Footsteps Adorn Anklets

By Sumathi Krishnan

Above: Tamil Poetry Written by Sumathy Ramesh

Crisp footsteps, Adorn anklets

Proclaiming that old, Grown anew

With a sway of Musicians wands

Sing a story of two women wronged

So saying the poet, Draws the last line

Of not a woman’s heart left pining Or

A burning city of hatred

But a woman who makes her peace

Standing tall bold and strong!

Hamsa Venkat founder of Samskriti School of Dance in collaboration with original poetry written by Sumathy Ramesh produced Kannagi Enbathe Payare with nine of the more experienced or senior dancers from her School, in what led to a tight presentation of a Bharatanatyam margam.

Hamsa Venkat as Kannagi and Raphael Speyer (Natanalaya Dance Academy)

The nine dancers were Govind Pillai, Vidu Gokul, Priya Murali, Sneha Rao, Sowmya Sriram, Deepika Vyasnarayanan, Varsha Raghunandan, Abhaya Anilkumar Lakshmi Aravamudhan and guest artist Raphael Speyer (Natanalaya Dance Academy) and Vishakha Iyer (student of Chidambaram R Suresh and Sheejith Krishna).

Senior not in age, but in dedication and involvement with their dance. A commitment to the production saw completely new choreography executed with equal perfection. A perfect medium for a creative director and choreographer.

Vishakha Iyer (st/o Chidambaram R Suresh and Sheejith Krishna) and Govind Pillai

Ofcourse, the show ran on Saturday, 26 March 2022 was a good choice at the Riverside Theatres.

Despite the pouring rains dampening everything including our spirits, all regular patrons of Bharathanatyam, who heard of the show word of mouth were present.  Starved of being confined in their homes for two or more years due to the pandemic, they arrived in their best.  

Perhaps, one of the best things about the pandemic has been the time it has given all of us to introspect, withdraw, reassess and then let creative juices flow. It has also limited large gatherings. May be therefore the choice involvement of what I call some of the more developed Bharathanatyam dancers of the school was a boon to the audience.

Strict straight lines, fabulously fluid and timely formations blended in and out with a speed and accuracy that if one blinked one may have missed a particular movement, kept the interest of the audience.  

The story line however was broken and interrupted through its abstract and intellectual interpretations.

The poems written by Sumathy Ramesh were specific for a Bharathanatyam Margam. A traditional format and repertoire for a Bharathanatyam presentation.

The pieces performed were itemised into the Allarippu, Jathiswaram, Shabdham, Varnam, Padam and Thillana.

Described so in the tiny booklet of poems written, one of the sequels of nine poetry books by Ms Ramesh writes Kannagi in disdain demanding her King for an answer in a varnam – Understand that mine was a ruby anklet (not a pearl one)   

It was available for purchase but how many bought or read it one wonders.

If literature were to stand anywhere, it must be in this age-old medium of the written word, its best place of abode. But inside the dark theatre reading the fine print of the poems that leant deeper meaning to what was being presented was near impossible. Perhaps the near absent, Sumathy Ramesh should have simply narrated the beautiful verses herself on stage.  

Silapathikaram is an age old tamil text revered for its beautiful literary poetry of two women wronged by one wealthy man in the town of South India, who is later slain by the King due to a misunderstanding involving an anklet sold by him of his wife Kannagi. To attempt to interpret the same with a more contemporary version of an interpretation, stands to show great conviction and courage.

All items were beautifully enriched with jathis in various nadai’s, ragamalikas aplenty. Flawless rhythmic control by musicians and the dancers was an accepted standard set at the very beginning.

All poems were tuned by well recognised fraternity of the Carnatic music community of teachers in Sydney. Music scored by RK Shriram Kumar and MD Ramanathan and other experienced musicians such as Malathi Nagarajan, Shubha Harinath, Prema Anandakrishnan, Chitra Krishnamurthy, Mohan Ayyar, Mythili Iyer and so on.

The play between the lyric and the swarams in the Jathiswaram (Swaraksharam) composed by Shubha Harinath in Sankarabaranam in thriputa thalam was noticeable in ‘Parigasama P R G S M? Are you teasing me? Padagama ma padagama This is an atrocity. Kudos goes to both Sumathy Ramesh and Shubha Harinath for this ingenuity.

The music in the voice of Carnatic Singer, Mr Krishna Ramarathinam, was a melodious story contemplated by Sumathy Ramesh and its composers. Accompanied by a resounding nattuvangam by C R Suresh, underlined by the bold and assertive mridangam jathis of Pallavan Nagendiran the story telling peaked and iced the beautiful choreography.

Whilst the sound of the accompanying violin was sorely missed, the sometimes-blank silences were broken by the sweet sounds of the flute of Venkatesh and or the strumming gamakams particular to the veena by Vishni Ravindran.  

Laced with lighting to create appropriate effects and minimal yet tastefully done stage décor helped enhance the dance choreography more than the rather sedately interpreted story of Kannagi.  

Costumes were simple without any gleaming borders to distract, stayed true to the storyline depicting the ordinary citizens of Madurai bringing eye catching sculpturistic formations, athletic bends, leaps and jumps appropriately to life especially by Vishakha Iyer and Govind Pillai.

The finale was an eye-catching sculpture being brought to life by two sculpturists, the two male dancers of the productions, Govind Pillai and a guest artist Raphael Speyer of Natanalaya Dance Academy. Perhaps that could have been the first scene, perhaps the story could have been told not as a margam but a straight production, perhaps …

But we are all on a journey of self-discovery, trailing our own paths be it in writing music dance rhythm and more, if so, should it matter?   Is it not enough that it brought some beautiful talents together and created a wonderful evening for all?