Text By : Paul Nicodemus
On November 9, 2019, dance enthusiasts, experts, gurus and students were treated to a celebration of dance and music. The students of Anjana Dongre of Nrityangan Dance Academy presented ‘Samarpanam – An ode to a Legend’ at Swatantrya Veer Savarkar Auditorium in Dadar, Mumbai, in honour of her Gurus Pt Venugopal Pillai and Guru Smt Jayshree Pillai.
‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means remover. Guru is someone who removes the darkness of ignorance. Every guru is a teacher but not all teachers are gurus. Guru stands for one who is an all-encompassing, wise, knowledgeable teacher who knows the right path to take his students from darkness to light, from ignorance to enlightenment.
Anjana Dongre found her guru in Guru Pt Venugopal Pillai and Guru Jayshree Pillai. Samarpanam was a tribute to her legendary gurus showcasing their choreographies, compositions and nuances that they have assimilated in the traditional dance style of Bharatanatyam. The event presented Guru’s recent choreographies in Alarippu, Jatiswaram, Varnam and Thillana in which he had incorporated the Karnas. Also, some of his earlier choreographies such as ‘Navasandhi Kauthuvam’, ‘Devi Thodaya Mangalam’ and ‘Thandav Lasyam’ were beautifully presented.
The event was attended by esteemed dignitaries, Padma Shri recipient Darshana Jhaveri was the chief guest and BR Vikram Kumar, editor of The Dance India magazine, was the guest of honour for the event. The occasion was also graced by eminent personalities Guru Kirti Naik, Guru Dr Jayashree Rajagopalan, Guru Padmini Radhakrishnan, Guru Prema Nagasundaram, Guru Kashmira Trivedi and Guru Geeta Venkatheswaran, to name a few. Ravi Joshi and Mithlesh Upadhyay from Bharatiya Sangeet Samiti and Music Guru Lakshmi Parthasarthy were also present to bless the occasion.
The programme started with the auspicious lighting of the lamp. The recital started with the ‘Navasandhi Kauthuvam’. The detailed description of the sandhis revealed the elaborate research work behind the choreography. The audience was further fascinated by the exquisite footwork and beautiful poses in ‘Devi Thodaya Mangalam’. It was in praise of Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parvathi. The next was an exclusive combination of Leela tala Alarippu, Bhogatala Alarippu and Vidalatala Alarippu. Each Alarippu being one of its kind, incorporating the new trend of Alarippus without leaving out of the traditional pattern or style. This was followed by Jathiswaram, the lyrics, as well as the ‘Korvais’, were composed by the Guru. The ever-appealing Varnam enthralled the audience.
Musicians provided undivided support for the day. They not only provided music but also, by their excellent synchronisation helped in uplifting the energy and performance of the dancers and the spirits of the audience. The Vadya Vrindam included Guru’s equally talented daughter Guru Dhwaani Mukhi on nattuvangam, Sujesh Menon and Aishwarya Nair on vocals, Shekhar Tanjorekar on violin, Satish Krishnamoorthy on mridangam, Raghvendra Balega on flute, Arjun Ezhumalai on Kanjira and Vineet Ashtamurthy on ghatam.
The felicitation ceremony was memorable. The chief guest appreciated the brilliant choreography and remarkable performance. The guest of honour pointed out that the dances were purely traditional without any influence of the recent trend of fusion. He bestowed the title of ‘Naatya Kala Tapaswi’ on Guru Pt Venugopal Pillai and Guru Jayshree Pillai on behalf of The Dance India magazine. The citation along with the title was handed over to Guru Pt Venugopal Pillai and Guru Jayshree Pillai by the chief guest. Guru’s students, Guru Padmini Radhakrishnan and Guru Prema Nagasundaram, also felicitated them and sought their blessings. Guru’s colleague, a long-time friend and well-wisher Guru Kirti Naik also felicitated him.
‘Tandava Lasya’ was the next presentation. The tandava element and lasya element were so explicitly distinguished with the bols and movements used for tandava, corresponding swaras and movements used for lasyam that the audience were left spellbound. ‘Thillana’ was the splendid finale with a small nritta piece at the end, composed by the mridangist Satish Krishnamoorthy and choreographed by Guru Anjana Dongre. It was devoted to her gurus in the true spirit of ‘Samarpanam’. What can be a better samarpanam for a guru than a well-choreographed dance by his student.
Adding rather enhancing the beauty of the choreography were well trained, elegant performing artistes for the evening – Aakruti Bhat, Anchal Khandelwal, Ashwini Gopal, Karishma Makhija, Juee Ghatge, Nidhi Dongre, Pooja Anandani, Preetika Pavithran and Vaishali Anchalkar. Their sheer devotion, hard work and dedication towards the art form was evident from the confidence, ease and grace with which they performed. The coordinated costume and makeup artist Mehul and his team helped in bringing more colour and grandeur to the event. The overall technical effect and design, the brilliant choreography, the splendid performance, the talented musicians all together kept the audience glued to their seats till the end.