Pra’natana’ ti - Pranati Ram

Pra’natana’ ti

In between vocal concerts happening all over the city in the month of December, I did get to attend a few chosen Bharatanatyam dance performances. One of them happened to be Pranati Ram’s at Narada Gana Sabha on 21st December at 1.45 pm. 
I was impressed when she started her performance with a ‘Melaprapthi’. 
 In common terms  ’Melam’ means percussion and ‘Praapthi’ means prelude or opening. In the olden days, a Melaprapthi heralded the start of a temple ritual or performance. 
A Melaprapthi comprises entirely of seams of sollukattu. The Melaprapthi she chose to perform, was a traditional piece from the Vazhuvoor repertoire which was composed by Gangai Muthu Nattuvanar, and choreographed by Pranati’s Guru Rhadha.

Her second presentation was the popular Ragamalika Varnam Sami Ninne Kori Va set to Rupaka talam. This is a composition by the Tanjore Quartet.
The meaning of this Varnam is 
‘O lord Brihadishwara of Tanjavur, I desire you and only you. ‘ 
In this varnam,  Pranati depicted the huge lingam at the temple sanctum, the Nandi, the Aarathi and the beautiful procession. On hearing the procession she runs to see the lord, my heart melts and I have fallen for the lord. Pranati proved a most evocative interpreter; varying the dynamic of her footwork and with gestures flowing from reverential to beckoning, she seemed by turns virginal, coy, and sensuous.

After that lovely depiction,Pranati danced  to a composition  of Sri Marimutthu Pillai in Ragam Yadhukulakhamboji ‘Kalai thooki’ set to Adi thalam. 
The translation of this song is 
‘O Lord who dances with his foot raised, please raise your hand to reign over me’. pleads the poet ! 

Her next choice was a Javali  ‘Nee matale Mayanura’ in Ragam Purvikalyani, which was set to Adi talam. This is a composition by Pattabhiramayya. 

In this item the khandita nayika is filled with sarcasm, and asks her beloved ‘Oh sweet lord, what happened to all the promises you made? First you promised me a mookuthi (nose pin) and then you promised me gold bangles. Yet here I am, standing empty handed, waiting for your promsies to be fulfilled. You mesmerise me with your sweet words and leave me disappointed with only empty promises. What have you given me? Promises, Promises and only empty promises !’
What a beautiful romantic song and Pranathi instilled the emotion with a potency with a knowing smile and averted to focused gaze with a modern sensibility. 
Pranati’s fluid gestures and facial expressions convey her feelings and the images in the text, while her passages of rhythmically intricate stamping create another, more abstract form of expressiveness.
This particular nuance proved powerful, unexpected, and a testament to the transformational artistry of her fluid, beautifully expressive face clearly telegraphs a character’s feelings or intent while her body easily shifts through complicated rhythms. The face of the dancer  should express concise, rich and varied emotions, adding clarity and depth to the intricate movements.
Pranati makes her desire palpable and  quaking. Storms of expectation, disappointment and fantasy pass over her.
Pranati’s  performance displayed a rigorous commitment to refining her practice, showing the difference between executing, or even mastering steps and articulating every part of the body like a flame of dignity that she lends to her Bharatanatyam style. Grace pervades her movements. Pranati’s sincerity was evident as was the conviction of purity in her art. A performance that hailed tradition. A breath of fresh air, which displayed flawless nritta and a subtle, detailed approach to abhinaya

Pranati chose to explore this piece through Bharata Natyam as a way of understanding more especially its gendered aspects, and as a way to open dialogue through demonstrating not only the similarities in the expression of lover-beloved relationships on the devotional and cultural levels, but also learning from the differences.The dancer proved how exciting good, clean nritta could be. 
Every sequence were performed with effortless ease and were received with rounds of spontaneous applause. Pranati’s bhava exhibited was a feast for the eyes.

She concluded with a Thillana in Ragam Mandari, set to Adi talam, 
This was a composition of Ponniah Pillai of the Tanjore Quartet.

Her accompanying  artists need much mention since their role was very significant to make the dance performance a wonderful experience. Nattuvangam and Choreography was Pranati’s Guru Smt. Rhadha, Vocal  support was given by Smt. Nandini Anand Sharma.On the Flute it was a very talented Sri Shrutisagar.
It is interesting to have Vijayaraghavan on the mridangam, and Sikamani on the violin because they were the same orchestral support who used to accompany Parnati’s guru Rhadha 25 years ago. 
The response after each piece was a spontaneous reaction by the appreciative audience who were mesmerized by the spiritually elevation. She is indeed a promising dancer !

About the Author:

Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 

Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.) 

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