Vaibhav Arikar presented a Margam ‘Akasha’ at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in December 2022. Photo credit: Raghunathan SR
Vaibhav Arikar with his music, lighting and movements turned Bharatanatyam into a well-choreographed show. You can either admire his sense of style, space and time or be shocked by his bold imagination.
Vibhu Arikar presenting his Margam ‘Akasha’ at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Margazi Mela in December 2022. Photo credit: Raghunathan SR
Vaibhav is an unconventional artiste, who has made a name for himself in dance theatre. In his hands, Margam everywhere becomes a theatrical experience. It’s a team effort with experts — Sushant Jadhav (Rushni) filling the stage. Sri Krishna Guna Sabha Using the selected color, with an unusual white wash; Mahesh Swamy (Flute), Kaleshwara Pillai (Ntungam) and Satish Krishnamurthy (Mridingam, Kanjira) pick up the pace when nothing happens while Srikanth Gopalakrishnan (Vocal) and Visvesh Swaminathan (Violin) provide the perfect melody.
Purists may balk, but one has to allow room for change for the continuation of the classical tradition. In his recital, Vaibhav’s margam had new fragments and new perspectives for the old. His subject was ‘Akasha’. Two early pieces underscored this – an extraordinary ulrepo in the ancient 24-akshara Udghatta Tala (Murga Tala brought to life by percussionist Guru Bharadwaj) and Dakshitra’s Kedargula Kriti, ‘Anandanathan Prakasam’, both dances on the Akasha Linga.
Vaibhu Arikar performing Margam ‘Akasha’ at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Margazi Festival in December 2022. Photo credit: Raghunathan SR
The Udghatta consisted of a combination of 4s and 5s with Alaripu 3s, composed with the solo ‘Udghatta’ and Shiva mudra. It ended with ‘Udghata Tham’. This is Vaibhav’s style. He finds ways to heighten the overall effect of his dances – in Kriti he uses an evocative kanjira for the shiva-tandava, and he counters the busy narta with a striking stillness at the end.
Vibhu Arikar performing Margam ‘Akasha’ at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Margazi festival in December 2022. Photo credit: Raghunathan SR
His conception of varnam with a message of love for sakhi to nayika, Srinivasa, ‘dani kuri’ (Vasantha, Mishra Jhampa, Puchi Srinivasa Iyengar) was a study in the dramatic. The pallavi was sung like a virutham to show us what Sakhi sees, as a prelude. The Sancharyas describe in detail Nayika’s state of hopelessness, her absorption in the thoughts of Srinivasa. There were three characters in the piece, but Vaibhav’s role was always clear. When Sakhi took center stage, he did not refer to Nayika as a deity but stuck to lyrics describing Nayika’s attributes and plight. It was Padratha Abhinaya that was dramatized as Anjaka Abhinaya, busy and sometimes folk-dharmic. It can keep the audience engaged, but is without depth.
A Marimutha Pillai Nanda Stuti (‘Educatnai Modi’, Survati) and a Puravi Thilana (Rupakam, T. Vedyanath Bhagavatar) followed where he performed a full section of oblique movements. Sometimes he does not move, and is accompanied by the orchestra. What makes Vaibhav stand out is his sophistication and stage presence.