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Priyadarshini Govind Delights Audience With A Near Perfect Performance

Ranjani Saigal

The art of Bharatanatyam is designed to transport the audience to a higher platform - appealing to the soul rather than senses. While poor performances often leave the audience bored, the excellent ones leaves an impression that lingers in the hearts and minds of the audience for a long time. Priyadarshini's performance on Nov 2nd, sponsored by the Academy of Indian performing arts at the Acton-Boxborough school, is certainly one that audiences will remember for a long time.

Priyadarshinibegan the evening with the popular Pushpanjali, "Jhem Jhem Ta Nana", in ragam Hamsadwani, composed by Dr. Balamurali Krishna. In a rather non-traditional manner she immediately proceeded to present the most elaborate item of the evening, a Ragamalika Varnam dedicated to "Andal", who is a famous female Azhwar (a saint poet in the Vaishnavaite tradition). The Varnam took its Sahityam (words) from Nachiar Thirumozhi. Priyadarshini used very creative movements for the Jathis that were set to very complex rhythms and executed each movement with perfection. The Sancharis (story-telling) told the story of a little girl "Andal" who wore the garland that was prepared by her father - Periazhwar, a great devotee for Lord Ranganatha of the Sri Rangam temple. While her father was upset at first, he later realizes that his daughter is no ordinary child. She was a divine child who was meant to be a consort to Lord Ranganatha.

Priyadarshini followed this presentation with a Marathi Abhang "Roosali Radha, Roosala Madhava, Roosale Gokul". In this piece she described the quarrel of the divine couple Radha and Krishna. It was a wonderful depiction of how neither Radha nor Krishna was willing to compromise and how that caused depression in the whole world.

The second half began with a famous Javali "Nee Matale Mayunara" in which the Nayika is being very critical of her lover who has come to her doorstep. She says she wants nothing to do with him because he always "makes huge promises that he never keeps". This piece was extremely well received by the audience and as a little four year old, Sahana Srinivasan said " I loved the way you shut the door on that guy". The piece was certainly a tribute to her Guru Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan, whose stamp was clearly visible in Priyadarshini's Abhinaya.

She followed this with the famous Tulasidas Bhajan " Tumaku Chalathu Ramachandra". The bhajan, is resplendent with "Vatsalya Bhavam", love of a mother for her little child and Priyadarshini more than did justice to the piece. The final piece was the famous Kathanakuthugalam Tillana composed by Dr. Balamuralikrishna.

The accompanying musicians were a young group from Chennai who showed a lot of potential. Vocal was by Deepu Nair, while Gopalakrishnan accompanied on the violin. Vishwanathan did double duty both by playing the Mridangam and saying the Sollukattus for the Jathis.

The Academy of Indian Performing Arts lead by Jothi Raghavan deserves congratulations for bringing such an outstanding artist to the Boston area. Despite the Diwali celebrations going on everywhere quite a few dance fans came for the event. Priyadarshini is bestowed with great beauty. When the beauty is combined with exceptional talent, what you get is a near perfect performance. I hope more people come in the future to attend such events.

The program brought to fore a few issues that I would like to present here.

1) I was shocked to note that the Nattuvanar was denied visa and hence the tour had to go on without him. I think such denial of visas to artists is quite senseless and causes unnecessary hardship and suffering to the performers and audience. We as Indian Americans must try to address this issue.
2) The hair apparel for Bharatanatyam is so complex and I was extremely sympathetic to see even Priyadarshini's, (a seasoned performer) hairpiece fall of a couple of times. I think it is time for those with costuming or other talents to help design a hairpiece for Bharatanatyam that would easy to put on and stay put right through the rigorous dancing.
3) I wish that the artists type out the words to all the songs along with the translation and give it to the audience. This can help tremendously with educating the audience. The more we educate the audience, the more we create excitement about this wonderful art form. Balasaraswathi and Prof. Vishwanathan used to do it in the 60s and 70s and this encouraged a lot of Americans to actually take up study of this art.
4) While I wanted to prepare a detailed interview with PriyadarshiniGovind, she was in quite a hurry to leave right after the performance. But even in those brief moments I was able to see her overwhelming passion for the art form. There were a few children who had just completed their Arangetrams (Amrita Saigal and Swathi Maddula) who had a quite a few questions for her. "Practice is the key to success. Even now I practice at least three hours a day. This art originated nearly 2000 years ago. But every contemporary presentation is firmly rooted in the present" said Priyadarshini. "I have two children and I work hard to balance my career and family. I have to thank my husband for his support without which this could never happen".

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