When lines merge – drama or dance

Flashing erupting fireworks, lighting pyrotechnics that flare synchronising with the beats of drumming, melody drowned by the noise in one of the largest of auditoriums, synchronised costume lights flash on a dancer’s body. Action! Action! Action! – Beats! beats! beats! – Entertainment! entertainment! entertainment!. That was another show. That was another evening. That was another moment that blurs in one’s mind with the passage of time.

This evening we had no need for the pyrotechnics, for the gyrating glistening half naked bodies ? For this day we were in the presence of a great artist, a great actress and a great dancer –  Bragha Bessell, teacher at the School of Kalakshetra Chennai who specialises in Abhinaya performed for a select audience last week in Sydney after conducting various workshops for students of Bharathanatyam and their teachers across several weeks.

Merging the lines of distinction between dance, drama and theatre Bragha Bessell gave an extraordinary eye opening performance in a cosy and intimate space bringing it alive with her ambience and exemplary artform.  She proved that with an assurance that comes from years of experience as an exponent of bharathanatyam that a true artist who has conquered one’s technique needs nothing much, other than the mere and sheer conviction and brilliance of giving in to the expression itself – with oodles of excitement, with every profound lift of the million muscles that make a face, with every quivering lip, with the lift of her eye lashes, with the wells of her eyes – she had her audience transfixed.


Commencing with the Mooshika Vahanam, she established her style which blossomed and progressed through each of the remaining items for the evening. In Navarasa Slokam on Parvati – lyrics taken from Adi Shankara’s Soundaryalahari, Bragha Bessell enacted the conversation between Shiva and Shakti, when Shakti demands Shiva to marry her.

In ‘Idai vida veru vendumo Saatchi’  Padam by Subbarama Iyer in Saaveri ragam and rupaka talam, Bragha Bessell continues the discourse between the Nayika and her Lord, whom she asks ‘Where have you been my Lord ? you look dishevelled, your tilakam has been erased, you have scratches on your body. She demands ‘Have you been with her?’
In an exquisite portrayal of three nayikas- Ksethriya padam – Nanne penlaadu  – Bragha’s excelled in her class of expression as she portrayed the love of three women in different stages of their lives. A teenage girl’s first love, a young woman’s first love and a mature woman’s expression of love. The portrayal of the three nayikas – Muktha, Madhya and Pragalbha – was the epitome of the evening in a Ragamalika set to Adi talam
Moving on to the demanding nayika who asks her Lord where are all the promises you made to me , of the diamond ring, of the bangles of the golden gifts – in a very famous Javali – Neematale – poorvikalyani ragam – Adi talam – Composer – T. Patabiramaiya – Bragha Bessell’s choreography was exemplary.
Whilst the soul searching Ashtapadi – Pashyati dishi dishi – Baasanthy ragam – mishra chapu talam was introspective the Devarnamam – Gummana karayedhire – Ragamalika – Adi talam – composer – purandaradasa, brought happiness and cheers back as the audience watched little Krishna and his pranks.
Ending the performance with a Javali – Samayam idhe ra ra in Behag and Rupakam composed by Patinam Subramaniya Iyer – the Nayika anxious and impatient implores her Lord and lover to come into her chamber, Bragha Bessell stole the hearts of every one in the audience.
Her performance shall be long remembered by many. We hope we can see more of her performances as we too impatiently await her return to this part of the world down under. A special thanks to Natyanjali Australia, Gayatri Krishnamurthy and Aruna Parthiban, is owed for their humble efforts to bring Bragha Bessell to our shores


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