Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athriya and Uma Sathyanarayanan in ‘Sikhim’. | Photo credit: Jinkal Dabi
Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athriya and Uma Sathyanarayanan, two senior dancers and disciples of Guru Chitra Visveswaran, revisited ‘Sikhem’, which was commissioned by Natyarangam in 2012 for the ‘Bandhwa Bharatham’ festival. Women from childhood.
As little girls, they hear Aesop’s fable about the lion and the mouse. They plant a plant as a symbol of their friendship. He has read stories of other enduring friendships – Duryodhana and Karna, Rama and Guha and Krishna and Siddhama. And so the narrative went.
Familiar stories were interspersed with conflicting situations, and the overall concept was flat. It didn’t help that there was silence between pieces, with no live orchestra.
However, given the dancers’ well-thought-out expressions and mature abhinaya, each segment was a stand-alone success. He drew lyrics from diverse sources such as Ramdhari Singh Dinkar (Hindi), Kamba Ramayanam (Tamil), Bhagavatham (Sanskrit), Swati Tirunal (Sanskrit) and Sangam literature (Tamil).
Karna was introduced with a khanda jathi with the words, ‘….suryaputra, veera karna…’ In Guha’s story, the retelling begins as he waves to the departing Rama, ‘ Anjana vinna..’ drives the episode forward. He reverently touches the boat and recalls the experience. Uma as Guha recited the words in the third adi, followed by the song, Kavthuvum style. It was an interesting use of theatrical technique.
Another memorable scene was between Siddhama (Lakshmi) and Krishna (Uma). Siddhama finds her home on her way back from Dwarka, and realizes what Krishna has done for her. He recalls this visit and his meeting with Krishna. Lakshmi had a soul-stirring personality.
Meanwhile, the little girls grew up. One is in love, the other watches with wisdom, assuring her of her beloved’s return from the forest. She quotes from Sangam literature: ‘When he sees elephants and other animals in pairs, he will think of you’.
Music (Rajkumar Bharti) added to the mood considerably. All the elements of the music were in balance, as was the mime and nirata, with nothing in excess. Guru Chitra provided technical guidance.