A Divine Tribute to Bala Saraswati
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A Divine Tribute to Bala Saraswati

By Dr. Padmavathi Narasimhan

It is indeed a blessing that Mysuru has abundant access to classical dance, especially Bharatanatyam. Ganabharathi had organised a Bharatanatyam concert by Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy on Feb.16, in memory of the dance legend Bala Saraswati.

A book titled ‘Dharegilida Natya Taare’ on the legend penned by Sri Venugopal was also released on the occasion.

Prior to her dance performance, Dr. Vasundhara spoke about the life and achievement of  Bala Saraswati. Tanjore Bala Saraswati was a celebrated Indian classical dancer, who was awarded the prestigious Padma Bhushan and also the Padma Vibhushan awards. A temple musician and dancer, and the granddaughter of Veena Dhanammal, she was encouraged and accompanied by her mother in her performances.

Bala Saraswati created a revolution for Bharatanatyam and later attracted international critical attention. She also established a dance school at Madras and travelled globally training new dancers. She visited USA repeatedly and held residencies at Wesleyan University, California Institute of Arts and University of Washington at Seattle. She received numerous awards for her achievement including Sangeet Natak Academy Award from the President of India and was the sole dance recipient of Sangeeta Kala Nidhi. Satyajit Ray has made a documentary film on her named ‘Bala.’

Dr.Vasundhara’s performance for the day was the traditional ‘margam.’ She is a danseuse with no compromise on quality. She dedicated her first item ‘Mela Prapti’ to Bala Saraswati, through which she offered obeisance to Bala Saraswati gracefully describing her as ‘Gana Saraswati and ‘Natya Saraswati. In the next piece Allaripu, ‘Shivashtakam’ was intelligently woven with also statuesque yoga postures. ‘Shree Valli Deva Senapate,’ in Natabhairavi by Papanashanam Shivam picturised the story of Shanmukha and Tarakasura Vadha.

Dr. Vasundhara’s artistry and choreography shone in Dwaraki Krishnaswamy’s padavarna in Keeravani that followed in which her footwork, Jatis, delicate abhinaya and gati were explicit.

Dr. Vasundhara started the varna with the charana part ‘Shri Partha Sarathe Dasha Vidha swaroopa Geetamruta subhodaka’ and then came to the pallavi ‘Sundara mohana muralidhara neela megha Shyama,’ expanding each line beautifully.

The episode of Kamsa pestering Devaki to surrender her babies to him, Vasudeva crossing the river in the rain with baby Krishna, the snake covering the baby with the hood, and then in the charana, the Bhagavad Gita episode with Arjuna’s agony in the beginning, Krishna filling courage and valor in him culminating in the Vishwa Roopa Darshana of the Lord were all shown with minute detail, carrying the audience to the time.

The later half of the performance included the popular padam ‘Taye Yashoda’ in Todi, wherein Krishna’s ‘Kalinga Mardana’ was depicted effectively while familiar Devaranama ‘Krishna Nee Begane Baro’ by  Shri Vyasaraya in Yaman Kalyani showing Yashoda’s immeasurable love for Krishna brought tears to the spectator. Dr. Vasundhara closed the evening’s recital with the tillana in Kapi.

P. Rama on vocal was her usual best. Sandesh Bhargav offered Natuvanga with utter devotion to his Guru. Rakesh was melodious on flute and Hanumanta Raju was lively and apt on mridanga.

March 1, 2018

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