Who Killed Manavi Cheykona raada?

17/06/2008
Bharatanatyam is a fantastic and a spectacular dance form. I say this with a reason. Imagine one dance form, that was performed facing the Idol in a temple, with curtains on, rarely seen by the audience outside, and if they get lucky to catch a glimpse, its only the back of the dancer they see. From here, to being one of the most popular classical dance forms of the world, performed in every corner, on every big and small stages is quite a journey.
Bharatanatyam as any art form welcomed variations and experiments with open arm. This might be the reason for both its popularity and being most criticised dance form. Either ways, this definitely is the reason why so many ‘styles’ in bharatanatyam came up.

 

 

Some say “there are as many styles of bharatanatyam as there are dancers”. But for classification purposes there are only four : Tanjavoor, Pandanallur, Vazhuvoor and Kalakshetra. Whilst I cannot make out much difference between Tanjavoor and Pandanallur, I can mostly make out Vazhuvoor and can definitely make out Kalaskhetra.

No matter what the style be, the music and the kind of compositions that are used to dance are the same. Coming to talk of compositions, some are written for bharatanatyam and some are adapted. How beautiful is the adaptation is again a hugely debatable topic. There are several popular compositions that were written decades back, but still are very popular and are performed even today by dancers of all styles of bharatanatyam. Sometimes a composition is often and frequently performed by dancers of one particular style and that becomes a kind of flagship dance piece that is usually identified with that particular style of bharatanatyam.

For eg: The varnam : Manavi chekona raada, in raaga Shankarabharanam, Adi tala.

This dance piece is performed so often and frequently by the students of kalakshetra style of bharatantyam that it became a flagship dance piece of kalakshetra style and is identified with it.

Over years I have seen many dancers of all styles perform this dance piece. Much to my disappointment, not a single dancer could stir any emotion in me, let alone the bhava working its magic. I don’t want to be partial to any style here. However, completely ignoring or cutting down on the essential elements that communicate the ‘rasa’, fails to achieve the goal. Yes I agree that every performance cannot be a soul-stirring experience. Much depends on the rasika too. Even the natyashastra/abhinaya darpana say that. But atleast there should be a sincere effort to try make each performance, an experience that it is meant to deliver.

While performing to a composition, a dancer should help the composition, what it set to achieve, thereby realising her own goal of executing it. Particularly in this case, I have been a witness of mere various physical interpretations of the verse, than emotional. Let me explain. It is like how many different ‘sancharis’ one does while the line repeats. There is nothing wrong with that, but yes, there is, when its done mechanically.

I was watching a very popular dancer(not a kalakshetra style dancer) execute this dance piece on a DVD. Why did I use the word execute? Well, that’s what she did, execute and not perform. Her beauty, her perfect body, aramandi and perfect execution of foot work shadows her absolute lack of abhinaya in this varnam.This not just a case with her, but with almost all of the dancers, I saw performing this varnam. Especially in the recent times. I am as much of a traditionalist as anyone when it comes to technical perfection in terms of aramandi etc, but where is the bhava? I ask. Where is the sringara, the tease, the blushing, the absolute openness on how the felling of love is tormenting? Yes the story is told in the sancharis, but without an iota of feeling- at least that is what the rasika feels. It is as beautiful as reading out a melodious song.

Is this a case of a chewing gum that lost its flavor due to over chewing? or is it just that one style is very restrictive or is it the dancer’s incompetence? Whatever the reason, one of the most popular varnam has been mercilessly and collectively killed. I am yet to see one dancer perform this varnam that can keep me glued.

However tempted I am here to provide links and mention names, but I refrain for one reason that classical dancing is not a bread-earner in India. Yet so many people, small, young and old, religiously study it and practice it and pass it on generation to generation. They do it for the love the have for the dance, and not with an ego of being a great dancer themselves. The above was not about them, but was about those 1% of flag bearing professional talented dancers(and those that like to think and display themselves as exceptionally talented dancers) that influence these rest 99%.

Whatever it is, this is not a singular case. Another composition that came to light in similar conditions is “Bho Shambho”. One dancer I met in a dance festival recently claimed that she has choreographed it herself and went on to do the worst duplication of the most viewed video on youtube.

Does a little use of breasts, glances, lips, eyebrows, shoulders hurt so much to communicate the bhava and rasa?

Response from a dear friend and an ardent rasika : I just read the post.. its not the case just with manavi.. so many varnams have been killed.. specially mohamana and kamas which have more of explicit lyrics… Vazhuvoor le its done with more of oomph!

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Talam structure

17/06/2008

Talam in Sanskrit means ‘clap.’ Whilst you can get various meanings of ‘talam’ and definitions by doing a google on it, I will try to put across the simplest way to understand and remember the structure of talam. Please note that this is not exhaustive. To start with, one needs to be familiar with a few jargons related to talam. 

Talam has six angas or parts. These are namely: 
1) Anudhrutam 
2) Dhrutam 
3) Laghu 
4) Guru 
5) Plitham 
6) Kakapaadam 

We will now take the first three aspects or angas and try to understand them. 
1) Anudhrutam: It is represented by the symbol ‘U.’ It is a beat, and is physically counted as 1 unit/akshara. 

2) Dhrutam: It is represented by the symbol ‘O.’ It is a beat and a wave of the hand. This is counted as 2 units/akshara. 

3) Laghu: It is represented by the symbol ‘l.’ It is – one beat+ followed by counts of the fingers starting from the little finger.  

The counts of fingers are units called ‘aksharas.’ Laghu can be of five types. These are Jathis. 

Let us now understand the Jathi pattern. 
1) Tisra Jathi: In this, Laghu has one beat of the palm facing downwards + 2 finger counts (in detain, the finger counts will be- little finger, ring finger). This equals three units or three aksharas. 

2) Chatushra Jathi: In this, Laghu has one beat of the palm facing downwards + 3 finger counts (in detain, the finger counts will be- little finger, ring finger and middle finger). This equals four units or four aksharas. 

3) Khanda Jathi: In this, Laghu has one beat of the palm facing downwards + 4 finger counts (in detain, the finger counts will be- little finger, ring finger, middle finger and again little finger). This equals five units or five aksharas. 

4) Misra Jathi: In this, Laghu has one beat of the palm facing downwards + 6 finger counts (in detain, the finger counts will be- little finger, ring finger, middle finger again little finger, ring finger and middle finger). This equals seven units or seven aksharas. 

5) Sankeerna Jathi: In this, Laghu has one beat of the palm facing downwards + 8 finger counts (in detain, the finger counts will be- little finger, ring finger, middle finger again little finger, ring finger middle finger, and again little finger and ring finger). This equals nine units or nine aksharas. 

Let us now see how a talam is structured. For this, we will study the seven basic talams, called the “Suladi Sapta Talams.”  

In Carnatic music, there are seven basic talams that are often used. They are called “Suladi Sapta Talams.” These are as follows: 
 

Tala  Description of Aavartanam  Default length of laghu / Jathi  Total Aksharas /Units 
Dhruva  1O11 (1 laghu of 4 beats + 1dhrutam (2units) +1laghu of 4 beats + 1 laghu of 4 beats)  4 (Chatushra)  14 
Matya  1O1 (1 laghu of 4 beats + 1 dhrutam (2units) + 1 laghu of 4 beats)  4 (Chatushra)  10 
Rupaka  O1 (1dhrutam (2units) + 1 laghu of 4 beats)  4 (Chatushra)  6 
Jhampa  1UO (1 laghu of 4 beats + 1 anudhrutam (1unit) + 1 dhrutam (2units)  4 (Chatushra)  7 
Triputa  1OO (1 laghu of 4 beats + 1 dhrutam (2units) + 1 dhrutam (2units)  4 (Chatushra)  8 
Ata  11OO (1 laghu of 4 beats + 1 laghu of 4 beats +1 dhrutam (2units) + 1 dhrutam (2units)  4 (Chatushra)  12 
Eka  1 (1 laghu of 4 beats)  4 (Chatushra)  4 

  
One complete talam cycle is called an “Aavartanam.” For eg. One aavartanam in Chatushra jathi Ata talam is 12 aksharams long. Likewise, one can calculate the number of aksharams in each aavartanam according to the talam and jathi. For instance, one aavaratanam in Misra jathi Jhampa talam will be 10 aksharams long. 

There are few places where you will see that the word ‘chaapu’ is used in place of ‘jathi.’  

Most popular Talams that are used in Bharatanatyam are: 
1) Adi Talam: It is nothing but Chatushra jathi Triputa Talam. It has 8 aksharams per aavartanam.  

2) Rupaka Talam: Though there are six aksharas, only three are rendered externally. One anudhrutam and one dhrutam. In Bharatanatyam the sollus are: thaka ta kita, where thaka is one beat and ta kita are two beats giving us 3 aksharas for Rupaka talam. 

3) Misrachapu Talam: Has 7 aksharas per avartanam. (Tisra jathi Triputa talam) In Bharatanatyam, the sollus are: tha ki ta tha ka dhi mi, found in most Shabdams. 

4) Khandachapu Talam: Five aksharas per aavartanam.  

Before we move to the other three parts or angas of a Talam, we need to understand the following:  
1) 1 krshyai – Has 4 aksharams and is represented by waving the hand towards left. 
2) 1 sarpini – Has 4 aksharams and is represented by waving the hand towards right. 
3) 1 pathakam – Has 4 aksharams and is represented by raising the hand vertically. 
4) Viramam – A single akshara part. 

Now, let us understand the other three angas/parts of Talam.  
1) 1 Guru – 1 beat and counting 7 fingers equaling to 8 aksharams 
2) 1 Plutham – 1 guru + 1 krshyai + 1 sarpini equaling to 12 aksharams 
3) 1 Kakapadam – 1 guru+ 1 krshyai + 1 sarpini + 1 pathakam equalling to 16 aksharams.  

(The symbols for all the above 3 angas are in the table discussed below.) 

We now know all the six parts/ angas of the Talams. These six angas are called the Shadangams of Talam. When we add the viramam to all the six angas, we get sixteen parts of Talam called Shodasangams. 

Below is a tabular representation.* 
 

Anga name  Symbol  Aksharakaalas  Movement 
Anudhrutam  U  1  beat with palm 
Dhrutam  0  2  beat with palm + turn (wave) 
Dhruta viramam  U0  3 (2 + 1)  dhrutam + anudhrutam 
Laghu  |  4 (or 3, 5, 7, 9)  beat + finger counts 
Laghu viramam  U|  5 (4 + 1)  laghu + anudhrutam 
Laghu dhrutam  0|  6 (4 + 2)  laghu + dhrutam 
Laghudhruta viramam  U0|  7 (4 + 2 + 1)  laghu + dhrutam + anudhrutam 
Guru  8  8  wave to left and right or circle with thumb-up 
Guru viramam  U8  8 (8 + 1)  guru + anudhrutam 
Guru dhrutam  08  10 (8 + 2)  guru + dhrutam 
Gurudhruta viramam  U08  11 (8 + 2 + 1)  guru + dhrutam + anudhrutam 
Plutham  |8  12 (8 + 4)  1 guru +1 kryshya + 1 sarpini – each of 4 aksharakalas  
Plutha viramam  U|8  13 (12 + 1)  plutam + anudhrutam 
Plutha dhrutam  0|8  14 (12 + 2)  plutam + dhrutam 
Plutha dhruta viramam  U0|8  15 (12 + 2 + 1)  plutam + dhrutam + anudhrutam 
Kaakapaadam  +  16  1 guru +1 patakam + 1 kryshya + 1 sarpini – each of 4 aksharakalas 

(*Table from www.ajsriram.blogspot.com, with a few changes)  

One more important thing that affects the Talam is Nadai or gati. It means speed or pace at which a composition in rendered. It is the count which determines the duration of the aksharam, which is usually fixed but for a few exceptions. This count is called “maatraa.”  The default nadai is Chatusram. But the nadai can be one of 3, 4, 5, 7 or 9, and these are respectively called Tisra, Chatushra, Khanda, Misra and Sankeerna. This provides further variation to the talam. (www.tutorgig.com with a few changes).  

For eg. If we need to know the number of maatraas in a chatushra gati tisra jathi eka talam, it will be: 4*1 beat + 4*1 little finger count + 4*1 ring finger count equals 12 maatraas. 

Now take a look at the table below.* 
 

Tala  Jathi  Nadai  Aksharaas  Maatraas 
Dhruva   1O11  Tisra  1 beat +2 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

11  3+2+3+3  33  44  

55  

77  

99 

  Chatushra  1 beat + 3 finger counts  Tisra    

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

14  4+2+4+4  42    

56  

70  

98  

126 

  Khanda  1 beat +4 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

17  5+2+5+5    51  

68  

85  

119  

153 

  Misra  1 beat +6 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

23  7+2+7+7    69  

92  

115  

161  

207 

  Sankeerna  1 beat + 8 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

29  9+2+9+9    87  

116  

145  

203  

261 

Matya   1O1  Tisra  1beat +2 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 3+2+3  24  32  

40  

56  

72  

 

  Chatushra  1 beat + 3 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

10  4+2+4  30  40  

50  

70  

90 

  Khanda  1 beat +4 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

12  5+2+5    36  

48  

60  

84  

108 

  Misra  1 beat +6 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

16  7+2+7    48  

64  

80  

112  

144 

  Sankeerna  1 beat + 8 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

20  9+2+9    60  

80  

100  

140  

180 

  Rupaka  

O1 

  Tisra  

1beat +2 finger counts 

  Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

   

2+3 

  15  

20  

25  

35  

45 

  Chatushra  1 beat + 3 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 2+4  18  24  

30  

42  

54 

  Khanda  1 beat +4 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 2+5    21  

28  

35  

49  

63 

  Misra  1 beat +6 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 2+7    27  

36  

45  

63  

81 

  Sankeerna  1 beat + 8 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

11  2+9    33  

44  

55  

77  

99 

Jhampa  1UO  Tisra  1beat +2 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 3+1+2  18  24  

30  

42  

54 

  Chatushra  1 beat + 3 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 4+1+2  21  28  

35  

49  

54 

  Khanda  1 beat +4 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 5+1+2    24  

32  

40  

56  

72 

  Misra  1 beat +6 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

10  7+1+2    30  

40  

50  

70  

90 

  Sankeerna  1 beat + 8 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

12  9+1+2    36  

48  

60  

84  

108 

Triputa  1OO  Tisra  1beat +2 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 3+2+2  21  28  

35  

49  

54 

  Chatushra  1 beat + 3 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 4+2+2  24  32  

40  

56  

72 

  Khanda  1 beat +4 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

 5+2+2    27  

36  

45  

63  

81 

  Misra  1 beat +6 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

11  7+2+2    33  

44  

55  

77  

99 

  Sankeerna  1 beat + 8 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

13  9+2+2    39  

52  

65  

91  

117 

Ata  11OO  Tisra  1beat +2 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

10  3+3+2+2  30  40  

50  

70  

90 

  Chatushra  1 beat + 3 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

12  4+4+2+2    36  

48  

60  

84  

108 

  Khanda  1 beat +4 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

14  5+5+2+2    42  

56  

70  

98  

126 

  Misra  1 beat +6 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

18  7+7+2+2    54  

72  

90  

126  

162 

  Sankeerna  1 beat + 8 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

22  9+9+2+2    66  

88  

110  

154  

198 

Eka   Tisra  1beat +2 finger counts  Tisra  Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

   12  

15  

21  

27 

  Chatushra  1 beat + 3 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

    12  

16  

20  

28  

36 

  Khanda  1 beat +4 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

    15  

20  

25  

35  

45 

  Misra  1 beat +6 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

    21  

28  

35  

49  

63 

  Sankeerna  1 beat + 8 finger counts    Tisra  

Chatushra  

Khanda  

Misra  

Sankeerna 

    27  

36  

45  

63  

81 

(* The above table format is similar to that in www.carnatica.com with few changes) 

*this article already appears on www.narthaki.com