It was after many visits to Varanasi that Bharatanatyam exponent and choreographer Malavika Sarukkai conceived of the performance titled Ganga: Nitya Vaahini The Eternal River,which she performed on Tuesday at the India Habitat Centre. True to the title,she brought the Ganga alive on stage with strong,graceful movements that depicted the ravages of floods. The fan following of this Chennai resident was evident,as the auditorium was packed with connoisseurs of dance. Shobha Deepak Singh,director of Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra,came with a camera dangling from her neck along with former Indian ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh. Also in attendance was fashion designer Ritu Kumar.
The four-part production went beyond the boundaries of Bharatnatyam,as Sarukkai recreated the descent of Ganga,with the river plunging forward into deep gorges,cutting through rocks. Its inspired by Varanasi,where I sit and watch the river and listen to the sound, said Sarukkai. Over the years,Sarukkai has built a formidable reputation to interpret poetry beautifully through the physicality of dance.
The performance began with a piece from the Ganga Sthothram,where she traced the journey of Ganga through the dense jata of Lord Shiva. The performance took a pan-India colour when Sarukkai blended together the lyrics from a 15th century composition by Tansen and contemporary lyrics composed by her writer-sister Priya Sarukkai. I did not want to restrict myself to Carnatic music, said Sarukkai. She ended her performance with Mahasangam,the surrender of Ganga to the ocean.