Sunday, 7 December 2014

Aesthetic principles do not age

Once upon a time, Padams and Javalis as well as Viruttams and Slokams were the most anticipated pieces during the second half of concerts. Following my Guru Kanjivaram Ellappa's style of singing, I was able to learn many classic pieces composed by masters and for forty years have included them as a highlight and not as fillers in the second half of my dance recitals. The exact tempo for a Padam in thisra triputa tala, composed by Kshetragna, is most vital for BHAVA in Abhinaya. My guru emphasised this aspect  to great effect. The next was proper pronunciation of the language of the padam. He always used to warn us that a small mispronunciation would change the whole meaning of the song. And then came the studied and subtle " Sangathis " which were permitted. Singing these nuances were tricky, and demanding. The BHAVA inherent in the small phrases have guided not only my movement but also my facial expressions. With a vast repertoire I have  been committed to sharing these old treasures with diverse audiences, here and abroad. With careful planning and with new additions to the repertoire an entire concert of Abhinaya has been my forte in recent times.

Similarly a Javali had to be handled with the correct tempo, often faster than a Padam, but very subtle in the rendering of Sangathis, with the correct pronunciation, in order to bring out the meaning both in song and dance.

As for Slokas and Viruttams, my Guru had a repertoire which was challenging to me as a dancer. A Thayumanavar viruttam with philosophical meaning needed a choice of ragas to enhance the core ideas. One was not free to make up a Ragamalika of random ragas. He chose, in the style of temple bards, ragas like Harikambodhi, Atana, Natabhairavi, Sahana and so on. When we performed Sanskrit verses from texts like the Krishnaleela Tarangini, the core ideas were enhanced by the way it was sung which in turn influenced the Abhinaya that brought the music to visual dimensions.

A considerable degree of scholarship is needed to gain a repertoire of the classic Padams, Javalis and Viruttams.The exploration of the true depth in their meaning takes years of dancing them or singing them. There are no short cuts to evolved and poignant Abhinaya.  The underlying aesthetic principles do not go out of fashion.  A taste for that kind of music first needs to be cultivated. The real work is in internalizing the meaning and then sharing both melody and mood through inspired song and dance. Such artistry would leave a lasting impression on a sensitive listener and viewer. After all, great artists have shown the way, and it is up to the present day Vidwans and mature dancers to study the deeper aspects more seriously. Aesthetic principles never go out of fashion.

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