To Sydney with love – an evening with Manju Warrier and the talented artistes

Pic Courtesy – RBR Photography

By Sudha Kumar

”˜Snehapoorvam’ (”˜With love’) – A wonderful evening with Manju Warrier and a smorgasbord of Indian talent on Australian soil.

On 29 April 2018, Malayalam film ”˜super lady star’ Manju Warrier along with an entourage of extremely talented people presented to Sydney siders ”˜Snehapoorvam’, a unique bounty of talent, at the Penrith Panthers, Penrith, NSW, organised by IOZ Events.

From the South Indian traditional Kuchipudi recital, to melodies of yester years, to peppy numbers of recent times, to some fantastic electric fusion with plucking and popping of the string instruments, to eclectic renderings of timeless musical numbers and the grand old tabla resonating with some new vibrations, it was an evening of music and dance presented by some very versatile artistes that brimmed over with talent, tradition and energy.

The group consisted of Malyalam film actress Manju Warrier, Violin virtuoso ”“ Balabhaskar and his big band, playback singers – Madhu Balakrishnan, Manjari, Naresh Iyer, Lakshmi Jayan and the very young talented Vignesh. The MC was Rajesh Keshav.

Beginning with the grand portrayal of a Keralan cultural visual, resplendent in its grandeur, the stage was taken by Rajesh, the MC, who did complete justice in introducing the artistes and engaging the audience for the next few hours.

Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier – Popularly known, admired and loved for her acting prowess where she left a lasting mark in the heart and minds of people in strong and intense female character roles, in ”˜Kanmadham’ and ”˜Kannezhuthi pottum thott’ in the 1990s, returning after a sabbatical of about 14 years in 2014 with ”˜How old are you’, which encouraged the masses to consider bio-farming, and more recently in ”˜Udhaharanam Sujatha’ portraying the struggle that a single mother and domestic maid goes through to realise the dream of educating her teenage daughter, and then in ”˜Aami’ a biopic of the Malayalam literary personality Kamala Surayya, whose literary works were ahead of its time, to ”˜Mohanlal’ the story of a crazy Mohanlal fan, Manju Warrier has rarely left her fans wanting.

In Sydney, Snehapoorvam, portrayed another artistic facet of Manju. Classical dance. A genre/ tradition that demands rigorous training and dedication of countless hours over many years, the art form can only be mastered through unconditional commitment and a relationship with the art that runs strong and deep. Manju was exemplary and left the audience mesmerised. It was treat to the senses.

The repertoire commenced with paying obeisance to Lord Ganesha where Manju herself introduced the item, first by first thanking the organisers and then paying due respects to her Guru and parents. She portrayed the grand celestial dance of Lord Ganesha.

Then came the timeless story of Lord Krishna as a ”˜Tharangam’. From childhood and adolescence through youth, an anthology of parables – Manju danced with expressions that literally spoke the stories. The ”˜Thanrangam’ is unique to Kuchipudi where the dancer dances on a brass plate leaving the audience holding their breath in awe.

Manju signed off her repertoire with a powerful portrayal of the feminine in ”˜Durgey’ ”“ she who is the epitome of strength and love, courage and ferocity, sacrifice and mercy, discipline and divinity. Though the story is from the epics, the values and qualities are timeless and relatable. Manju’s swift foot movements to the ”˜jathis’ and precise anga shuddhi was breathtaking.

Manju Warrier was felicitated by the Honourable Mayor John Thain, Penrith Council, NSW.

The traditional classical dance repertoire was woven beautifully with musical items by Violinist Balabhaskar and his Big Band. He had the audience gobsmacked as his fingers wove aural magic from the violin strings, and his talented band mates created musical notes in the most unique ways. Balabhaskar is a violin virtuoso trained in the Carnatic music tradition. He had his first performance at the age of 12 and composed music at the age of 17. Blending the tunes of golden gems in Hindi, Tamizh and Malayalam on his violin, Balabhaskar had everyone there singing to his tune! His flippancy, easy demeanour and joy in engaging with the audience made it a very enjoyable musical experience as he weaved through the crowds playing his violin. He was well supported by Mohini Dey on the Bass guitar ”“ a musician in her own right, and a complete band of keyboard (Rajith George), percussion (Prashanth), flute (Nikhil), lead guitar (Abhijith Sreeni). The musical ensemble was a seamless flow of all time favourites from Madhu Balakrishnan, Manjari, Naresh Iyer, Vignesh, Lakshmi Jayan and Sydney sider Merina Sumesh. This was also interspersed by group dances.

It is not often that a traditional classical artform is blended with contemporary genres in one program, simply because of the distinctive nature of the two. But ”˜Snehapoorvam’ is testimony to the fact that music truly has no language and no boundaries, that human minds and hearts enjoy music of any kind, once they engage with it. The presentation by ”˜Snehapoorvam’ team was an eclectic ensemble that was thoroughly enjoyed and will be fondly remembered.

Manju Warrier is a unique film personality. Her admirers respect and love her immensely for her acting prowess which is par excellence, but she is also respected for a number of other aspects. The poise, dignity and discipline with which she carries herself off screen in the public eye, her humility and her involvement in social justice issues, be it with Cancer awareness programs, or natural disaster victims.

Manju Warrier is respected and loved by her fans for all the right reasons.

Australian Malayalis look forward to her next visit Down Under.

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