On the one hand is a discussion about how to give the Adavu team the aisle space they need amid the audience. On the other, a group of teachers and staff is peering anxiously at the cloudy sky. “The weather is fine,” says one lifting his face to the cool gust of breeze. “As long as it doesn’t rain,” adds another. Vidya Vanam Senior Secondary School, Anaikatti, is readying for Svanubhava 2020.
The hum of the generator is the constant accompaniment to two days of music, dance and drama. The mornings are scenes of organised chaos as people and materials arrive in a flurry of activity and are sorted out into their component parts.
The strains of the flute float out over the grounds and everyone rushes towards the stage. The Odissi dancers are rehearsing while Vetri and his group are practising their stage movements. The programme begins with Vidya Vanam’s students presenting a short concert and a Bharatanatyam performance. The highlight, however, is a skit on the importance of the Constitution and why the principles of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice collectively are necessary in our lives. Then the Preamble is read with due solemnity.
A restlessness pervades till Theatre Akku takes the stage with Adavu, the Therukoothu-based play. Once the kattiyakaran begins dancing and singing, all eyes are trained on the stage. The adults laugh at the sly allusions to current events while the kids giggle at the antics of the narrator and his jodi.
Along with her accompanists — L Ramakrishnan on the violin and Sumesh Narayanan on the mridangam — Sangeetha Sivakumar shows how a traditional Carnatic concert is as much about team work as about the music and engages the children with information on ragas, talas, songs, composers and the concert format. Ramakrishnan and Sumesh also demonstrate their prowess on their respective instruments. A rousing rendition of Bharathiar’s ‘Nenjukku Neethi’ leads to an audience request for ‘Arumo aval’.
Post-lunch worries that the children would be too sleepy to pay attention is put to rest as Prithvi Nayak and Akshiti Roychowdhury take the stage with an Odissi performance. A collective sigh goes up as the dancers complete a full circle, using tiny movements of their feet, giving the impression of standing on a rotating wheel.
Day two begins with a roll of thunder as the Cheran Thudumbatta Kalaikuzhu begin their pyrotechnic display. Soon the kids are hard put to sit still and Prema Rangachary, Vidya Vanam’s director, takes pity on them and asks them to dance the fidgets away. With a cheer, everyone rushes to obey. Suddenly the prim and proper assembly transforms into a carnival. One group of boys eyes their classmates in wonder as the girls show off their moves. “I never knew they could do that,” says one, as another watches his teacher join the act with even more amazement.
When Vidya Pradeep and her team took the stage next, she acknowledged that the previous performance was “a high energy one. Mohiniattam is not like that, so I request you all to sit quietly and watch us.” With explanations for each item, Vidya and her fellow dancers showed why this is the dance of Mohini, the eternal enchantress: graceful, sensuous and delicate. The Purandaradasa kriti ‘Jagadodharana’ was received with much acclaim. “Even her eyes are dancing,” exclaimed one awestruck child.
- Apart from the performances, stalls showcasing crafts like stone carving, metal work, bead and lac jewellery were also hits. Since prices were low, the kids invested in pendants, earrings, and necklaces.
- Many were appreciative of the Toda purses and bags but found them too expensive.
- The stall that demonstrated how to make a lac bangle was the most popular.
The Jogappas, a transgender group from Karnataka, performed next. Laxmanji, Rakhi, Sagar, Daval Sahab and Siddhamma accompanied themselves with instruments like the chowdki, stuti and jalra. Right from the first song, they set the tone by inviting the children to keep the beat. A Marathi song about Krishna breaking pots had everyone joining in a kind of chorus. As they left the stage, Siddhama wished the students, “May you all study well and get good jobs”, much to the teachers’ pleasure.
The final performance was the traditional dance of the Todas. Men and women moved slowly in a circle even as they sang. The striking colours of the Toda shawls, the graceful movements of the arms and the rise and fall of the chant made for an arresting visual.
As they dispersed, students were heard asking if the dates for the next Svanubhava had been decided. “We’ll let you know as soon we decide,” promised Rangachary.