Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ardhanari stotram

This post is about the "Ardhanari stotram" composed by Adi shankarAchArya bhagavadpAda that begins with the lines "Champeya Gaurardha..". Here are three videos of the same piece performed by different dancers..

First one is the one by Mythili Prakash and Kasi Aysola of Shakthi Dance company, LA. (See from 3:08)

The second one is by Thiruchelwam and Shivani Thakkar

The last one is by MP Jinakaraj and Aparna Sharma of Shankarananda Kalakshetra, Hyderabad.

What I found interesting was the fact that all the three choreographers chose a very similar way to depict ardhanariswara. The same stotram, the duo standing one behind the other, and even similar adavus. Several questions arise in my mind.. Is this the only way to depict ardhanariswara? Is one of these inspired by the others? Or were the choreographers totally independent in their thought process without any influence of the others' works? Thinking....!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts on the dance season 2010-11

I was in Chennai for over a month ( 22nd Dec to 26th Jan) and not a single day passed without attending a Bharatanatyam concert! There was so much happening and there were times when I had a real tough time in deciding where to go. But at the end, I think I saw almost all the dancers I wanted to see. Each recital in the season was a learning experience for me. Learnt what to do from some and what not from others.. Opinions in this post reflect only my views! Also, they are not meant to be offensive.

One very important thing I learnt is that how good or bad a show is, could be very subjective. What is good to one may not appeal to another. It depends a lot on the viewer's mindset and his/her personal preferences. Alarmel Valli is a very good example.! Quite a few of my friends are not big fans of her dance. But many others including me, do enjoy her chin-up, below-the-hip paani! Similarly, every dancer has a good or a bad day depending on his/her stamina, mindset, health condition and also most importantly depending on support from the orchestra.

Another important thing dancers must know is to present research in their thematic productions. Roja Kannan's "Thyaga Rahasyam - the search for the blue lotus" was very neatly spun around Tiruvarur Thyagesa's ardent devotee Manonmani. The narration (conversations between the parivattam thuni and Manonmani) was very well done with Roja akka doing the kais for them. The loose adherence to the margam format was also appreciable.
Smt. Roja Kannan in Thyaga Rahasyam (Pic courtesy: The Hindu)

On the other hand, another thematic presentation that I went to, made me feel like I was in a history class with LOADS of information dumped on me through the narration. The bad music and the unappealing choreography added to the woes. Talking of research, I have to mention Padmabhushan Swapna Sundari! The pada varnam in darbar, khanda jati ata talam that she performed at Karthik fine arts was the find of the season. She had found the varnam from manuscripts in the Saraswathi Mahal library! She is an amazing artiste and held the audience with her humorous portrayals through the varnam.

Another memorable recital was that of Priya Murle at the NGS mini hall. I went with a lot of expectations and wasn't let down at all! She amazed everyone including her guru Prof. Sudharani with her abhinayam pieces. She proved that she wasn't just another dancer with her handling of the ananda bhairavi varnam and the padams (Yaarukkaagilum bayama and Krishna Nee begane baro).

With Smt. Priya Murle after her show for Karthik Fine Arts

The 2 pm slots at NGS were a real challenge to every performer. The audience had just the ideal conditions (a/c hall, full stomach, not very crowded audi with empty seats on either side) to fall asleep if the artiste wasn't good enough! Some dancers like Shijith and Smt.Parvathy, Narthaki Nataraj, Jyotsna Jagannathan and others managed to keep the crowd awake and attentive! Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Shijith's show at NGS was one of the best I had been to this season! The varnam sancharis were brilliantly choreographed and the reach was so effective that there was a huge round of applause during each "eduppu". Narthaki's approach (specially to abhinaya) was very refreshing. I felt the old-world charm in her dance and enjoyed the show. Smt. Jyotsna, in her show at NGS, exhibited mastery over the technique and an impeccable sense of thaalam.

Another brilliant show in the 2pm NGS slot was Smt. Ramya Ramnarayan's Lalgudi-yin Lavanya Margam. The orchestra was AWESOME and the music moved almost everyone in the audience. Smt. Lalgudi Viji on the vocals and violin did a tremendous job! Shri. Lalgudi's angayarkanni varnam was beautifully rendered, specially the last swaram in sahana was so pleasing and melting. The orchestra was so good that the Panchali Sabadham piece saw a tear filled Ramya on stage.The thillana medley (Tillang-yamankalyani-senjurutti i think..) was a phenomenal treat to the ears. The review of the show can be read here.

The only show I could go to at Bharath Kalachar was Smt. Anitha Guha's Mahadevam Mahasenam Bhaje. It was probably not a very good place to see a group production but I had no choice as I had missed all the other shows and this was the last one. Kalaimamani Smt. Revathy Sankaran was the compere as is the case for any group production of Bharathanjali trust. Kum. Sathvikaa Shankar, Kum. Janane Sethunarayanan and Kum. Medha Hari stood out from the rest of the group. Shri. Pavithra Bhat made a lasting impression too! There was tremendous coordination as any other group production of Smt. Anitha Guha always has.

Smt. Anitha Guha's Mahadevam Mahasenam Bhaje (Pic courtesy: Dr. Mohan C Mohan, More pictures here)

The production had short episodes on Lord Shiva and Lord Muruga. The proud guru said she had given opportunities to more than 70 kids throughout the season through this production, which, is one of her old productions that she rechoreographed for the season. I somehow liked her padakavitha pithamaha better! When I told her this she said "The audience always like my venkatachalapathy productions more than Shiva's". A long talk with her on her old productions and my favorite moments in them made her very happy! :D Click here to read the show's review. On the other hand, I did not find the time to make it to Smt. Sheela Unnikrishnan's production on Thirukkural. :( But I heard it was good! I also got to see Meenakshi Kalyanam by Dr. Padma this season!

Shri Brahma Gana Sabha had a good line-up of dancers featuring both veterans and upcoming artistes. On the evening of Jan 1st, Kum.Mythili Prakash's was too good. She showcased her perfect nritta and subtle abhinaya. Her nritta was spot-on. No mistakes whatsoever. There couldn't have been a better beginning to my new year.

Smt. Lakshmi Viswanathan and Smt.Bragha Bessel also performed at BGS's dance festival. Both of them were out of the world! Lakshmi Viswanathan is extremely knowledgeable. She introduced each of the pieces that she performed in great detail. All pieces she performed were by Tanjore composers to celebrate the 1000th year of Tanjore big temple. Adhuvum solluval and Thaaye yeshodha brimmed with details! Smt.Chitrambari and Smt. Bama Visveswaran deserve a special mention. She received a seattu request (not very common in dance recitals) asking her to perform Enthade Kulukke Javali and she accepted to!

Selvan SaiSanthosh, Kum. Gayathri, Myself and Kum. Kavitha Ramu with Ms. Lakshmi Viswanathan and the Pandanallur dancers

Smt.Bragha's show was a class apart from the many of the other shows I saw during the season! Her Ksetrayya padam left the audience tear-filled. The swathi thirunal padam she performed was very refreshing. In that piece, Lord Padmanabha comes to woo a small girl. The girl asks the Lord to go away and come back when she grows big so that she would be able to satisfy the lord's desires. Hardly anyone walked out during the 90 minute performance which consisted of only abhinayam pieces, which itself is an accomplishment in Chennai. A review of both their performances by Smt.Leela Venkatraman can be read here.

Other full length abhinayam recitals that I went to, were the ones at Abhinaya Sudha (early in the season) in Chandralekha's Spaces. I saw Padmabhsuhan Swapna Sundari, Smt.Bragha Bessel and Shri N.Srikanth there. Shri N.Srikanth depicted vaatsalyam-sringaram-bhakthi. His sringaram was easily the best piece of the evening. He took the saranam of the Navaragamalika Varnam by Shri KND and elaborated it beautifully!

Smt.Priyadarsini Govind also performed at Brahma Gana Sabha. All of you know about her, so I'm not writing much here! I was impressed by her body control. She also has a good sense of positioning on stage. Shri KND's Mohamaaginen varnam, purvi thillana and a piece on kadhirkaaman deity in Srilanka in Hamir Kalyani were some of the items she performed that evening.

Smt.Aishwarya Ananth, Kum.Aishwarya Narayanaswamy, Ms. Bhargavi Gopalan, Kum.Kavitha Ramu and Ms.Uma.B.Ramesh also did a commendable job in their shows at BGS! Mrs. Leela Venkatraman's review of Ms. Uma . B . Ramesh's show is here and Aishwarya Ananth's review from Indian Express is here.

Kum. Aarabhi Badri, Selvan Bhavajan Kumar, Selvan Ganesh Vasudeva, Kum.Gayathri Rajaji, Selvan Kiran Rajagopalan, Kum.Nrithya Pillai, Kum. Sivasri Iyer, Kum.Suchitra Ramaswamy and Kum.Sumithra Subramaniam are a few other young artistes whom I managed to see during the season. All of them were very promising and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future. (Most of them are good friends of mine and I don't think it would be fair enough for me to say nice things about them! :))

Smt. Radhika Shurajit's Muthamizh Maalai was a very laid-back watch. No jarring nritta, no fast movements, pleasing costumes, beautiful patterns on stage made it a very nice viewing experience. Read the review of the show here.

Krishna Gana Sabha, to my knowledge, was the only Sabha that offered concession to students. I would be happy if other Sabhas followed suite. The moment a rasika pays for watching a show, he/she starts juding the show based on its worthiness for the amount paid, which I don't think is healthy! I also attended the first day of the Natyakala conference and was spell bound by Kalakshetra repertory's demonstration. Leela akka hosted the show so beautifully! The most surprising part of the day was the end when three students presented their research work! Here is a report by Ms. Lalitha Venkatraman.

Narada Natya vizha (by Shri Swamimalai S.K. Suresh) featured some excellent performers and performances. Shri. Shankar Kandasamy and Kum.Shobhana's group were the best of them. Both of them displayed their talents as choreographers. Shankar anna's varnam had some neat portrayals. He supposedly had a sprained ankle and the ones watching him had no clue! Shobhana's post varnam pieces were a visual treat. Her student Anooropitha stood out from the others in terms of stage presence and clarity in presentation. On the last day Smt.Urmila Sathyanarayan and her students performed Panchali Sabadham set to music by Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman, which was a good effort overall.

I also watched Padmabhushan Alarmel Valli at the music academy! Being a big fan, I did go with a lot of expectations and it was quite not the Valli I was hoping to see. I am guessing she was sick that day. Her sangam poetry was awesome as always. She depicted the woes of a mother who went in search of her daughter who had eloped with another guy. She had complete control over her orchestra and the piece was really nice. Her nritta, that day, was not as it always is! I am guessing she was sick? But valli is always valli!!! :)

Smt. Janaki Rangarajan at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (for Kalapradarsini) gave a neat performance. I also managed to catch the only show of Anusham during the season. Shri Narendra is an exceptional performer and he proved it again that day!

The singers and the other accompanists were busier than the dancers themselves during the season. My favorite vocalists were Shri.G.Srikanth, Shri.Hariprasad, Smt. Nandini Anand Sharma and Smt.Preethy Mahesh. Kalaimamani T.K.Padmanabhan, Shri.Kandadevi Vijayaraghavan and Shri.G.Kalaiarasan - violinists; Shri.Nellai Kannan and Shri.Dhananjayan - Mridangam, and Shri Sasidhar on flute were really supportive to all artists they accompanied.

Sometimes more than the kutcheris, the discussion about it in the canteen turned out to be more informative and interesting. I spent hours with my friends in the canteen and parking area discussing dance and dancers. One of the most memorable sessions was one with Shri Kishore Mosalikanti. He talked about music for dance and how important it is to treat orchestra members with respect, because they are the ones who support the dancer on stage.

A talk session with Smt. Radhika Shurajit and her students for Deccan chronicle and Dr.Padma's interview for NDTV Hindu's Keys and conversations with Anil Srinivasan were memorable. It is nice to listen to what people who have made it big, have to say..

Coming to the food.. Whats the season without the sabha canteens? Gnanambika caterers totally rocked..! Their friday lunches (paruppu podi, urulai kaarakari, keera kootu and a looottt of other items) and melagukozhambu + roast totally are to die for! Karpagambal mess is not like what it used to be 2 years back. Service has become horrible and prices have doubled. Their nei mundhiri cake was heavenly though!

Gnanambika caterers at NGS Pic courtesy: The Hindu

Two of my favorites who did not perform this season. Padmashri Prof.Sudharani Raghupathy and Padmashri Leela Samson! My season would have been complete if I had seen them on stage. The last time i saw Prof. Sudharani was at Shruthi's office. It was a life-time experience! Leela akka is simplicity personified. When she came to watch Bragha akka at BGS, she was asked to sit in the front. She simply refused and preferred to sit in one of the back rows and remain unnoticed!

With Prof. Sudharani and Leela akka

There is a lot of mediocrity in the field. Some of the youngsters, I think, are in a urge to come to the stage without knowing if they really deserve to be there and also handle the pressure! A lot of dancers do a neat show without any mistakes, but there are no "Wow (Sabaash) moments". When you get back home and think there is hardly anything about the show you can recollect. But on the whole, it was a very fulfilling and fun-filled season! I am already looking forward to the next!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I'm back!!

Hey all..

I am going to be in Chennai again for this season.. So im hoping to blog about the season and shows that I attend.. Just can't wait to get back to "Margazhi Manam Kamazhum Madras".. :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


While i was reading through the posts in, i came across this page in which a couple of people have expressed their views on Arangetrams. The views are hilarious but extremely thought provoking! I completely agree to what those people have said! While there are a few gurus who still believe in the sanctity of the Arangetram there are many who just look at it as a means of making money! To make things worse, the relatives and the chief guests praise the artiste, even if his/her dance isn't really praiseworthy! This gives the artiste (most of the times aged between 10 - 16) a high and a sense of accomplishment, while they actually haven't done anything commendable! Quite depressing!!! :( :(

Monday, June 15, 2009

An interesting article!

Read the article by Smt.Gowri Ramnarayan written way back in 1999 at and share your thoughts on it please! :)

Amazing audio track!

I just listened to K.N.Dandayudhapaani Pillai's Sakhiye intha jaalam varnam at . The varnam has been rendered by the Great MLV for her daughter Actress Srividya's dance performance. Whats more? On the nattuvaangam is the doyen Dandaayudhapani pillai himself! Please do listen to it! :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Interview of Smt.Priya Murle!

Read my interview of danseuse Priya Murle at

Its the first time i interviewed a person. Had great fun doing it! She made me feel absolutely comfortable. A very nice and amiable person. A meeting that i will cherish forever! :) Here are a couple of videos that have clippings of her performance from "Mammudha - from dust to life"