentation needs depth and honesty. Keerthana’s performance had both.

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