June 22, 2013
Ashu and Ramu took us, for a ballet show, last night, staged by their daughter’s dance school. It was awesome, not because my grand niece participated but the girls gave a memorable performance. ‘Girls’ here, means not only over one hundred kids in the age group of 5 to 10, about 20 -30 teens and hold your breath, over a dozen, probably between 50 to 60 and hold your breath tighter, two or three above 70 too!. ‘probably’ because no one can guess the age of women beyond a certain age and our aging engine will speed up , if we start a research project on that topic. At times, I say truth and nothing but truth, and it is one of those rare moments, when I say that the elderly women’s performance was breath -taking, though the youngster’s performance was fantastic. The ease and charm with which their contracted frame turned and twisted , their limbs moved in rhythm, maintaining a genuine smile on their wrinkled face though deprived of a tooth or two, showed their dedication and will power . Yes, they danced without make up or donning any designed attire and hence my observation. I’m sure that they would have been masters in the art with long years of practical training. As you know, it takes several years to get expertise in Ballet, as in our art forms, as every muscle in the body has to be skillfully exploited and even a minute mistake or mis-timing will spoil the grace.
Born in Italy, this dance form spread to France and Russia and then to the other parts of the world. Aerobatics like looping, spinning and flying down, performed in groups with absolute synchronization of speed and rhythm are the basic character of Ballet dance.
In Indian art forms like Barathanayam, Kathakali etc, there is a message to be conveyed to the audience and for that purpose facial expressions are the prime tool. Eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, cheeks, forehead, in fact, complete face talk . And hands, fingers, legs, hip , the entire body, aids the face in its task. If necessary the artist may even opt for some faster body movements such as jumping or hopping only to achieve the main objective and not to exhibit their acrobatic skill.
‘Rasapradanam’, transmission of feelings, is the main aim our dance forms.
Anika did a good job, considering her age ( 5 ) and limited training she had undergone. If she was more interested in watching the steps of the co-dancers than her own steps, she is not to be blamed ! If she was excited in seeing us seated in the front row and was bold enough to convey her happiness through signs and not the sings she was expected to deliver, it was again natural.
She behaved in the stage like an actor unlike her grand uncle, who ran away in exasperation.
Oh, I didn’t tell you that story. That happened during the annual day celebration in my early school days.
I was good looking then. I was good looking only then!. I was chosen to play the role of
Sri krishna. I had to enter the stage, singing, singing aloud as there was no mike.
I walked majestically, wearing a crown, projecting a peacock feather . The glistening paper headgear didn’t slip, nor the gorgeous golden silk cloth from my hip, when I paced before the closed door, for a minute or two. Then, I knocked at the wooden plank with the design of an ornamental door and sang:
” Kaamee sathyabhamaa, kathavai thirvaai;
Kathavai thiravaai viravaai, varuvaai”
That was an appeal to the angry sathyabhama, to open the door of her house and come out.
After a few repeated knocks, which had to be done carefully lest the door would have fallen, appeared unwillingly , my heroin, Sathyabhama, with a swollen face but adorably dressed and jeweled sufficiently to cover the lapses made by her creator. She was not to open her mouth, as she was angry. The director of the play, our head master Pankunni Menon, purposely asked her to be silent as she was notorious for ceaseless chatting . Holding her hand, I lead her to the chair, kept in a corner of the stage. Good progress.
My next job was to sing another song and comb her hair and continue combing till the song was over.
” Marakathamada mayilae,
Unakku nan manakkurai enna seithaen?”
My green peacock of great charm
What have I done for your mental harm?
That was a favorite drama dialogue bit of the veteran singer Kittappa of yore, but the problem was an over enthusiastic teacher added more lines of her own and insisted on my singing the whole lot. Even a genuine lover in his best spirits, will run away, come what may, if he had to keep on combing the hair of his beloved till the song ends. It was therefore natural for me to go crazy. The idiotic girl, my heroin, was sitting enjoying my discomforts if not my song and even started smiling which she was not supposed to do. I gave her a knock on her head with my closed fist and she screamed, complaining ,’chekka nee ente thalyil kotti’ you knocked on my head, you silly boy’
I didn’t like her calling me ‘chekka’, as I was Sree Krishanan, the divine king of Dwaraka.
I gave her back,’ Podi, vatta bharani- get lost you, big mouthed jar’, and ran away from the stage. The applause I received for that performance was never repeated later for any of my subsequent stage plays during the high school or college days, though I never did once ran away from my assigned job.
My another grand niece’s performance was much better. Her skit was unwisely listed at the fag end of her school drama. The four year old, when pushed by someone from behind the curtain to play her role, held the mike and in chaste Gujarati said addressing the audience, ” it is too late and I am sleepy. I’m going ” . She walked out, with partially closed eyes and drooping head. The audience raised from their seats and applauded. No other walk-outs would have received such a tremendous applause.