Shyamjith Kiran (SK) and Viraja Madre (VM) are from Kalakshetra, Chennai. After graduation SK teaches at SFA, Singapore and Viraja continues to work at Kalakshetra. On Sunday, May 8th, the couple presented their maiden venture “Pareekshana” a Bharathanatyam recital more or less following the traditional margam format with the music accompaniment coming from a professional audio CD.
The first half of the program was presented at the beautiful intimate space of the Sutra Dance Hall with its wooden floor. (I am not sure what they call this space, looked like a dance studio to me). The hall is no bigger than the dance classrooms of some of the well established dance classes in Chennai. Folding chairs were neatly arranged in 2 rows for the audience (probably around 50-60 people). We were just 2 feet away from the dancers at best. The thought did cross me that this could be pretty challenging to the dancers, given that conventionally a dancer maintains a safe distance from the invisible audience.
The program began with a common Vinayagar Sthuthi (vaakundaam) followed by Madurai Sri. R. Muralidharan’s Natai, adi composition on Vinayagar; “Arputha narthanam”. It was definitely interesting to see Kalakshetra students perform to Muralidharan’s compositions. Lalgudi’s Charukesi Varnam “Innum en manam” that came in next was sprinkled with splashes of innovative choreography. None of the jathis, aruthis, thattumettu or the interludes were simple kannakkus, as is the order of the day. But I sometimes long for the old world charm of the simplicity of these interludes that don’t actually break the rasanubhava of the varnam, especially for a varnam that is as soaked in emotion as this Charukesi is.
A brief interval followed when the guests were treated to hot coffee. At the end of it, a kovil mani that adorns the entrance to Sutra was sounded unobtrusively and the audience made their way to the Sutra amphitheatre. This outdoor stage is a simple, perfect octagon with some beautiful lighting arrangements. (Brings back memories of the Konark festival). Viraja started this segment with a padam by Prof. Raghuraman. The padam was a lament of Kunti for having had to desert baby Karna. The choice of this item was an apt choice for the Mother’s Day. Viraja’s abhinaya in this piece was very moving. The piece sounded like it was composed in the rare Karna Ranjani.. but then I am not really sure.
SK came next with a Tulsidas composition on Shiva, with some brilliant choreography by Sheejith Krishna. The rest of the items were choreographed by SK (Shyamjith ) himself. SK’s energetic performance was well received by the audience. The ethereal lighting and Sindhubhairavi was a Divine Combination.
The couple concluded their recital with BMK’s Thillana in Garudadhwani with their joyful presentation matching the spirit of the composition.
VM’s dance and mannerisms bears a strong resembalnce to Leela Samson and Ramli Ibrahim’s concluding remarks told me that I was not alone in the thought. SK and VM are dedicated dancers and consistent efforts I am sure will heighten the artistic quality and content of their work. A career in Arts calls forth for a lot of dedication, compromise and perseverance. I am sure the audience were wishing the two all the very best! It is generous of Ramli to provide his space for upcoming dancers who are looking for a platform to showcase their talents. Thank You Ramli
PS : I see a lot more of smiling and a lot more utplavanas than I traditionally associate with the Kalakshetra style