‘Samskritam-Natyam’: A beautiful presentation by Lakshmi Mani & Naveena
--SaarasvataSamiti Club, M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women
As part of its ‘Samskritotsava’, the popular institution of Chennai, the M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Nungambakkam, invited renowned Kuchipudi exponent, Lakshmi Mani and her daughter, Naveena to present the topic, ‘Samskritam-Natyam’ on Feb. 8th, 2016 at the College premises at 2pm. The institution, reputed for its co-curricular activities, meant to expose its Sanskrit students to the manifold presence of the divine language as seen in Indian arts, by way of its Club, ‘Saarasvata-Samiti’. While the topic itself is notable for its sheer range, the lucid yet vivid presentation proved to be a wholesome treat of enlightenment and entertainment.
Lakshmi Mani brings with her several decades of beautiful artistry and universal accolades for exquisite abhinaya. Her daughter, Naveena proved to be a riveting speaker, her erudition and ready wit keeping the audience spell-bound. Together, the duo regaled the audience of young students, leaving them yearning for more.
The topic was viewed from two clear perspectives and was enriched by aptly-curated Powerpoint slides—
> Works on Natya, which are in Sanskrit
> Works in Sanskrit, with Natya as an important component.
Starting with works in Natya which are written in Sanskrit, Naveena coursed through a plethora of works, both popular and lesser-known, carefully choosing the salient and peculiar aspects to let students have a holistic view. Lacing her lecture with anecdotes and quotations, many extempore, the speaker succeeded in establishing a rapport with her audience steadily. Apart from the Natya Sastra, Abhinaya Darpana and Nrtta Ratnavali, students were informed of works such as Nartana Nirnaya, Shringaraprakasha, Nataka Lakshana Ratnakosha, et al.
Moving on to the presence of the varied aspects of dance as spotted in Sanskrit works, the speaker sprung a surprise onto the students by stating that the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet emanated at the end of Shiva’s cosmic dance, from his Damaru. While quoting relevant passages/verses from famed works such as Malavikaagnimitram, Vikramorvashiyam, Gitagovinda, Krishna Leela Tarangini, popular devotional hymns, etc. the speaker also gave glimpses of some metrical arrangements (vrtta) in poetry, which correspond with musical rhythmic structures (gati). Certain beautiful embellishments(alankaras) were also highlighted. The speaker also proved her versatility by singing a few Sanskrit compositions of later composers such as Maharaja Swati Tirunal, Annamacharya and Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer.
The Talk was informative, without being pedantic, while also involving the students in activities like Mookakelih(dumb-charades with Sanskrit words/phrases), a quiz on meaning/etymology of often-used words, various Indian classical dances, the varied ways to interpret a single phrase in dance, etc., all of which pushed the borders of creativity and thinking of the student-audience.
Lakshmi Mani proved a master of her craft in her Kuchipudi demonstration. Presenting a rare Tarangam, glorifying the Lord Venkateshwara, her depiction of the story of Haathi Ram Babaji, a great saint-devotee of the Lord, was especially a visual treat in the way the characters were beautifully contrasted. The item culminated with the dance on the brass-plate as per the custom of Kuchipudi dance and this was greeted by the audience with astonishment and appreciation. To say it was an afternoon well-spent is to simply understate!
- Saraasvata Samiti
Samskritam-Natyam, Report, (C), Mar16, Samskritotsava, Chennai, Contributor, Do not copy, Copyrights Acknowledged,