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ANDAL - The prism moves
By Geeta Chandran
Audience response to the show on Feb 9, 2019 at Delhi


Three women came together to celebrate ANDAL's passion for Ranga/Krishna. Presented by the Taj Group as a fund raising effort for the TATA Cancer Memorial Hospital, the performance swayed one with its honesty and structure.

The dramatic production operated on three levels - first the personal story of Geeta Gopalakrishnan, whose family - like thousands of similar households - chanted Andalís verses during Marghazi maasam with devout fervor. In Geeta's chanting there wa no artifice; even though some purists may tilt swords on the correct enunciation of some of the pasurams, the fact is that oral transmission of texts often faced alteration and incorrectitudes. That is the risk of non-textual oral transmission and learning. But that said, Geeta's fluent and torrential narration of Andal held one in thrall.

Then there was Anita Ratnam's performance. Returning to chaste Bharatanatyam after a hiatus, Anita was extremely loving in her portrayal of Andalís passions. Whether the surreptitious thieving of the garland meant for the deity, or the caressing looks of longing with the parrot prop, Anita's Andal was of a piece with the emotion of Andal. The swaying movements to various callings to Ranga were both lilting and endearing.

And then Akila Ramnarayan's contemporary narration of Priya Sarukkai Chabbria's texts on Andal revisited gave it a modern today feeling, slicing through time and space of millenia to bring persistent passion to the tale of longing and devotion that is the basis for Andal's reign on popular imagination since the 8th century.

The visual slides of illustrated pages from Andalís texts, sepia photos of Srirangam and contemporary paintings on Andal followed a similar narrative of Andal then and now. 

With precise musicians (L. Subhashri-Nattuvangam; Sharanya Krishnan-Vocals; NK Kesavan-Mridangam; and Hema Balasubramaniam-Flute), able costumes by Sandhya Raman and suitable lights by Deepa Dharmadhikari, this Andal was a gateway to the treasure trove of the other Andal.

geetachandran@gmail.com