Martha Graham, who launched feelings in dance within the West, famously mentioned in her memoir Blood Memory: “People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life.”
Watching Vyjayanthimala Bali at 90, wearing her ‘Andal’ costume, one felt there should have been an analogous calling in her case.
This is a lifetime devoted to bounce, notably to Andal. Reviving ‘Sri Andal’s Sanga Tamizh Malai’ of 30 Andal pasurams first offered within the Nineteen Fifties, Vyjayanthimala and some younger dancers offered pasurams at Natya Darshan, 2023.
Once she adjusted to the blinding arc lights, nothing may stand between Vyjayanthimala and her artwork. She is a becoming instance of a dancer with a straight again and an imposing presence. Having soaked within the Tiruppavai for many years, Vyjayanthimala’s method was relaxed; the fast-changing gestures and expressions flowed simply with the lyrics. The solely lacking piece was the painstakingly-executed excellent nritta segments she would break into once in a while.
Following the introductory thaniyan, ‘Soodik koduththa sudarkkodiye’, Vyjayanthimala entered from behind a display screen (thirai) to a string of sollus in Nattai. The thirai was eliminated to disclose a imaginative and prescient in inexperienced and crimson with the distinctive Andal kondai. She offered ‘Margazhi thingal’ by detailed abhinaya, as a younger woman comfortable to begin her vrata (quick) on an excellent day and urging her like-minded mates to hitch her, to wash within the river and worship Nandagopan’s son.
The group of dancers offered brief items, retold concisely. Andal describes the black birds chirping early within the morning and the churning of curds in ‘Keechu keechu’ in Sindhubharavi, Adi, and urges the women to sing and get items in ‘Keezhvanam’ in Suddha Saveri, Adi, because the calves and buffaloes roam free. Little swara segments added life to the literal translations.
Andal goes from home to deal with waking up her mates in ‘Kanaithilam’ in Abhogi, Adi and ‘Elle ilam kiliye’, Kanada, Rupakam.
Andal lastly wakes up Nappinai and her consort in ‘Kuthuvilakkeriya’, Hamsadhvani, Adi; ‘Muppathu moovar’, Jonpuri, Adi; and ‘Etrakalangal’ Nattaikurinji, Misra chapu, earlier than concluding together with his worship in ‘Oruthi maganai’, Neelambari, Adi.
Vyjayanthimala returned to carry out the concluding ‘Vangakkadal kadainthu’ pasuram, a phala shruti set in Suruti. Andal says that simply reciting the verses, with out performing the vrata, is sufficient to attain god. The dancer stood underneath the prop of an ornate temple-like doorway, with an extended garland, embodying divinity.
The melodies had been composed by vidwan Madurai N. Krishnan and sung by Samanvitha G. Sasidaran together with knowledgeable musicians J.B. Sruthi Sagar on the flute and G.V. Guru Bharadwaaj on the mridangam. Gayathri Sasidaran performed the programme easily.
The group offered 16 pasurams in about 60 minutes. The visualisation by Vyjayanthimala with the steerage of scholar M.A. Venkatesan was understandably transient. Neither the music or the dance had room for elaboration on account of time constraint.
The lyrics took centre stage all through, proof of Vyjayanthimala’s reverence for Andal.
And, the packed auditorium proved that her fame has not diminished, and that conventional Bharatanatyam stays a crowd-puller.