An off-beat varnam by Rajeswari Sainath


Rajeswari Sainath performing at the Narada Gana Sabha in Chennai
| Photo Credit: VEDHAN M

There were many highlights in Rajeswari Sainath’s performance — great orchestral support, pace of the programme and the special quality of the varnam, which was the main piece.

Through her years of practice, Rajeswari has focussed on the laya — she constantly experiments with it. She is credited with exploring neurobiology in dance, where neural pathways pave the way for a beautiful mind-body connection and also allow for mathematical influences (her doctoral degree in mathematics focuses on the intricacies of laya) in particular pieces in the Bharatanatyam repertoire. And Rajeswari showcased that in her recital, especially through a rare Khanda Jati Triputa tala varnam (it is usually in Adi), composed more than 25 years ago.

Composed by Guru Karaikudi Mani

Having worked closely with Guru Karaikudi Mani, the varnam, ‘Kannan Ennake Sondhamadi’ (Charukesi), had not just the devotional aspect, but also the excitement of the beat through the talas and nadais that made it worth watching.

It was specially written and composed in the Tisra Triputa — three kalai, Khanda nadai, Khanda Jati Triputa tala 1/2 edam — under the guidance of the mridangam maestro. With lyrics by Kumbakonam Gajendran, the bhava portion of the piece showcased Krishna’s leelas. Rajeswari brought forth the naughtiness as well as the bhakti elements.

The footwork was unhurried and seamless, allowing viewers to appreciate the beauty of the tala. Contrasts were used to show Krishna stealing the vastras of gopikas versus saving Draupadi’s honour, dancing on the hooded snake Kalinga versus lying serenely on the mighty Adishesha, and evolving from the diminutive Vamana to rising above everything, even beyond the perceived sky.

Rajeswari began the recital with verses from the Vishnu Sahasranamam in Sankarabharanam, Adi, set to music by Rajkumar Bharati. The varnam was followed by a Kshetrayya padam — ‘Indu endu vachchitivira’ (Surutti; Mishra Chapu). She concluded with a thillana in Sumanesa Ranjani, a composition by Madurai T. Srinivasan.

On the nattuvangam was Karra Srinivas Rao, who complemented Gomathy Nayagam on vocals, Nagai Narayanan on the mridangam, Karaikal Venkat on the violin and Devaraj on the flute.

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