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Exemplary Abhinaya by Tanmayi Pai at Arangetram

Tanmayi receiving her certificate of graduation from Guru Preeti Vinayak Shah. (Photo Credit: Jill Calefate)
On stage with artists, Subra Viswanathan on Mridangam, Guru Preeti Shah on nattuvangam, Lakshmi Prabhakar on vocal and Jassotha Balasubramaniam on violin. (Photo Credit: Jill Calefate) 

An unusually warm afternoon on February 21st, greeted the audience of more than 400 at the Arangetram of Tanmayi Pai (daughter of Srinivas and Sumana Pai) at the Joe Mack Wilson Theater. Tanmayi Pai has been a student of over seven years at The Narasimha Academy of Arts. Under the guidance and tutelage of her Guru Preeti Shah, Tanmayi has blossomed into a mesmerizing performer; a performer with perfection of mudras, extensive abhinaya and wonderful stage presence. 

The Arangetram started with a prayer song to Goddess Saraswathy by vocalist Smt. Lakshmi Prabhakar who was ably accompanied on the violin by Smt. Jassotha Balasubramaniam, Sri. Subra Viswanathan on the mridangam and Guru Preeti Shah on nattuvangam. Senior student of the Academy, Kritika Subramanian, emceed the program with elegance and guided the audience through the dance pieces which were in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. All items in the repertoire were choreographed by Preeti Shah with the exception of the Thillana which was by Guru Sri. M .V. Narasimhachari.

The opening item, “Gajavadana Beduve” in the Kannada language was given a unique touch by Preeti Shah’s addition of the Ganapathy Korvai took the audience by surprise when Tanmayi executed a jati in two speeds. Her caliber of her dancing was evident in the first piece itself.
The Jatiswaram in Ragamalika and Shabdam on Lord Vishnu followed. The varnam, the piece de resistance of the repertoire, penned and composed by Preeti Shah’s grandmother, Smt. Kamakshi Kuppuswamy, had original choreography by Preeti Shah. Four elaborate abhinaya sequences (sancharis) were punctuated with five Jatis (footwork) in Varnam “Yen Indha Silai Roopam Kondai.”

The team work between Tanmayi’s intricate footwork, Sri. Subra’s glittering mridangam artistry and Preeti’s compelling nattuvangam made for very interesting and feet-thumping moments for the audience. Tanmayi showed an entire gamut of expressions in the varnam while portraying stories of Meenakshi, Mahishasuramardhini and Sati. Two dramatic moments gave proof to the pudding of Tanmayi’s training – one where Tanmayi depicted the battle and eventual slaying of the demon Mahishasura and the second when Tanmayi portrayed Sati jumping into the sacrificial fire. The clarity of her abhinaya made it easy for the audience to follow this varnam in the Tamil language. 

fter the artists were honored by Srinivas and Sumana Pai, Tanmayi returned with renewed energy to perform two Padams. The first padam, “Aada payindradhu yaar idathil,” the dancer asks Lord Nataraja whom he has learnt to dance from. This item was penned by Preeti’s great-grandmother Aadavan Pitchai and composed by her grandmother. In this piece, choreographed by Preeti Shah, Tanmayi showcased her command over the navarasa or the nine emotions with authenticity. 

The second Padam, “Gummana Kareyadhire” in Ragam Durga, was the highlight of the entire Arangetram. Tanmayi began this piece essaying the role of Krishna. After Krishna is caught stealing butter, his mother locks him in the house and tells him that she is calling the monsters or Bhootams to teach him a lesson. Eventually Yashodha gives in. Here Tanmayi switched to playing the role of Yashodha. Tanmayi’s expressions as the innocent Krishna were realistic and subtle emotions were conveyed effortlessly. 
The Thillana in Ragam Thillana aptly described the Sapta Swara or the seven musical notes. In the fast paced piece, an all time favorite among the audience, Tanmayi’s footwork and delicate mudras were outstanding. 
Smt. Lakshmi Prabhakar surpassed herself in her renditions of Ragams Ramapriya, Simhendra Madhyamam and Durga with ease and had the audience captivated with her voice. Violinist, Smt. Jassotha Balasubramaniam, gave incredible introductions to each piece with her alapanais and provided a steady support to the vocalist. Sri. Subra Viswanathan glittered on the mridangam and gave dramatic performances particularly in the Varnam and the Thillana where multifarious rhythms were at play. Guru Preeti Shah delighted the audience with her enthralling voice modulations in the konnakol and her engaging choreography. 
The program ended with a Mangalam in which Tanmayi took a touching finale pose by prostrating herself to the audience. Several audience members were moved by this humble gesture by the young dancer. Guru Preeti Shah presented Tanmayi with a certificate and Srinivas Pai thanked the artists, the emcee and the audience for gracing the event. The artists and Tanmayi made the evening a true audio-visual treat for all. 

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