Bangalore based dancer Sruthi’s Mohiniyattam dance was a fitting offering on Guru’s  birthday. 

Mohiniyattam Guru Nirmala Panicker’s choreographies have been quintessential of her avid attempts to highlight the esoteric traits of Kerala culture. Admittedly, the credit for reviving the extinct desi numbers like ‘Chandanam’, ‘Mukuthi’, ‘Poli’ and ‘Easal’ goes to her. Needless to mention that in this respect she has carved a niche among the exponents of the lyrical dance form.

Recently, her Bengaluru-based disciple K P Sruthi staged a recital at Natanakairali, Irinjalakuda in Kerala’s Trissur district as an offering to her guru on the latter’s birthday. Commendable was the gesture as the repertoire of the one-hour performance smacked of the intrinsic facets of her guru’s attitude.

Sruthi opened with ‘Ganapathy vandanam’ composed in the rare raga Rugmambari in which the dancer invoked his blessings and paid tributes to the Vigneswara bringing out his essential features. ‘Vaarana mukhathene’ is an old composition of an anonymous authour.

Sruthi with her Guru Nirmala Paniker

Lokanathe danavaari’ in Sri raga was in praise of Goddess peculiar to the Devi worship to Kerala. Devi is described as the one who resides in the lotus and removes the sorrows of her devotees. The dancer compares Devi’s tresses to the bees and her face to the moon. She surrenders herself to the goddess totally. Interestingly, the rendition by Neelamperoor Suresh Kumar of the raga was in the typical Sopana style.

Balancing Nritta and Nrithya

The varnam in Saramathy raga and adi tala depicted the dancer as Krishna’s sakhi. Beginning with ‘Geetha othiya varnam’, it portrayed numerous anecdotes of Krishna’s life including ‘Geethopadesam’ to Arjuna, disrobing of Panchali and Krishna’s gesture of protecting her, ‘Kaliya marddana’ etc.  Sruthi could strike a balance between nritta and nrithya, typical of a varnam.

Next the dancer delineated two excerpts from Kumarasambhavam of Kalidasa in lieu of a Padam. The 32nd sloka, ‘Unmeelitham’ describes Parvathy’s form with limbs marked by youth, beautiful all around like a portrait revealed by an artist’s brush and like the lotus opened up by the rays of the sun. The 46th sloka, ‘Pravatha neeloplpala’ narrates the graceful glance of Parvathy who has long eyes. The poet wonders whether they were acquired by her from the female deer or vice versa. , Sruthi’s netrabhinaya while portraying these were noteworthy. Presented in Saranga and Yadukulakamboji, this item was delectable.

Saptham is the contribution to the Mohiniyattam repertoire by Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma as the seventh one. It is mainly a story-telling item. Here the character is Kurathi, one who is seen in many of Kerala’s folk and ritualistic art form. Kurathi introduces herself as ‘Vishnu mayam Kurathi’ and dresses her up as Mohini. Siva is attracted by her charm and it concludes with the birth of Ayyappa. Rich in dance and abhinaya, the Saptham was enjoyable.

Apart from Neelamperoor Suresh Kumar (Vocal), Sruthi was accompanied by Kalanilayam Prakasan (Maddalam), Kalanilayam Ramakrishnan (Edakka), Murali Krishnan (Vina) and Gopika G, Nath (Nattuvangam).

A post-graduate in dance, Sruthi has been learning under Nirmala Panicker since last decade. A Junior Fellowship holder from the Ministry of Culture in 2019, she has performed on many global platforms. Presently, she heads the Taamara Dance Centre, Bengaluru which trains students in Mohiniyattam and Bharatanatyam.


GS Paul is an eminent art columnist and critic. He has been writing for national dailies such as The Hindu for more than three decades. Currently, he is the Editorial Advisor of India Art Review.


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