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Arangetram: Anjana Mangalat

Sujatha Meyyappan

Anjana is a disciple of Guru Sunanda Narayanan of Thillai Fine Arts Academy. She has been learning from Sunanda since she was 6 years old.  On June 6, 2010, when Mother Earth was soaked in lashing rain, 14 year old Anjana started her Bharathanatyam arangetram at Nashua High School North Auditorium in Nashua, NH.
Anjana’s arangetram commenced with the curtain raiser and invocatory piece, “Thodaya Mangalam”, which is in praise of the deities at the village temple of Vazhuvoor in South India from where this style of Bharathanatyam evolved. Following that, Anjana officially began her dance debut with Pushpanjali in Ragam Nattai, offering flowers to Lord Nataraja and seeking blessings from Goddess Saraswathi. That was followed by “Alarippu” in Misra Talam. In both these items the audience witnessed evidence of Anjana’s training under the watchful guidance of Guru Sunanda.

Anjana then presented “Sri Vignarajam Bhaje", a song in praise of Lord Ganesha and a composition of Oothukadu Venkatasubbaier in ragam Gambhira Nattai and Kanda Chapu talam. In this the lyrics are interspersed with jatis and swarams that capture the swaying gait of the elephant-faced God and his majestic dance. Anjana portrayed it beautifully and brought out the essence of this kriti.
Varnam is the center item in Bharathanatyam. Anjana presented a very unique varnam which is a composition of Papanasam Sivam in ragam Nattakurinji, in praise of Lord Nataraja, the God of Dance. Anjana’s ability to sustain the momentum all through the varnam where she enacted a young maiden who is both in love and an ardent devotee of Lord Nataraja. She conveyed abstract ideas and divine truths with her hastas, or hand gestures.
The second half of the recital started with “Naada Murali Gaana Vilola” in which Anjana vividly depicted the graceful dance and the power of the enchanting music of  Lord Krishna. This was followed by “Annapoornashatakam" with "Sringara Lahari” in praise of Goddess Annapoorna, along with the exotic grace and beauty of the Mother Goddess Parvathi. In both pieces Anjana showcased movements so fresh, so vibrant and so aesthetically perfect.
Then came the next item, “Villinai Oththa”, a Kavadi Chindu, or folk item. In this, Anjana was mesmerizing, performing folk movements intelligently woven in traditional framework and had the audience tapping their heels to the beat of the music. The finale of the Bharathanatyam recital was the thillana in ragam Poorvi, which brought the concert to a most fulfilling end. It was the perfect blending of Anjana’s footwork and the mridangam through which Anjana showcased complex rhythm with impeccable nritta. 

Mangalam was the concluding item for the arangetram, which was a lilting benediction to Sri Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu.

The evening of Anjana’s Bharathanatyam arangetram was led by Smt. Sunanda Narayanan, whose crisp nattuvangum articulated the rhythm of Anjana’s movement; Smt. Geetha Murali, who expressed the feeling of the items through her divine singing; percussionist Thiru. Murali Balachandran who followed every detailed movement of Anjana's feet with his mridangam; and Smt. Durga Krishnan (Anjana’s Veena guru) and Smt. Tara Anand on veena and violin respectively, who with their magical hands rendered heavenly music. Together they formed the spell-binding orchestra which set the perfect stage for Anjana’s arangetram.

A very special mention should go to Guru Rhadha (Sunanda's guru) who choreographed the three padams of the second half of the arangetram, as well as Sri Vignarajam Bhaje in the first half. Anjana was very fortunate to have had the great opportunity to learn these items from her guru’s guru - Smt. Rhadha of Chennai.

Arangetram is a solo dance debut. In my view it is all about direct, unimpeded interaction and communication between the dancer and the viewers to draw them to visual bliss. All through the recital Anjana portrayed several characters, portrayed their thoughts and emotions with subtle, refined abhinaya, and demonstrated rhythmic intricacies with perfectionism. Thus she established a perfect connection with the audience which was proven by a standing ovation for an excellent evening.
Anjana rendered a splendid presentation on all counts and I wish her a bright future and great success.

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