Raghava Yadhava conceived and artistically directed by Nadarajan Muniandy and Ajith Bhaskaran Dass was a showcase of aesthetics and harmony all the way- invitation, brochures, colour co-ordinated costumes of the dancers, props etc etc inclusive.
The evergreen stories from the shores of the Ganges and Yamuna, the well known episodes from the life of Rama and Krishna go well with most audience.
The first segment “Raghava” was presented by Nadarajan Muniandy and his students trained in the Kalakshetra style at Subranjali Dance Theatre. Nadarajan had cleverly choreographed the pieces to provide opportunities for his students who varied in their skills and length of training. All dancers including the little ones who just had to do some Mardhita across the stage took their work seriously and gave it their best. I am sure their problem areas will all be set right under the rightful guidance of their devoted teacher. The narration itself started with Rama, Lakshmana and Sita crossing the Ganga in Guhan’s boat. The second piece was Arunachala Kavirayar’s “En Palli Kondeeraiya” choreographed in the shapdam/varnam format with medium sized jathis inbetween. Nadarajan Muninady had strung together Sita Swayamvaram, Surpanaka and Maarichan episodes in between. The last piece of this segment portrayed Hanuman taking the ring from Rama and travelling across the ocean to Lanka and finding Sita in Ashoka Vana. Nadarajan’s simple narration and effective execution, and simple humour carried the message effectively and effortlessly to all sections of the audience including kids. While his students did participate, Nadarajan Muniandy solely carried “Raghava” on his shoulder.
Yadhava, the next segment was Ajith’s baby. He had the flexibility of making it truly a group choreography since he had just 7 of his well trained dancers accompanying him. This group started with Madurashtakam as the opening piece set to the tune of Ghatam Karthik’s Rathipathipriya Thillana. That tune never fails to impress and set a tempo! The Gokula Bala Varnam that followed had some wonderful visuals of Vasudeva carrying his child to Nandagopan’s house, Krishna’s kiddy pranks, Boothana episode etc. The Viswaroopa Darshan to Arjuna was so beautifully conceived- the students lined up behind Ajith randomly flowed out in Avatars ultimately merging back into Mahavishnu . Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer’s Kalinga Nardhana thillana was their concluding item. Ajith’s choreography draws beautiful geometric patterns that covers space and time and tests the fitness levels of the dancers and his students stood up to the task. Ajith’s Mandi adavus that were sprinkled throughout his segments with innovative variations and utplavanas are a delight to watch. He tried a few jathis using only tripathakam, which still came across as complete and wholesome. His style comes across like a blend of Kalakshetra’s geometry and Vazhuvoor’s spontaneity, if I may say so.
The physique, dancing styles and body language of Nadarajan and Ajith naturally suited the respective roles they chose to portray for the evening and brought out the subtle distinctions in the characterization of the avatars. The dancers were supported by the orchestra that was ably led by Smt. Subashri on the nattuvangum. She was a picture of confidence and control and her jathis with special sollus like “ gumtha” for Surpanaka, “Mriga” for Maarichan etc came out beautifully. The Mridangists, 2 of them were such an asset to the program. They were Theban Arumugam and Pallavarajan Nagendran. The Mridangists also handled ghatam, kanjira etc for the special effects. Bavani Logeswaran on the vocals, Achyuthan sashidharan Nair on the violin and Balasubramaniam Kalaiyaperumal on morsing did all they could to embellish the program. Since everything else was fine, one did not have to worry too much about the slight sruthi misalignment in the flute department. Meena Kumaree was the narrator for the program.
Nadarajan and Ajith are both passionate dancers and wonderful teachers who manage to instil the same passion in their students. The students would do well to observe their teachers’ araimandi and how they complete their movements irrespective of the tempo.
And at the end of show Ajith and Nadarajan had more to offer… The audience had to exit from the top and once they exited the auditorium, they were thanked for their presence by none other than Nadarajan and Ajith themselves. I am accustomed to seeing a few members of the audience moving up to the stage or the green room to greet the artistes. This was a first, to me. All other dancers and dance students were lined-up at the bottom of the stairwell and with their hands in Anjali the kids cutely said “thanks for coming” to everybody who came close to them. A mami moving in front pointed out “Nadarajan and Ajith don’t seem to stop with teaching dance to their students, they teach them respect and humility and this will go a long way in ensuring their success in lives. “ She’s probably got a point. Congratulations to the teachers and the students!