Enacting the escapades of the Lord Krishna has got to be one of the perquisites
of evolving as a good dancer, judging by how popular it is among various genres
of performances, and by how much the various artistes enjoy the portrayal. And
when you have a Kathak performance, of course, for the ones on stage it is sheer
ecstasy. They have specialized in a dance form dedicated to the Lord. And that
was what the third day of the annual Nrityotsav of SICA was all about.
"I feel honored to be dancing in the city that I was born in," said Murali Mohan. Any city that produces artists of this caliber will feel honored, too. He proceeded to enchant the audience along with Nandini Mehta, the other half of the pair from Bangalore that was in Hyderabad to perform at the Nrityotsav on the final day. And a lot of comments in the course meant a lot of education for the audience, too.
"The Jaipur gharana is Tandav oriented," elaborated Murali, for example, "and the Lucknow gharana is of Lasya." The dance repertoire included both the schools. Opening with Angikam Bhuvanam, a sloka that highlights the best features of Kathak, Nandini and Murali simply filled the stage with their lively presence. The rapport with the audience was instant. The slightly older Nandini danced with maturity, and the younger Murali was coy and electrifying in turns.
The Siva stuti was followed by 'Madhuraashtakam', and both were beautifully executed. The pair then presented "Dhamar", a time rhythm of 14 beats, an offshoot of the teen tal of 16 beats. The interpretation was interesting: the first beat is of Krishna, and the rest are of the gopis who follow Him to merge into Him, ending in the Sum (completion of the tal). A very brisk item.
Nandini then danced her way gracefully through a tumri that started with "Hari maito haari re" (Krishna , I am fed up), complaining to Krishna of his pranks, and ended with finally surrendering saying, "Hari mai tohari re" (Krishna, I am yours).
"Kathak has many such puns," detailed Murali, and performed another Surdas bhajan with a similar twist: "Maiya meri mai nahin maakhan khaayo" (Mother, I have not eaten the butter) turning to "Maiya meri, mainehi maakhan khaayo" (I was the one who ate the butter).
"Antardhwani" with fusion music was a choreographic masterpiece. The dancers created the effect of a Russian ballet in this item while still keeping the Kathak tradition intact. A rare feat, without any compromise made to dilute the classical style.
Ras Barse by Nandini and Laaj Raakho by Murali were tumris with emphasis on Sanchari Abhinaya, different from the oft seen variety of expressions. The finale, 'Taraana", was absolutely fascinating.
Nandini and Murali carry the traditions of big names like Maya Rao and Kumudini Laakhia on their shoulders. They seem to be creating a trendy tradition of their own that others are likely to follow - and soon!