The Soorya Festival of Indian Music and Dance featuring the dance recital by the Dhananjayans was held at 2 locations in Malaysia on the 6th and 7th of November, 2009. I attended the festival on the 7th held at MAS (Malaysian Airlines) auditorium at Kelana Jaya. The proceeds from the tickets for the show went into helping the Malaysian association for the Blind. The tickets were reasonably priced starting at a reasonable rate of RM 30 (approx USD 10). I am thankful to the organizers and sponsors and the artistes who I believe didnt charge for the peformance for making it so. Some Indian dance performance tickets were priced as high as RM150 , so presumably aiming at helping the charities didn’t target the middle-class Indians.
The program held on 7th, the festival included the following events- a Carnatic Music concert, felicitation of the local artistes and a dance recital. The event started at 7.30pm and was due to finish at around 10.45pm. It was very pleasant since the speeches by the dignitaries consisted of just 2 sentences or less .
The function began with a prayer song by Preeta Prasad, a Malaysian Carnatic vocalist. She sang the Vinayaga sthuthi “Mudhakaratha Modhakam” which she would easily have done better justice to, had she sung 1/2 kattai less. She was probably involved in a lot of the organizational activities and was breathless. She handled the tambura for the music and dance concert as well.
The Carnatic Music concert by the couple, Trivandrum Krishnakumar and Binny Krishnakumar followed. Binny krishnakumar was introduced as the ” Chandramukhi ra-ra” playback singer. Both of them are currently disciples of Dr.M. Balamuralikrishna. They were accompanied by Malaysian violinist Sri. Achyuthan Sashidharan Nair and Mridangist Sri. Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundaram .
The couple had interestingly planned their short concert by including songs with a variety of thalams. The concert featured the following songs:-
- Rakshamam Sharanagatham- Nattai- Adi, a composition of Meenakshisuthan, tuned by Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar. A fiery presentation, though I felt there was a slight hurry for the sharanagathi.
- This was followed by a pleasing “Gopalaka Pahimam Anisam” in ragam Bhoopalam and set to Misra chapu.
- An alapana in Hamsanandhi complete with the application of swarabedham technique showing shades of Hindolam followed . The kriti chosen was Paavana guru (Thalam: Rupakam, Composer: Lalitha Dasa). The violinist did not help much with the neraval here, I was almost at the edge of my seat a couple of times with this uneasy feeling that he was going to touch the absent pa sometime :). Somehow choosing Hamsanandhi after Bhoopalam wasnt too easy on my ears, but I aint any expert, though. During the thaniavardhanam, the mridangist wasnt showing enough of sruthi and then a mridangam can sound like the melam at times!
- The next song was “Muruganai ninaikadha neramillai” in ragam Bageshri and Adi talam, quite a rare piece.
- They concluded their recital with a BMK thillana in Ragamalika .
A quick award ceremony to felicitate local artistes followed. The “Kalaseva Award” was given to Bharathanatyam artistes Guru (Smt) Vatsala Sivadas, Guru (Smt) Meena Venugopal (Dis of the Dhananjayans) and Sri. Shankar Kandasamy of TFA who is now quite famous in the Madras dance recital circuit too. I remember reading a review of his performance last year by Ms. Nrithya Pillai at Carnatic Darbar . The ceremony was real quick with no bugging speech concerts from the VIPs. God bless the organizers!
The dance concert started immediately after the awardees cleared the stage. The Dhananjayanas were accompanied by their disciples Dhivya Shiva, Gopukiran, Veena Sashidharan and Lavanya Raghuram (Alapana Arts , Singapore). They were efficiently accompanied by Sri. N. Sashidharan (vocal), Kalaiarasan Ramanathan(violin) and K. P. Ramesh Babu (mridangam).
The recital presented the evergreen choreographies of the Dhanajayans as per the request of the organizers. The recital began with an Anjali performed by the three girls with Sri. Gopukiran handling the Nattuvangam.
The next item presented excerpts from VPD’s Raamanaatkam. While introducing the item, VPD said that they had choreographed this way back in 1974 as “Ekaharya Lasyangam Ramayana” meaning that the characterization depended on the body language of the dancers rather than the costume itself. He also pointed out that back then they presented it in simple practice costumes. He said that this choreography of theirs has been staged for over 500 times. The 3 main characters who appeared in this potryal were Kaikeyi (Dhivya). Mantara/Kooni ( Smt. Shantha Dhananjayan) and King Dasaratha (Sri.VPD). Gopukiran handled the nattuvangam for this piece too. The portrayal went down very well with the audience. The Dhanajayans were able to reach across the audience with their clear, simple and elegant choreography.
En palli Kondeeraiya, a padam that narrates briefly the story of Rama and Krishna was performed at a brisk pace by Veena, Lavanya and Gopukiran. Smt. Shantha took over the nattuvangam at this point and I couldn’t help turning my attention to her at times to watch the quiet confidence and efficiency she brought with her nattuvangam. I was carried back in time to when I learnt this padam (as a fifth grader) from Smt. Indira Rajan at the home of a co-student, Ms. Alamelu at one those streets tugged behind Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in T- Nagar, Chennai.
After the above mentioned item, VPD appeared on stage and said that it was 10.20pm already and that Nandanaar Charaithram would take a minimum of 20 mins and if it was OK for him to proceed, since he was earlier asked to finish at 10.30pm. The audience were all for it.VPD instructed the vocalist to do away with repetitions and Smt. Shantha, Sri.VPD and Sri. Sashidharan were all taking cues from each other so effectively. That’s the perk of having a regular vocalist, who understands dance and with whom you have an understanding. Thus began Nandanaar Charitharm with Sri.VPD as Nandanaar and Gopukiran was the master and later Shiva. The three girls joined in at the end.
The Thillana, Aliveni Padam and Shiva natanam mentioned in the brochure were not performed (But en palli kondeeraiya wasnt mentioned in the brochure either)
The audience gave the artistes a standing ovation and Sri. N. Sashidharan picked a camera from his pocket and clicked a picture of the audience from the stage. Without much ado, the artistes were felicitated and then everyone left for home.
Sri. VPD would have been happy since the couple Carnatic Musicians stayed back to watch the show. What irked me was that there was a lot of to and fro movement in the front few (VIP and Premier seating) rows. The sound and light management wasn’t totally professional. The squeaking microphones at the beginning of the dance show could have very well been avoided. The show seems to have been sold out. The theatre was filled to its maximum capacity. I was also curious about the Malay security guard who came in for the dance recital and stood throughout near the door with his eyes fixed on the stage!