Celebrating a life in dance

Gayathri Kesavan and family

The story of Putana is part of the Lord Krishna folklore. Putana which means “devoid of virtue” was a demon sent by Kamsa to kill his nephew, the baby Krishna. When Putana in the guise of a stunningly beautiful woman came to Yashodha, the latter believed the demon to be a virtous woman and gave the baby to her for nursing. Little did Yashodha realize that it wasn’t mother’s milk but a poison that the baby was meant to suckle. Putana’s plan backfired and Krishna ended up killing her.

This was the central theme of Gayathri Kesavan’s dance program at JSS auditorium in Jayanagar last week. Putana’s story was presented in a dance-drama format in the Kathakali style. The piece was set to music by the 18th century composer from Kerala, Aswathi Thirunal in the form of a ragamalika. Gayathri beautifully portrayed the dual face of the demon and how Putana acbieved salvation in the end.

Gayathri, a veteran dancer and teacher of the Pandanallur style of BharataNatyam is the founder of “Academy of Bharata Natyam” in Rajarajeshwari nagar. She turned sixty recently and the dance program was a celebration of this milestone. When I spoke to her briefly later, she mentioned that swaras in the kathakali dance item was specially composed by her as kathakali does not feature swaras as a rule.

From the evocative swarajati of Shyama Shastry in raga Bhairavi presented by her daughters Maitreyi and Matangi to the solo presentation of Putana’s salvation by Gayathri and the tillana of Veena Seshanna in raga Senchurutti rounding off the program, the dancers gave a vibrant presentation with neat adavus and rich abhinaya. Overall a class act.

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