A performance to moh the audience’s hearts

Last month, as the capital was being scorched by unseasonably hot weather, there was some cultural respite in the form of young dancer Navia Natarajan performing at IHC in Delhi as part of the HCL Concert Series. She is a disciple of Dr A Lakshman of Chennai and Bragha Bessell, and is based in the US.

It was a margam performance. The first piece was an ode to Parashakti. There are different images of the goddess that are perceived by our mind. On one side, you see beauty, and on the other, you see that she’s extremely fierce. Navia combined the two aspects to show the battle between good and evil that occurs within each of us. It is the battle of light and darkness, and when you invoke the goddess within you, you become triumphant.

The second piece was a varnam, a composition by the Tanjavur quartet, titled Mohamana. The bhakta here is the nayika, and the lord, the beloved. She is in love with him and says to him, ‘Have you forgotten the time we spent together? Are you indifferent to my pining for you?’ She is struck by the arrows of Kama. She is energised by the grandeur of the temple. Here, she says that she does not want the material world. The varnam was in raga Bhairavi, roopak talam. The nritta portions had a lot of pace and footwork with squats. Her stage coverage back and forth and circling the stage was well executed. Her abhinaya had a lot of expressiveness, showing the eye glances or the kataksh, the embrace and the kiss. The grandeur of the temple was shown by depicting the sculptures and the lotus pond. And then, at a very poignant time, she says that she has left the worldly pleasures, ‘bhoga tyagesha anubhogam seyya vaa’, to attain the pleasure of unification with the lord. The lotuses are blossoming and the birds are singing. She ties the toran, makes the bed and strings the garland, waiting for the union. The piece was rendered energetically, with a lot of expanse of movement. Navia says that the bhakta is very confident about what she wants – ‘nothing can stop me,’ she says. She goes beyond all conviction and convention and says, ‘I need you at the physical level, but when the union happens, the bliss should transcend what mortals can feel.’

The third composition was written by the saint poet Purandardasa in raga Kalyani, aditalam – ‘Balakrishnane baro’. Yashoda comes looking for her little Krishna and finds him stealing the butter. She tempts him with butter and tells him that she is tired and that he should come and sleep now. She scolds him, cleans his face, puts kajal in his eyes and puts him to sleep. While she’s doing so, she wonders if he’s the parmatma or her baby. She reminisces about the time when he was eating mud, and the entire universe could be seen in his open mouth.

This was followed by a thillana in raga Desh, aditalam, a composition of Lalgudi Jayaram. Again, this was a very sound piece technically, rendered with stretches and squats, culminating in footwork. It was a complete performance, with good technique, sound abhinaya and energy that really held the audience. Navia has a lot of skill and practice, and it shows in her dance. The only thing Navia said she wasn’t entirely happy with was the rather sparse attendance at such events, and hoped for better presence when she next performed.

Pics: Anoop Arora