Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati: dance drama
Nritya Geethanjali Dance Academy
NCPA, Tata theatre, December 8

The very name Mahakavi Bharati conjures up the image of the fiery poet of Tamil Nadu whose prolific compositions range from patriotic songs to themes like women's lib, from the devotional to the romantic. His exquisite lyrics have the power to rouse deep emotions.

Though some of the more popular compositions have found their way into the Bharatanatyam repertoire, and his centenary had brought out full length recitals of his compositions, this is perhaps the first time an attempt has been made to sketch his life in a full-length dance drama. Generally, dance dramas are based in epics, but Guru Rajee Narayan has conceived and adapted this contemporary theme of Bharati's life in the traditional Bharatanatyam style with considerable success.

Choreographed and directed by the guru who has also composed the lyrics that link Bharati's own compositions, the ballet brought alive Mahakavi Bharati's unique poetry. The students of Nritya Geethanjali, from tiny tots, like Maya and Shailaja, to the senior most, Bhavani and Mala, have put forth a commendable show.

The tale begins with Bharati composing an invocatory song on the Hindu pantheon of Gods. His affection for his daughters, his patriotic out pourings, his flight and return from Pondicherry, his romantic instincts, the different facets of Krishna as seen by him - as a naughty child, a model servant, lover and a protector, were all touched upon in a fascinating blend, using purely classical and folk styles, such as Kummi, Karagam, Kollatam, etc. Though the costume changes were effected speedily and the time lapse between scenes was minimal, there were a couple of occasions where the slightly longer gaps could have been covered with musical interludes.

Anupama and V. Deepa in Suttu vizhi Sudardan deserve special mention as also Jatinder Singh Bansal in his lively roles, like the Kudu Kuduppandi

Bharati is shown singing the opening lines of some of his poems, the scene then shifts to some dancers in the corresponding roles dancing to bring out the evocative beauty of the compositions. Chinnanchiru kiliye, Theerada Vilayattu Pillai, Kanavu Kandadile and Panchali sabadam are just some of the more fascinating numbers.

Guru Rajee Narayan is reputed for her excellent choreography and the painstaking training she gives her students. This ballet has proved it once again. Though Vijaya as Bharati should project more masculinity to be more effective. The support from the wings with Shyamsunder singing some of the songs enhanced the overall effect.

K. Subadra Murthy
December 16, 1993. The Times of India, Bombay