30 September, 2020

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A Star Is Born; Abbeyrame Sriharan’s Bharathanatya Arangetram – A Review

By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

It was undoubtedly apparent, to everyone, a star was born that day when Abbeyrame Laveniya Sri Haran, only sixteen years old, looking stunning and graceful on stage, danced her way into the hearts and minds of her enraptured audience as they watched her enthralling performance, making her ‘Bharathanatya Arangetram’ (Dance Debut) to a packed Logan Hall, in one of the world’s, arts and cultural capitals, London, on 24th October, 2015.

Abbeyrame, an honour student of Old Palace of John Whitgift School, Croydon and disciple of Sri Prakash Yadagudde of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, brought this ancient and divine art form, Bharathanatyam, to life, like only she knows how. Everyone who came – accomplished Bharathanatya dancers, dance aficionados, friends and family were in awe; even first timers liked and appreciated what they saw – and some who planned to leave during the intermission, stayed the course, captivated by her dance.

Abbeyramme SriharanAbbeyrame’s performance was truly spectacular in both expression and movement. Bringing out with style, energy and aplomb, all the splendour, beauty, grace, skill and precision required of this classical dance discipline, Abbeyrame kept her audience spell bound first of all – with her amazing facial expressions, consisting of a range of emotions and second of all – with her crisp and expressive body movements that involved a combination of animated hand gestures, vibrant footwork and sculpture like poses. There was never a dull moment in her dance; you could see she connected with her audience and they connected with her in a fascinating way through her story telling and dramatisation – Bharathanatyam a dance form, essentially combining Bhavam (expression), Ragam (music), Thalam (rhythm) and Natyam (dance); and actually blending together the three finer elements of Nritta, Nritya and Natya as enunciated in the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni. Abbeyramme became the personification of the characters she played.

Abbeyramme’s repertoire (Margam), strictly following the traditional structure an Arangetram must conform to, consisted of a set of very fine and carefully selected compositions, I thought, that helped to draw out her versatility and brilliance:

Abbeyramme SriharanBeginning with Ananda Nadamidum Gajamukhane, an invocation to Lord Ganesha, composer – Madurai R Muralitharan, followed by Pushpanjali and Alarippu and then Durge Durge, another composition by – Madurai R Muralitharan, followed by Nattakurunji Varnam: Swami Naan Undan Adimai, composer – Papanasam Sivan, next a Padam: Kandanaal Muthalai, composer – Sri S Chidambaram, with Kurai Onrum Illai, composer – Sri C Rajakopalachari and Janaki Ramana, composer – Sri Vanamamalai Jeer Swamigal coming next, followed by ‘Kadanakuthoohalam’ Thillana, composer – Dr Balamuralikrishna and ending with Mangalam – the repertoire was truly spiritually uplifting and inspiring.

With years of training under her Dance Guru, Sri Prakash Yadagudde that began at the tender age of six, bearing fruit that evening, Abbeyrame was fortunate to have great accompanying artists such as Srimati Preethy Maheshwar on vocals (vocalist to many a renowned dancers like the Dhananjayans, Priyadharshini Govind, Shobana and Alaermel Valli), Balachandar on Mridangam; Sri K T Sivaganesan on Violin and Sri Atul Kumar on Flute, who together gave her the indispensable support she needed for a breathtaking performance.

Abbeyramme SriharanThe glorious tributes she received from speakers: Chief Guest, Srimati Rajini Rajagopal, an acclaimed dancer, teacher and director of Natyalaya, trained by Srimati Shanta Ponnudurai of Kalakshetra fame, Guests of Honour, Director, Dr M N Nandakumara and Karnatic, Vocal and Veena teacher, Srimati Sivasakthi Sivanesan of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the vice-principal of Old Palace of John Whitgift School, Mr. Stephane Talleux – reflected very much the mood of the evening, a testimony to Abbeyrame’s star quality and magnificence.

With a LED screen showing images of Hindu Gods, Goddesses and Temples, that kept changing providing a nice backdrop to the stage; with elegant costumes and jewellery adding grandeur to Abbeyrame’s performance; with excellent lighting and sound and also decor; with delicious snacks provided during the intermission and generous dinners guests were given to take away; the evening turned out to be most entertaining and welcoming. The fine brochure, released to mark the Arangetram, deserves a special mention, which Abbeyrame herself put together. Her short narratives explaining certain dance items added a nice touch and her speech at the end thanking all was well delivered, leaving out no one!

Abbeyrame will surely be blessed by the Lord of Dance, Lord Natarajah, to whom she dedicated this her first solo dance performance; the same Lord Natarajah, also known as the Dancing Shiva, believed to embody this dynamic universe in motion, now, not just an imaginary concept belonging to just Hindu thought or the ‘TRUTH’ as Hinduism sees it, but a true phenomenon that scientists accept – that the universe from the smallest sub atomic particle is in a constant state of motion.

Abbeyrame did her parents, family, Guru and well wishers proud by her awe-inspiring performance at her Arangetram. Judging from the plaudits she received, if she carries on, and everyone hopes she will, if her academic pursuits would let her, Abbeyrame is destined for stardom.

We wish her well!

Abbeyramme Sriharan

Abbeyramme Sriharan

Abbeyramme Sriharan

 

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Latest comments

  • 10
    3

    The Diaspora Sri Lankan Tamils will be equal if not surpass their South Indian counter parts in the classical Tamil arts of Baharathanatiyam classical music including flute,veena and non classical vocal music and instruments.

    Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora: The new force spreading Carnatic music and dance worldwide

    http://scroll.in/article/769894/sri-lankan-tamil-diaspora-the-new-force-spreading-carnatic-music-and-dance-worldwide

    • 6
      6

      Rajash, It is wishful thinking to say that Diaspora Sri Lankan Tamils will be equal if not surpass their Indian counterparts.

      Most Diaspora Sri Lankan Tamil parents in western countries have this tendency to spend money, time and effort in encouraging their children to achieve in classical Tamil arts. Majority of them would not have done this if they had remained in Sri Lanka without a war. This may be due to the parents seeking a sense of identity in a foreign country.

      Praises, reviews are then published worldwide.

      Unfortunately, it is too much to hope on them surpassing their Indian counterparts. We know that almost all such children give up their arts soon after the Arangetram is over. They then concentrate fully on their A’levels.

      • 2
        4

        ..to induce the children in to the culture

    • 5
      0

      Hi Gorgeous

      You will be always my darling as long as you keep yourself away from the LTTE and write about nice things such as this. G/MNBY.

  • 7
    2

    Rajesh
    “Majority of them would not have done this if they had remained in Sri Lanka without a war”
    Even before the war, Tamils in Sri Lanka used to go for Sunday school to learn Bharanatiyam or to play classical instruments or to learn to sing. I did.
    At that time there was no financial motive but to induce the children in to the
    I am glad my parents sent me to these Sunday schools. I now appreciate classical music whether its Tamil or English or any other

    The times have changed now. Tamils have realised that you dont have to be a doctor to make money and be respected in the society.

    • 4
      0

      Rajash

      I am glad that you are slowly and steadily disclosing your ability to respond to any issues outside the hate politics against our enimies.

      Your appreciation for Tamil culture is very welcome.

      We both hate India for what India did to the Eelam Tamils. That does not mean we challenge India’s cultural achievements.

      You say: ‘The Diaspora Sri Lankan Tamils will be equal if not surpass their South Indian counter parts in the classical Tamil arts of Baharathanatiyam classical music including flute,veena and non classical vocal music and instruments’.

      Buddy, it is not going to happen for many generations, except for the for the development of wild, rabid, loud, ragaless, thalaless, high beat, meaningless, rude etc., songs and floor braking yakka dance.

      Your understanding of the conditions prevailing in India for the cultural development is very limited or even zero.

      It appears you have written your five shots herein after your over the limit G & T.

      I have told you to speak to me before putting anything so sensitive in the public domain. We must avoid embarrassment my darling.

      Do not get upset over my comments. We must work together darling. I can see that you are buckling progressively by going into areas you can’t think or rationalise.

      I love you.

      • 0
        0

        Nirmala N,

        “It appears you have written your five shots herein after your over the limit G & T.”

        In addition to alcohol the quinine in tonic water is toxic in large doses. Please note that erectile dysfunction is listed as one of the problems caused by quinine. Alcohol also causes impotence.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinine#Adverse_effects

  • 7
    0

    Well done abbeyrame, congratulations.

  • 5
    0

    Well done Abbeyrame. Thank you Usha.

  • 4
    1

    A Barata Natya artiste shines when Beauty, Grace, and Quickness & light-footedness in movement, is found in abundance.

    Abbeyrame is pretty; stunningly pretty. She has grace; enormous grace. I would have to believe that she is nimble as well. Abbeyrame ‘looks’ amply suited to be a dance phenomenon, someday.

    There are a dozen Abbeyramees who climb the stage each and every year. Would Usha have showered the others as well with such praise.

    Knowing the relationship between Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah and Abbeyrame Laveniya Sri Haran would help to assess correctly, the lavish praise Usha showers on Abbeyrame.

  • 4
    2

    Its her sister’s daughter. That’s why.
    Over the last ten to fifteen years hundreds of Sri Lankan girls have had Bharatha Natya Arangetrams in London at Logan Hall and elsewhere. In fact Logan Hall is reputed to be leased out to Sri Lankan Tamils over the weekends during the summer and autumn months. Many of those girls would have performed much better. Their reviews unfortunately did not appear on this site.

  • 3
    2

    So what? Usha acted as MAdhavi in the Tamil play Madhavi that MEthodist College Colombo staged which our Tamil teacher Mrs. Olagasegaram organized. And Usha was so beautiful and acted very well- In the genes.The story goes that her future mother in law came running to her parents after the play asking for USha to marry her son.

    She sang a lovely love song too in that play which we all then planned to sing to our husbands some day.

  • 2
    0

    Just curious- why is the name usually spelt as ‘ Abirami’ spelt ‘Abbeyrame’?
    Is it related to dictates of numerology or the result of anglization?

    The Sri Lankan Tamils in the past few decades have taken their temples, classical music an classical dance to wherever they moved and have led the Indian Tamils on this score. Unfortunately, Tamil as a language is in retreat among the second generation. Mixed marriages are also taking their toll. Food habits are also changing. How long will the distinct identity last? They bold effort to reinforce the Sri Kankan Tamil identity abroad seems destined to fail. The effort however, has to be appreciated and applauded.

    Dr.RN

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