‘Kapali Arupathumoovar’ and ‘Aranga Thiru Ula’ come to life at Natyarangam Dance Festival

Natyarangam’s Uthsava Bharatham festival started with dancers performing Arupathumoovar and Srirangam processions

Natyarangam’s Uthsava Bharatham festival started with dancers performing Arupathumoovar and Srirangam processions

The Silver Jubilee year is a remarkable milestone for any institution. It’s a long journey that includes new beginnings, opportunities and challenges that make every moment memorable. The milestone was marked by special programming as Natyarangam, the dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha, completed 25 years. A 10-day theme dance series, “Uthsava Bharatham”, featuring group and solo performances by senior and youth dancers, concluded on August 23.

The curtains went up with senior dancer Jayanthi Subramaniam’s group production on the theme of the Arupathumoovar procession, part of the Panguni utsavam festival, one of the most famous events taking place at Kapaliswarar temple, Mylapore.

visual appeal

Jayanthi Subramaniam and G. Narendra presenting 'Kapali Arupathumoovar' at 'Uthsava Bharatham' festival in Natyarangam, Narada Gana Sabha.

Jayanthi Subramaniam and G. Narendra presenting ‘Kapali Arupathumoovar’ at ‘Uthsava Bharatham’ festival in Natyarangam, Narada Gana Sabha. | Photo credit: PICHUMANI K

Conceptualized to highlight the important rituals associated with this festival, the presentation began with a prayer to the grama devata (guardian deity) Kolavizhi Amman. The Ganesha procession and the ensuing flag-hoisting ceremony (Kodiyetram) were visually appealing.

“It takes countless eyes to behold the grandeur of Adhikara Nandi’s procession,” says vaggeyakara, Papanasam Sivan in his classic composition, “Kaana kann kodi vendm” in Kambhoji raga. It has been presented in detail. As a group of dancers entered the stage from the wings pulling the ther strings, the majesty of the chariot and its journey around the mada veedhis came to life through the dancers’ expressions, body language and movements.

interesting stories

The story of Shiva cursing Parvati, who was distracted by a peacock (the gait beautifully interpreted by Srutipriya), the sthala puranam of Mylapore, the episode of Poompavai, the composition of Poompavai Padigam (verses of historical significance detailing the festivals of the temple), the procession of the 63 Nayanmars, the enactment of the loss of the ring and Shiva appearing as Bhikshadanar, culminating in kalyanotsavam were seamlessly integrated into the narrative.

'Kapali Arupathumoovar, the theme dance performance of Jayanthi Subramaniam and his team, at the Uthsava Bharatham festival in Natyarangam, Narada Gana Sabha.

‘Kapali Arupathumoovar, the theme dance performance of Jayanthi Subramaniam and his team, at the Uthsava Bharatham festival in Natyarangam, Narada Gana Sabha. | Photo credit: PICHUMANI K

In the small segment where Jayanthi Subramaniam and G. Narendra portrayed the beauty of the lord, their maturity and experience showed through in their well nuanced abhinaya. The duo brought out every detail with finesse.

The performance reiterated that Bharatanatyam encompasses related arts and all elements of artistic expressions that are necessary to communicate creative ideas holistically. Aesthetic costumes, neat and well-coordinated movements, and proper choreography without extraneous elements such as video projections or props made Jayanthi’s presentation appealing.

Nityakalyani Vaidhyanathan handled the cymbals. Rithi Murari provided vocals with Samanvita G. Sasidharan lending vocal support. The orchestra also had Guru Bharadwaj on mridangam, Vishwesh Swaminathan on violin and Sruti Sagar on flute. Rajkumar Bharathi composed the music for the production.

The dancing team also included Bilwa Raman, Ashwini Viswanathan, Season UK, Shruthipriya R. Vignesh, Athul Balu and Maanasa.S.

Art and architecture

Aranga Thiru Ula by Manjari and band at the Uthsava Bharatham festival in Natyarangam, 2022.

Manjari’s Aranga Thiru Ula and band at Natyarangam’s Uthsava Bharatham Festival, 2022. | Photo credit: special arrangement

Celebrations moved to the banks of the Cauvery and the majestic Srirangam Temple on the second day of the festival. Chithra Madhavan’s narration of the distinct features of utsavam art, architecture and detailing served as the precursor to the presentation ‘Aranga Thiru Ula’, choreographed by Manjari Rajendrakumar.

The majesty of the raga Thodi aptly portrays the grand architecture of the temple. A group of dancers moving horizontally across the stage leading to the circumbulation seemed a bit abstract at first. But when it was performed several times, it became clear that it was an attempt to show the spatial structure of the many prakarams. The graceful movements and melodious notes of raga Vasantha flowed seamlessly like the Cauvery River.

The Saranga raga kriti, ‘Karuna joodavaiya’ which talks about a devotee’s appeal to Ranganatha to rain down his blessings was an evocative presentation. The dancers portrayed the form of the lord beautifully, but the screen (thiraseelai) falling in the middle of the sequence was disturbing.

The use of Mallari for the procession, the swara motifs for the Amrit Manthan segment and the performance of Araiyar Sevai were some of the special moments. Instead of a thillana, usually presented at the end, the use of ritual upacharas at the silver padukas of the lord and his consort suited the theme well.

Manjari, Anusha Natarajan, Pavani Prakash, Vidyalakshmi and Srinivas executed the varied ideas of the choreographic motifs with conviction. But they could have brought more emotion and expression into the movements. The colors of the costumes and the style of the drapes didn’t look very aesthetically pleasing.

Kudos to Jyotishmathi Sheejith, the singer, who also composed the music for some of the compositions. Viraj Rajendrakumar provided vocal support. Nattuvangam by Saikripa Prasanna, mridangam by Rakesh Pazhaedam and violin by Rijesh Gopalkrishnan completed the musicians with their backing playing.

The Chennai-based writer reviews classical dance.

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