Rama Vaidyanathan rejuvenates a lyric written by Kalki for a key sequence in the novel Ponniyin Selvan

A song from Kalki’s Novel Ponniyin Selvan 

Bharatanatyam artist Rama Vaidyanathan rejuvenates a lyric written by Kalki for a key sequence in the novel Ponniyin Selvan. Carnatic vocalist Nisha Rajagopalan reclaims Kalki’s song in a garland of melodies.

Though Kalki Krishnamurthy’s political and reformist writings were extremely influential and impactive in contemporary times, it is for his novels that he is idolized today. And there is no doubt at all Ponniyin Selvan remains his most famous and most beloved work of fiction.

Today, we are all lucky to have three powerhouse women to bring Ponniyin Selvan to life. The Kalki Biography Project thanks them for so readily and willingly agreeing to contribute to this meeting.

First a poem from Ponniyin Selvan. A poem that has never been sung or danced to before.

Imagine a bower on a tiny island in a huge lake. Here, under a flowering tree, lovely Princess Manimekhalai pours out all the pent-up passion and yearning hidden in her heart as she sings and plays the harp. The man she loves, the warrior Vandiyatevan, is seated before her, thrilled by the music, but troubled in being unable to return her love.

This is what Manimekhalai says in her song:

On the mountain slope
Where the waters gently fall,
Under the shady tree, We held hands in delight…
Was it a dream? 
Was it a memory?

In the grove of punnai trees,
In the glistening evening light,
He spoke words
As sweet as cane sugar…
Was it an illusion? Was it a mirage?

Stealing softly
Through the barriers,
He kissed me
With boundless love…
Was it true?
Was it fantasy?

Bharatanatyam artist Rama Vaidyanathan, makes us not only see but feel in our own pulse every strand of these emotions – so tremulous, so tender, so uncertain… We sense the vulnerability of the woman. In other words, Rama’s artistry makes us grasp what is in essence, ungraspable.

I don’t have to say that Rama is one of the finest Bharatanatyam artists of India today, and a sensitive choreographer. Her brilliance in nritta is equaled only by her in-depth abhinaya. Rama heads her own Ganesha Natyalaya in New Delhi and manages to balance her hectic performance schedule with teaching, workshops & masterclasses across the globe, inspiring young artists and delighting audiences.

What can I say about Nisha Rajagopalan who has rendered this song… like the cascading hill stream, the glistening twilight, the melting romance of secret love?

Trained in an exacting tradition, Nisha is an exciting vocalist with a mature artistry that can deal with all the demands of Carnatic music – from the heavyweight to the featherlight. Her well-honed virtuosity is balanced with spontaneous emotional expression. Why not? Her compelling voice can produce powerful resonance as well as pianissimo glissades. What amazes us in this song is that she has crafted a comprehensive soundscape with her voice alone.

A foremost Bharatanatyam artist of today, Rama Vaidyanathan was trained by eminent gurus Yamini Krishnamurthy and Saroja Vaidyanathan. Acclaimed in the major dance venues of the world, she has shaped her individual style where technique and soulfulness combine with the core principles of tradition. As Director, Ganesa Natyalaya, New Delhi, Rama has been teaching for over 25 years. She conducts workshops and masterclasses across the continents, inspiring a whole generation of dancers.

An exciting Carnatic vocalist with a golden voice, Nisha Rajagopalan commenced her training with mother Vasundhara Rajagopalan, received expert guidance from gurus TR Subramaniam, PS Narayanaswamy, and Suguna Varadachary. Nisha grips the audience with her evocative singing, laya control, and perfect fidelity to sruti. even as she remains true to her classicist calling. Excelling as a concert vocalist, Nisha has also sung with equal commitment for dance and theatre performances on occasion.