Dr Padma’s Gift of The Natya Sastra to the World of Dance.
The chapters of Bharata Muni’s ancient treatise on dance and drama unfolded on stage at Shantanand Auditorium, Temple of Fine Arts Kuala Lumpur recently showcasing the 62-year research of Padma Bhushan Dr Padma Subramaniam.
The full house audience at Dr Padma’s Natyasastram Visva Margam – The Global Path organised by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre High Commission of India, Kuala Lumpur in association with Padma Nrithyalaya Arts, Seremban were held transfixed watching the 73-year-old dance doyen and her troupe decipher the A,B,Cs of Indian classical dance nay world dance.
Dr Padma’s tutelage for the audience – comprised mostly of the city’s prominent dancers and art lovers – of the Natyasastra as proferred by Bharata Muni more than three centuries ago, opened with Purvarangam (ritual worship).
Unlike the simple Pushpanjali usually seen in today’s Bharatanatyam recitals, the dance troupe from Dr Padma’s school Nrithyodaya unfurled the full Jarjare puja which included worship of Lord Indra’s regal parasol in the form of a flagstaff paraded and installed on stage by three dancers.
After the Jarjare worship to seek protection against evil and negative influences, the three dancers representing the Sutradhara (director) and his assistants interestingly enter into trigada (debate/discussion) over the theme of the day’s performance.
In the Karanas item, Dr Padma and her students unravelled the 108 Karanas or dance actions from the Natyasastra in thougtfully choreographed group patterns performed to an Ekadasa Ragamalika composition.
The composition by Dr Padma beautifully weaves together the Sanskrit lyrics of the Natyasastra that lists out the names of each of the Karanas.
Together with her students, Dr Padma expertly enacted the Karanas with the depiction of Hindu puranic scenes to movements of trees and various animals.
In Krishnaya Thubhyam Namaha, the dancers exhibit the Bhujanga Karanas or serpentine movements to glorify Lord Krishna’s subjucation of the 1000 headed Kaliya snake.
Dr Padma’s expertise in Abhinaya captivated the audience in her solo performance, Gajendra Moksham performed to the music of blind Japanese musician, Miagi Michio.
Playing the roles of Gajendra, the elephant king, attacking crocodile and saviour Lord Vishnu riding on Garuda, Dr Padma fully manifested the jungle scene before the audience’s eyes.
Showing the universality of Natyasastra Dr Padma and her dancers also performed Jatayu Moksham, a scene from Ramayana, in tune to Russian composer, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet ballet music.
Dr Padma’s choreography made it appear as if the music was written specifically for the scene. Dr Padma also turned in a stellar performance in the role of Surpanaka in the number.
In a befitting finale themed: `A Prayer to Our Planet’ the dancers offered obeisances to Bhooma Devi and the five elements or Pancha Bhootas in tune to Veena Vidwan B. Kannan’s Tillana composition, seeking peace for mankind and the natural world. (Kannan who was the emcee for the free show is Dr Padma’s nephew. His wife and daughter were part of the Nrithyodaya dance team.)
In her welcome speech on behalf of the organisers Padma Nrithyalaya Arts, Seremban artistic director, Vinosree Shangkar who is also Dr Padma’s student hoped Natyasastram Visva Margam held only for the second time outside India will help disseminate among dance schools and dancers here, the crucial findings of Dr Padma’s indepth research into the Natya Sastra treatise of Indian dance and drama.
The Guest of Honour for the evening was Shri T.S. Tirumurti, High Commissioner of India to Malaysia.
Review by R. Sittamparam.
Picture courtesy of Padma Nrithyalaya Arts, Seremban