In memory of a sishya
By Aruna. S, Chennai
Review featured in (News Round Up, November 19, 2004)

Remember Rajesh?
Well, for those of you who don't know him, he was a talented Bharatanatyam dancer, based in Chennai and son of mridangist Adyar Balu. A few years ago, the youngster who was at a camp with his friends, died after an accident while swimming.
Early this week, on November 15, Rajesh's birthday, his gurus V.P. Dhananjayan and C.V. Chandrashekar got together to present an exclusive duet performance dedicated to their sishya. Said Adyar Balu, "I wanted to do something unique in memory of my son Rajesh. And when I discussed this idea with Dhananjayan sir, he was more than willing to put up this show".

Well, it did turn out to be a unique show coz this was the first time that these two stalwarts of Bharatanatyam and internationally acclaimed gurus - C.V. Chandrasekhar and V.P.Dhananjayan came together on stage in a performance.

Besides the fact that the two veteran artistes, both alumni of Kalakshetra came together after so many years, what amazed the houseful audience at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's auditorium in Mylapore that evening, was that the two gurus were in their late sixties! To be exact, CVC (as he is popularly known) will be 70 soon and VPD is only four years younger...But wow, their performance that evening made them both appear about 40 years younger!
And for those of you who thought that Bharatanatyam, with its usual traditional repertoire could be a museum piece soon, this show would have proved you wrong.

The duo commenced the recital with a Pushpanjali followed by the Tisra Alarippu. CVC went on to perform 'Gaaye Ganapathi', a Tulsidas bhajan in ragam Kalavathi.

The main piece was Jayadeva's ashtapadi on Dasavataram, presented as a duet. The finale of this piece, where CVC as the devotee went down in 'saashtaanga namaskaram' before VPD who adorned Krishna, was indeed a scene to watch...

And now, it was time to change costumes and of course for the formal function. Adyar Balu and his wife did the honours for the orchestra, which comprised gurus Jaya Chandrashekar and Shantha Dhananjayan on nattuvangam, Sasidharan on vocal, mridangist Ramesh Babu, violinist T.K. Padmanaban, flautist B. Muthukumar (Rajesh's brother) and Tambura artiste Lakshmi Narayan. Justice Bhaktavatsalam, Chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai, said that he grabbed the opportunity when Balu came up to rent the hall, with this idea of a recital by the senior duo, and decided to make it a Bhavan's presentation.

Formal function over and time for Abhinaya. 'Thaye Yashoda...' in Thodi, presented by CVC, which was linked by VPD to 'Enna thavam...' in Kapi. With their performance, the gurus reminded you that either the theme of Krishna or long bhava-laden pieces, can never bore you if handled with an excellence in artistry.

Well, bhava apart, it was a showcase of nritta in the Natabhairavi thillana, which drew an applause after every 'korvai', for the execution of the adavus by the duo.

Composed by Veena Krishnamachari, younger brother of Tiger Varadhachariar, the lyrics (in Telugu) in this thillana were in praise of Rukmini Devi and Kalakshetra. Choreographed by Rukmini Devi, one of the first performance of this thillana was by guru Sarada Hoffman, during mid-1940's. And Sarada Hoffman who was present at this performance by her sishyas on Tuesday, told KutcheriBuzz, "I have seen both of them grow and am delighted to be here today."

The duo have rehearsed together only for a week before the show, amidst hectic schedules that each have on their own.

Well past their prime, but co-ordination and skill intact. How did it happen?

Says CVC, "That is the greatness of art and we only represent it." Says VPD, "It is the strong foundation that counts. As products of Kalakshetra, we don't have to think to co-ordinate. The style is the same and it comes naturally."

CVC adds, "Early this year, at an impromptu performance at Delhi, Leela Samson had joined us, and we didn't need rehearsal to co-ordinate."
And this reminds one of another scintillating duet recital in August 1999, by CVC and the late Krishnaveni Lakshmanan. Here, the duo performed at a festival hosted by Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy's Shree Bharatalaya on the occasion of the institute's 30th year celebrations.

Now, for the women behind the show. Shantha Dhananjayan and Jaya Chandrasekhar. Says CVC, "We also owe our co-ordination to their strictness and counts of 1,2,3..." Says Shantha, "I think it was Rajesh's lively spirit that wants us to go on. It was his energy that reflected in the show today."

As you watched the dance, you couldn't miss the musicians too. They seemed to dance along as well.

The audience. Well, they were all there - senior gurus, Kalakshetra past and present, young dancers and students, writers and rasikas.

A standing ovation brought down the curtains at the show. But, there was more. Backstage greetings. People poured into the greenroom to wish the artistes and seek blessings. The duo were full of hugs for each other too and their families had extra smiles that evening.

And as for Adyar Balu, it was a special birthday celebration for son Rajesh. Only that Rajesh was not there...But Balu believes his memory will be etched and plans are on for more such concerts in the years to come...