Parshwanath Shows Pune The Power Of Bharatanatyam

Nritya Yatri’s lineup last Thursday proclaimed Neha Mondal Chakravarty (originally Delhi girl, currently based in Singapore) and Parshwanath Upadhye – the Belgaum trained-Bangalore based star.

The petite Neha, who although not quite a known name, but being a product of the mighty Kalakshetra bespoke her pedigree. She began the recital with a brisk Alaripu in Khanda Triputa Tala. The famed Kalakshetra postures, clean lines and crisp footwork indeed was visible and the evening started out promising.

Two Nayika based items followed. First a Draupadi Kautvam which had delightful lyrics and then the 12th Ashtapadi from Jayadeva’s Geet Govind Pashyati Dishi Dishi. While Neha began with a flourish showcasing her expertise of Nritta, in the exploration of the Nayika, she fell way short in her abhinaya repertoire.

The Varnam she chose was a Kamas Ragam Varnam on Lord Muruga. The jathis, choreographed by PT Narendra were once again high class but the highly stylized depiction through complicated mudras and with Pune audience not being familiar with Muruga stories, the Varnam did become uninteresting after a point.

Once again the dancer lost her hold on the audience’s interest. There was a restlessness in the audience as now everybody wanted to have the star dancer Parshwanath on stage. Therefore, when Neha announced yet another item to end her performance, a sense of impatience seemed to flow around in the auditorium. It further did not help when she chose to perform to the track ‘Devi ‘ which one would not be wrong to say has been immortalized by Priyadarshini Govind. Besides being a very oft-used track by every dance aspirant, the selection of this track was hackneyed. Ideally a crisp Thillana instead would have been a perfect finale.

Immediately thereafter Upadhye’s recital was announced and the accompanying artists took their designated seats and the first round of thunderous applause greeted them. All recognized artists, Upadhye won first round by bringing his A-team to support him. Mahesh Swamy on Flute, Harsha Samaga on Mridangam, Rohit Bhat Uppoor on the vocals and the dashing, young, Adithya PV on Nattuvangam.

Without much ado, the Ganesha Stuti started in Uppoor’s soulful voice and like a storm Parshwanath entered the stage amidst whistles and cheers.

His dynamic Ganesh Kautvam energized the gathered audience. With the warm up over, he cut to the chase and Varnam was announced, this time an unusual Tana Varnam Vanajaksha, in Raga Behag (composed by TR Subramanium) and choreographed by none other than the young Adithya PV !

For nearly the whole hour after that, the Varnam regaled the audience. The finesse in the jathis, the flourish of the leaps, the absolute endearing stories so well depicted and easily relatable coaxed the audience to laugh, clap, cheer and most importantly drown in the underlying Bhakti that defines our classical dances.

A rasika commented, “I loved the fact that he showed bhakti as not something staid but can be playful, and full of humour.”

I had first witnessed Parshvanath perform at the Krishna Gana Sabha during the Chennai Festival in January 2018. It was this very Varnam that he had performed. I remember being transfixed by the performance then and the repeat of it on Thursday was still fresh and enchanting. So many sancharis depicted with ease and needed no translation. The highlight was the elaboration of the famous chira haran, only reversing it with the gopis pulling a fast one by taking away Krishna’s clothes while he is bathing was endearing and how!

His penchant for using common gestures to make a story intelligible and engaging is simply unmatched.

The Uttaranga of the Varnam depicting Lord Krishna’s beautiful form and the interpretations of even Cupid himself falling in love with him was a master stroke.

The rasa was in the details, like the use of stories around water bodies to keep with the theme of the words Vanajaksha (lotus eyed). Therefore the lotus in the water and the bee gravitating towards Krishna instead of the lotus was just one of the many masterpiece highlights.

Here is an artist who made his performance entertaining, engaged each and every one of the rasikas and elevated the state of mind to a height of Rasapoorti. When the Varnam did come to an end, it was almost heartbreaking.

Soon the lovely Baaro Krishnaiyya, the famed Devaranama by Kanakadasa once again took sway of onlookers. A point to be mentioned here is that Parshwanath’s rendition of this pada is available on the internet and has been viewed multiple times. Yet it evoked strong rasa.

Ending the evening to a standing ovation, this artist displayed Bhakti without resorting to any of the usual exaggerations by most Bharatanatyam dancers. A star has arrived! He gives us hope that Classical rocks!



#The views expressed in this column are the reviewers and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.

Shumita Mahajan

Shumita Mahajan

Shumita Mahajan, an established name in the field of Dance, Features and Marketing Communication, has over 2 decades experience in Media, Communication and Critique of Performing Arts.
Shumita Mahajan