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
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