Unless I’m forgetting something, it’s been close to ten years since I posted Padmini’s “Maraindhirundu Paarkum.” When I did this in 2008, I subtitled the post “The Nine Emotions” because Padmini’s rapid demonstration of that ancient theatrical tradition – aka the Navarasa – was the aspect of this dance that I have always found most enjoyable and fascinating. Since that time, I have seen a few better clips of “Maraindhirundu Paarkum” and my enthusiasm for it has only grown.
It is wonderful how Padmini displays the nine emotions in under nine seconds, and the display of each particular emotion is wonderful too. I love the theatricality of the expressions, which perfectly suits the Bharatanatyam dance. (Here, we should not be looking for the naturalistic acting that so many people want to see in contemporary cinema, but intense facial gestures inherited from forms of dance and theater that go back millennia – and no one does that better than Padmini!)
Anyway, here is one of those better clips of “Maraindhirundu Paarkum.” Padmini’s sensational display of the Navarasa starts at about 1:20.
Classical (Kathak) Dancing to Sia (with Navarasa) (in an office somewhere)
Curiously, during the past week, just after my mind had returned to “Maraindhirundu Paarkum,” I discovered one charming contemporary effort to speed through the Navarasa, this time in a Kathak dance. I was not looking for another Navarasa display at the time. In fact, I was attracted to the video because of another tendency that I’ve talked about here before (in my Odd(itie)s and Ends post): Indian classical dances done to the music of Sia, the highly successful Australian singer and composer of contemporary pop music. Among the pop stars who have gained a massive following in the past few years, I would consider Sia to be, possibly, the most interesting and talented. (I don’t like every Sia song on her albums or on the many soundtracks in which she’s participated. But I always greatly respect what she’s doing, and when a Sia song clicks for me, I love it.) I actually don’t know why Sia’s music – especially the song “Cheap Thrills” – has been treated to so many classical Indian dance covers. Is it because of some connections between traditional Indian rhythms and the beat of Sia’s music? In any event, I’m glad that so many Indian dancers have this affinity. (I should add, though, that in this particular case, the music is an instrumental cover of Sia’s song. Like the dances being done to this song, the number of musical versions seems to have multiplied.)
The Navarasa is also the best part of this dance. The dancer here dedicatedly goes through the whole Navarasa in the latter part of the clip while the names of the emotions are spelled out in a large caption – not only the original names, by the way, but also the English words for them, which I certainly appreciated. (I wish someone had spelled out her name, though – that remains a mystery.) This dancer didn’t dazzle me like Padmini, but she is quite good, especially considering that she is not a film or dance star but, obviously, someone who had to do a YouTube video in some office somewhere during off-hours, when the electronic equipment was covered up. (What kind of equipment is that? Is that printing equipment? Or photography equipment? Maybe it’s medical equipment. I don’t think it’s standard office computers – but it could be.) At any rate, as readers of this blog should know by now, I’ve gained a special appreciation for dancers who become committed to doing their art in everyday rooms not designed for dance or performance events – such as the ones I posted under the title Another Mujra in A Different Kitchen. Let’s add this fine one to the list.
“Raag Yaman in Bollywood Songs”
In another post that’s close to a decade old, I discussed a couple of old Hindi film songs that I had heard were composed around Raag Yaman (or Raga Yaman, as I labeled it back then). (Actually, one of the commenters here disagreed that one of these songs was Raag Yaman, saying it was Raag Shankara, but this is a debate that I have also seen elsewhere that I did not want to get into. The song, “Jhanan Jhan Jhana Ke Apni Payal,” might include a bit of both. As far as I know, the other film song that I mentioned, “Awara Aye Mere Dil,” was always accepted as being based on Raag Yaman and nothing else.)
Within that post, I also included a YouTube clip from Tripmonk’s channel, which showed a couple of guys playing Raag Yaman AND explaining what it was. Unfortunately, that clip disappeared. But recently, I have found a very nice instructional video about “Raag Yaman in Bollywood Songs.” This video mentions and excerpts from a number of classic film songs that I had never mentioned, including “Kahin Ye Wo Toh Nahin” from Haqeeqat (1964), “Nigahen Milaneko Jee” from Dil Hi Toh Hai (1963) (which is a song I’m very fond of, by the way), and “Abhi Na Jao Chhodkar” from Hum Dono (1961). The teacher in this video, Anuja Kamat, gives a detailed explanation about what makes these songs Raag Yaman, what notes and sequences Raag Yaman contains, and the variation called Raag Yaman Kalyan. She also sings the notes of the raag beautifully throughout.
Anuja Kamat has a number of other instructional/singing videos on her channel well worth looking at. There is a second video about Raag Yaman in Bollywood songs, covering more contemporary material. There is also a video about songs based on Raag Bhimpalas, and there are videos that I intend to watch soon that cover more basic subjects such “What Is a Raag,” “Basic Theory of Indian Music,” and “History of Indian Music” (in several parts). So far, this looks like a delightful and very informative channel, and I’m sure I’ll be mentioning some more of Anuja’s videos sometime soon.
I’ll admit I didn’t have the time (or the energy – I’m really under the weather right now) to go beyond the first video, but oh, how good Padmini was there! I was reminded of a Kathakali performance I watched in Kochi a few years back in which the navrasas were enacted. OTT, I agree, but oddly enough still very effective. And somehow it fits into the traditional dance form(s) well.
At last, a place where we can agree about Padmini! :) Well, this is what she did best.
That’s interesting re. the Kathakali Navarasa. Yes, Kathakali is extremely theatrical, with those giant masks and everything.
I’m sure the Travancore Sisters must have seen plenty of Kathakali, since that is a dance native to their Kerala (as opposed to Bharatanatyam). I think I saw at least one Padmini-Ragini film dance, from a Malayalam film, that was highly influenced by Kathakali. (Though it’s traditionally a male dance form. The women’s dance is Mohiniyattam. I know Padmini and Ragini did that too.)
Maybe some day I’ll get to watch a Kathakali dance in Kerala. *sigh*
BTW, Madhu, it’s OK that you didn’t watch all of these (pretty different) videos. :) I actually just got over a bad cold a few days ago. I hope you get back above your weather soon!
I was watching a dance performance by Shobhana, and was suddenly reminded of her aunt. So I came back here to watch one of Padmini’s performances. :) It’s amazing to see how gracefully she moved, and how the expressions flit across her face like quicksilver. You’re indeed right that Bharatanatyam has its roots in theatrical traditions. Considering that the audience had to know what was being sung, it was important that the expressions were larger than life.
I’m always amazed at the videos you pull up. I mean, here I am, the South Indian, and I’m looking to you to give me my dose of the Travancore sisters. :)
Anu, that’s a good point re. it being important that the expressions were larger than life, and I like the words you used to describe the quality of her dance – the amazing gracefulness and the expressions “flitting” like “quicksilver.” Yes! :)
And thank you for your comment about being amazed by the videos I post. I did go pretty crazy over the Travancore Sisters, starting about a decade ago, so I looked for every dance I could find by them and especially by Padmini – on YouTube and in the Bollywood DVD stores in Jackson Heights, Queens (which are, unfortunately, almost all gone now). And I also found out that some fellow Travancore Sister/Padmini fans are pretty good at exchanging information and/or videos. :)
But think it’s been a while since I put any Tavancore Sisters in a post; in fact, I started to feel that I was neglecting them!
“Padmini: I have no theatre experience. Stage artistes have no difficulty delivering lengthy dialogue. I cannot. But dance helped me. In dance we have the navarasas, which enable you to emote effortlessly.
Mahendra: Like in “Thillanamohanambal”!
[She nods in agreement and sings `Navarasamum’ from the song `Marainthirundhu Parkum Marmam Enna”] ” from http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2004/09/20/stories/2004092000580300.htm
Thank you, Swarup. That’s a nice article, and It’s good to see Padmini confirming that her Navarasa was as important as I thought it was. :) I found it a little sad at the end of the interview, when they talk about possible plans for her future visits, because I knew that the date of the article was just two about two years before Padmini died. I don’t know how serious Mahendra’s offer really was, but I quickly searched for anything that the two might have done together, and all I found was this interview. So if some future collaboration was seriously being contemplated, I guess there never was a chance for it to be realized.
I learned Bharathnatyam dancing from Padmini and to see her to the Navarasa dance item was real treat!
Thank you, Sujataha. It’s delightful to hear from someone who learned Bharatanatyam from Padmini. If you have any stories from that experience, please feel free to send them along! :)
padmini learnt kathakali at the age of 4. she learnt bharatnatyam when she was 10
Ananya, thanks for that info (and sorry about my delay in pushing your comment through the WordPress filter :) ). Yes, Padmini learned Kathakali when she was only four years old – I did a search on that, and other sites confirmed it, too. That’s pretty impressive, but actually, I’m not all that surprised. :)