BY SUKANYA RAJAGOPAL
Photos by Bytegraph & Amazing-foto.
Mohana Krishna, a premiere dance production by the Natyanjali Academy of Dance, in Johns Creek, GA performed at Ferst Center for the Arts on Saturday, August 28, 2010. The event was a fundraiser for the Atlanta Chapter of Asha for Education, under the leadership of Mr. Senthil Ramamurthy, in support of basic education of underprivileged children in India .
Chandrika Chandran was the producer/director of the dance show. The inspiring inaugural speech by Georgia State Representative Mr. Mike Glanton, who was leaving for India the next day, set the tone for the evening. Johns Creek Mayor, Mr. Mike Bodker, had send a congratulatory letter on the occasion to Chandran.
Right from the invocatory items, the dancers set precedence to what was to come and it was sheer beauty and expert coordination in executing the fast tempo and the diverse movements.
The portrayal of the mischievous little Krishna by Smriti Suresh, a charming adolescent Krishna by Nisha Chandran, the enchanting Goddess Lakshmi by Pallavi Sastry, the evil serpent Kaliya by Malvika Raj and the confused Arjuna by Nandita Rajshekhar were picture perfect and reminded one of the characters in Prince Ravi Varma’s paintings. Ms. Chandran set the bar high, proved her mettle and a deep understanding of the art form by her superb portrayals in various key roles such as the divine mother Yasodha, Krishna’s lover Radha and the famous saint-poetess Andal. The supporting dancers not only exhibited great command over the technique of Bharatanatyam, but also filled in appropriately in a variety of other roles.
The soulful facial expression and the perfectly executed footwork demonstrated by the performers reminded the audience of the illustrious Guru parampara of Ms.Chandran, passed on to her by Padmashri Sri Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai and Kalaimamani Swamimalai K.Rajarathinam. Words were merely inadequate in appreciating the choreography skills of Smt. Revathi Ramachandran of Kala Sadhanalaya, Chennai, India , who has many coveted awards to her credit, from Yuva Kala Bharathi to Natya Kala Sikhamani. The audience felt her presence, 12,000 miles away here in the USA , by the sheer quality of her music, her finesse in wielding the cymbals and her crisp jathi utterances.
“Choreography has the challenging task of interpreting ritualistic text written thousands of years ago, capturing its essence and then presenting it in a format suited for today’s audience,” said Chandrika Chandran. “Indian art forms are the best gateway to Indian culture. These dancers have made an active commitment to integrate this culture into their otherwise American lives” she added.
The innumerable hours spent on stage design and the expertise in lighting by Dr. Raktim Sen and able backstage coordination by Ms. Kanaka Sathasivan and others were amply evident in the smooth transitions between scenes, timely costume changes and the whole ambiance on stage. Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Kumar Kantheti, wonderfully narrated the scenes and kept the audience well informed of what was to come.
The grand finale of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi on the custom designed serpent bed, with the devotees standing around, literally transported one on a magic carpet back to Srirangam , India .
Dr. Seshu Sarma, an ardent supporter of Indian arts and culture who was recently recognized as one of the 25 most influential Asian Americans in Georgia , aptly summed up the collective mood and experience of the audience in her speech as “spellbound and speechless”. “If you are a connoisseur of music and dance and if you are in town but could not make it, you don't know what you missed" she said. The reverberating applause during the show was a true testament to witnessing a phenomenal performance. It was hard to believe that such an impact is even possible to achieve by a group of 14 locally groomed amateur artists, ranging in age from only 10 years to 22 years. All in all, Mohana Krishna was an enriching experience and a befitting tribute to mark the birth of Krishna , celebrated as Janmashtami around the world in early September.
“The production was a lot of work,” said dancer Pallavi Sastry, a student at University of North Carolina , Chapel Hill . “But it is all worth it when you get a standing ovation and it makes you realize how proud you are of being able to share a piece of your culture with the community.”