Ananda & Team Breathe Life Into Ramadasa Couplets

~ G V Anna Rao

“Sri Rama Namam-Entha Ruchi Ra”, Bharatanatyam ballet, was a poetic paen in praise of Lord Rama based on the compositions of Kancherla Gopanna (Bhakta Ramadasa). Choreographed by Padma Shri Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant, it was the opening program heralding the three-day Ramayana Kalpavrksam festival held recently at CCRT, Madhapur. A spectacular tour de force aiming at bringing together the best costumes, lighting, sound and stage settings to create a rich ambience for the viewer, the concept amply succeeded in its objective. 

Ten of her talented young students were featured along with the Maestro herself. The story of Bhadrachala Ramadasa is well known to the Telugu speaking people as not to require reiteration. The coruscating play of lights made the dancers look like sparkling Jewels forming elaborate Necklaces onstage. Silken aharya of superfine quality with red, green, blue bedecked borders to the main off-white theme were picked out by illumination. Beams artfully darting, glowing or dissolving and dimming to focus on a plastic expression here and a brilliant move elsewhere or render sharp shadows by contrasting imagery mesmerized the audience. It seemed as though these motets of light showers had a life of their own criss-crossing, intersecting and caressing the stage to sometimes create an illusion of the artistes floating above and gliding through the luminescent traceries of whorls of nritta movements. Seldom have such effects been seen onstage for which we have to thank Surya Rao. 

Standing out were the murals resembling stained glass paintings designed digitally by Gunjan Ashtaputre which added a whole world of depth to the picturesque setting. The recorded music was of superb quality, the bass being outstanding and the vocals of great clarity and velvety in texture even at high volume as the sound system was superlative carrying music to the far reaches of the amphitheatre without any diminution. 

The penchant of Ananda to come up with something out of the usual is reflected in her capacity to create separate groups of dancers onstage carrying out different parts of an item simultaneously which produces arrestingly complementing visuals irresistibly capturing interest. This achievement requires great focus on the part of the Guru and involves intense training and numerous rehearsals for the students to reach the ability of ensuring flawless movements onstage. 

Victory to Rama is the theme of “Jaya Janaki Rama” as it was then continued by “Takkuvemi Manaku”, i.e. – His glorious presence is sufficient for us. “Entho Mahanubhavudu” was a masterpiece of rhythm as the students and Ananda formed into groups, continuously changing positions as abhinaya and nritta coalescing into wonderful nrithya, they narrated through their expressive movements the Dasavataras of Lord Vishnu which were also haloed onscreen. Ananda as the Man-Lion rending the demon king was awe-inspiring in her ferocious abhinaya. 

Here is the abode of Rama residing with Sita and Lakshmana sings the Composer where the river Gautami flows in “Adigo Bhadradri”. O how sweet to the taste is your name Rama is another Gemlike composition, giving the title of the production-“Sri Rama Namam Entha Ruchi Ra”. The songs pleading for deliverance were then recited and enacted, “Ee Teerugu” where the Poet exclaims at his helplessness to cross the ocean of sorrows without the aid of the Lotus Eyed Lord. 

“Paluke Bangaramayena” where he is beseeched to speak in reply to Ramadasa’s laments and finally he requests Mother Sita to intercede for him-“Nannu Brovamani”. The climacteric scene in” Ikshvaku Kula Tilaka” when he sarcastically upbraids the Lord who finally delivers him was movingly picturised. Pramod Reddy, the guest dancer, was in character as the haughty Taneshah who is wonderstruck by the divine appearance and humbled into repentance. Ramadasa is wonderstruck by the Leela and Maya of Rama and sings in gratitude – “Emmaya Rama”. Here the sense of relief and rejoicing was triumphant.The lyrical Mangalam “Ramachandraya” brought everyone to their feet as they hummed along in synchrony seeing the entrancing portrayal of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana being worshipped in the group scene. At the conclusion, Ananda after taking the blessings of the Chief Guest Sri Tridandi Chinna Sriman Narayana Ramanuja Jeeyar Swami came onto the stage along with Shankarananda Kalakshetra’s students J Soundaryalahari, Poojitha Namburi, Anusha Namburi, Neha Sathanapalli, Srividya Sripathi, Ridhishri Yadav, Alla Khevna Reddy, Avani Chetluri, Suhani Chatterjee and Jeshita Gnanapareddy, who made their mark so glowingly in this ballet and played their parts with impressive poise, to receive  tremendous applause.

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