By Kedar Mishra
How to narrate the experience of the blooming of a Lotus? In which language one can describe the movement of monsoon? How to frame a sentence to explain what divinity is? And how to find answers to such questions which seeks no answer. Their profound silence look mystically more beautiful by being unanswerable. After watching legendary Vyjayanthimala Bali, dancing Bharatnatyam for more than 90 minutes, I asked a question to myself, how it could be possible!! A septuagenarian dancer goes on dancing with extraordinary power, skill, energy, commitment and transmitting a divine aura to a jam-packed audience at Rabindra Mandap. Finally nothing was left to speak. It was a blissful silence for few seconds and wild clapping took over it, and everyone was compelled to offer a spontaneous standing ovation. Overjoyed offering of heart by the people was not meant for the glamour queen of Indian Bollywood in 60s and 70s, it was all for an ageless beauty, who can still be a spirited competitor to younger generation of Bharatnatyam dancers. Her stamina and strength is still full of youth and one can still fall in love with that arresting look. Vyjayantimala Bali immortalized Rabindra Mandap stage in Bhubaneswar, with one of her masterly Bharatnatyam recital. The Third evening of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival witnessed a rare page of history which may be a souvenir for many a years to come. It was a kind of lifetime experience.
An Ageless Apsara
We have heard about Apsaras, the celestial maidens, who are beyond the touch of age, one can see an Apsara in flesh and blood in Dr. Vyjayantimala Bali. There is no ageing. She is young at 77. She started her performance with an invocatory piece in Honour of Lord Ganapati set to Raag Nattai and Aditala composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar. Kirtanam in Raag Jagan Mohini set to Taal Rupak composed by Gopalkrishna Bharathi was a seamless flow of devotion, surrendering and spontaneous longing for the lord. It depicted the poet seeking blessings of the divine consort of Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram to remove the evil. Sharp and clean Hastakas, controlled body movements and graceful formations, that portray various moods and emotions, marked a golden signature on every heart. Following the Kirtanam she picked of a traditional Varnam composed by Maharaja Swati Thirunal set to Raag Kafi and Taal Roopak elegantly displaying the intricate nuances of pure dance with Abhinaya. The next item was Tarangini in Rag Bageshree set to Khanda Chapu Taal composed by Naryan Tirtha showing many episodes of Krishna’s playful life. She concluded with Shubha Mangalam in Raag Basanta set to Adi Tala composed by Muthuswami. Young and highly talented singer Kum. Anahita Ravindran who is learning music under Vyjayantimala, complemented her guru with a brilliant vocal support. In the music side Smt. Gayatri Sashidharan on Nattuvangam, Shri Guru Bhardwaj on Mridangam, Shri Chaitanya Kumar on Flute and Assistant Smt. Rani Balachandar, supported the dancer to unfold a historical glory.
The second presentation of the evening was quite an unusual addition. For the first time an Odia play produced by veteran theatre man Jaydev Das. It was a homecoming for Jaydev who had left theatre to be a devoted light designer three decades ago. The play was full with wit, spontaneity and ability to make people laugh. “Bahaana“, an adaptation from a Hindi play, was ably transformed into a typical Odia play. Dialogue was the strongest point of this play and it was taken to its full height by few veteran theatre actors of Odisha. It was entertaining and supplemented with great laughter. A welcome homecoming for Jaydev Das. There was no set gimmick or atrocity of light. It went like a natural flow of events which confused and amused the mind of the audiences.