Students of the East Auckland based Narthana Aalayam School of Indian Dance in general and those keen on their Arangetram (public debut) cannot gain the approval of their Guru Kalaichchelvi (Selvi) Uthayakumaran with mere enthusiasm and proficiency.
They must demonstrate their willingness to learn in the true style of ‘Gurukul,’ spending days from dawn to dusk, learning the art and teaching to their juniors at the School. Punctuality, seriousness, dedication, relentless practice and willingness to forgo other forms of entertainment are among the attributes that Selvi demands of those under her watch; and woe betide those who dare to stray into the glitz of Bollywood.
“Our students conform to the strict discipline of Kalakshetra (Chennai). Students are readied for their Arangetram based on several factors. These are not negotiable and based only on their merits,” Selvi said.
That was the way it was at the Arangetram of Pooja Prasad, held at the Ray Freedman Arts Centre (Epsom Girls Grammar School) on April 26, 2014. It was a day of appeasement for Selvi (it was her 32nd Arangetram) as it was one of pride for Krishnamachar and Bharathi Prasad to watch their only child perform on stage to an invited audience that comprised cross-section of the society.
The early numbers comprised ‘Pushpanjali,’ a floral tribute to the Supreme Being (in Gambeera Nattai Ragam and Adi Talam), Jathiswaram (Saraswathi and Rupakam) and Tirkoneshwaram Kouthuvam set to Rasali and Chatusra Ekam.
Selvi proved her mastery in composition and choreography as Pooja presented the life and achievements of Lord Rama in ‘Bhavayami Raghu Ramam.’ The Varnam number, set to Ragamalika in Rupaka Talam was about 40 minutes duration, during which the artiste encapsulated Lord Rama in all His manifestations. It was an item that bore testimony to Pooja’ endurance and ability to describe a popular avatar in dance form.
The second half of the programme comprised ‘Vaaranam Aayiram,’ a tribute to ‘Andal,’ a form of Sakthi ‘Padam’ and ‘Thillana,’ which featured a composition by Veena Krishnamachari, paying tribute to Kalakshetra Founder the late Rukmani Devi Arundale. The Thillana was set to Nuta Bhairavi Ragam and Rupaka Talam.
Supporting performers Selvi (Natuvangam), Praveen Geetha Ramachandran (Vocal), Narayanan Nagai Subramaniyan (Mridangam), Shankar Venkatraman (Violin) and Ramesh Baswa Nagarajan (Flute) were in their elements.
Masters of Ceremonies Saroj Kumar, Geetha Galgali and Olivia Nadan did well not to judge the performance of the artiste after every item, and inviting the audience to applaud.
Pooja’s performance displayed a rigorous commitment to refining her practice, and a promise to learn the art of articulating the Bhavas that are so essential to the embellishment of Bharata Natyam.