Of all the artistic moods (rasa), passion is the most difficult to emote as it requires sensitivity along with a ‘let go’ attitude in the dancer as far as movements are concerned so that the emotion comes out naturally and convincingly. Kathak maestro Prerana Shrimali chose to delve into footwork combined with minutiae of imagery to depict the love of Radha and Shyam. For instance, dusting away the sprinkled waters from the dress and showing the divine couple as two parts of the same countenance. For the seasonal changes from Spring to Monsoon (Basant to Barsat), she displayed the churning process of butter in accelerating cycles, diligently gathering the butter post churning, taking care to lock the door of the threshold before going out with her pot and finally the dance of the peacock in joy at the onset of rain.
Rama Vaidyanathan categorised her Shringara rasa into devotion and romance through Abhang, with verses from Kambar Ramayanam, Padam and Javali. Her sevaka (dasya) bhakti in the Abhang was very convincing and upheld her virtuosity. Like Prerana, Rama too made use of the imagery of household chores to drive home her point. So was her portrayal of a crest-fallen Ravana – repentance writ all over even in gait which the dancer brought out with convincing demeanour. In the Padam and Javali, a little more body language to convey the romantic passion (shringara) was required, though she substituted the emotion with mudra and dance which was in keeping with the tradition of pure Bharatanatyam.
With these two senior artistes, it is evident that their respective mediums don’t allow extraneous body movements to convey an emotion. With Prerana, one could sense a self-imposed restraint that was wary of ‘out-of-the-box’ acting. However, unless the artiste lets go of the strict boundaries of classicism, chances are that the abhinaya will remain confined to the stage and doesn’t peter down to the audience to create the necessary rasa (response).
In striking contrast, both Vilasini Natyam and Odissi have the inbuilt flexibility for the artiste to take liberties with the medium while remaining within its framework.