Malavika Sarrukai, the Bharatanatyam danseuse, with a slew of awards and internationally acclaimed performances to her
credit. Dressed casually in a churidhar kurta, Malavika is a picture of style,
grace and Indian-ness. She expressed her passion for her art. “Dance transports one to a zone. If I’m able to reach that, it
enriching. When all props, the stage and sound are perfect, it helps me to reach to a good plane. For me, it is an experience; the intangible
made effortlessly visible, by our classical arts.”
To celebrate 40 years of professional dancing, Sarukkai danced in front
of the deity at Chidambaram. “It was a thanksgiving, a samarpanam. Just
a few of my friends, and her team were present. It was lovely, and quiet, in the temple. And as I depicted a processional deity, a real
temple procession started, with music flowing down… in sync with my dance at that moment. It was magic.”
Malavika’s work is not merely technically perfect but
full of improvisation, and her musicians have to be in tune with her right through without missing a beat. Eye
contact, body language, audience reactions — everything has a role to play in the final analysis of a truly
great performance. “People must come to see the dance not the dancer. I want my audience to feel that they
have just bathed in the Ganga and have used Pan-Indian music to showcase the diversity of the pilgrims at
Varanasi, drawn and interpreted right from ancient 15th century texts, to present day contemporary sounds,” she explains.
The Ganga flows in Singapore
Recently Malavika Sarukkai presented ‘Ganga Nityavahini - The Eternal Ganga’, in Singapore
at The Esplanade under the aegis of SIFAS. Malavika is so taken up with the Ganga. To her, it is a state of mind
rather than a river; it’s the God of Kashi; she is moved by its moods
and mystique. Life around its banks is portrayed in her unique
The layman and the dance expert were transfixed, carried away by the
flow, as her story unfolded with each wave of movement. Malaviks’a blue
costume echoed the waters, her sinuous arms, the waves, and her nimble
feet, the turbulent river. Her sculptured poses challenged geometric precision.
The huge stage opened to a silky darkness -- Bowli marked a slow
daybreak, awakening the Ganga, as it were. A raga and talamalika depicted
Gangavataran, the river’s descent into Siva’s locks, and then on to Earth. The dance showed pilgrims at the holy spot, ablutions and
prayers absorbing them, and the viewers. Bowli and Saraswati ragas were used for the sedate Bhagirathi, while a
joyous Nalinakanti showed the rushing Alakananda. Bahudari worked for
the confluence at Devprayag. The tabla and mridangam added to the vibrancy of the scene.
The next item dealt with a prominent denizen of Kashi - the courtesan,
who is involved with the Ganga. Sarukkai depicted a courtesan’s day, starting with morning ablutions at the river, dressing up, worshipping
the lord of Kashi, beguiling the eager male customers, and finally being overpowered by godliness. Raga Kalyani was used beautifully to depict
worldly pleasures, and Yamuna Kalyani for profound experiences. Sarukkai was masterly in her languorous poses as the courtesan, in her graceful stretched movements.
‘Lament of the Ganga’ in Subhapantuvarali, highlighting the pollution of the river. The
tempo picked up for the finale, which was a specially choreographed Puriya Dhanasri piece associated with Tansen — dhrupad, tarana and
thillana merged here. About this composition, she said, “I wanted the river’s flow, and Prof. C.V. Chandrasekar captured it so well. He understood what I wanted, for
he lived in Benares for a while.”
Ganga Nitya Vaahini. Malavika ballet in Bangalore
In 1910, Malavika Sarrukai performances in Bangalore delight the audiences with her latest ballet Ganga Nitya
Vaahini. Malavika has created a 90-minute dance-drama inspired largely by her love of the
Ganga (गगां), which promises to be a visual and sensory treat.
Malavika has created a 90-minute dance-drama inspired largely by her love of the Ganga, which promises to be a
visual and sensory treat. Starting with the Sangam or confluence of the two rivers, the solo performance moves
into a piece of dance poetry written by her sister Priya Sarrukkai Chabria, called The lament of the Ganga. Adding to the contemporary feel is another piece of
choreography which Malavika developed around the theme ’The sun has set’.
One dip in the Ganges and all your sins are washed away. The sanctity of Ganga has remained unchanged for ages,
attracting pilgrims from far and wide to relieve them of their past.
Perhaps that's why the pure echo of the river flowing
gets entrenched eternally, for anyone who has experienced being at the sacred riverside, and that is
exactly how the whole theme was conceptualised by Malavika Sarukkai, in her production, Ganga Nitya Vaahini - The Eternal River.
Says Malavika, “The entire creative venture came about as I sat by the banks of the river in Varanasi watching the flow of
Ganga. Its meditative flow, then its rush into the place where it meets other rivers (Dev
Prayag) and finally merges into the ocean to show the physical as well as the spiritual merging with the source or the larger energy.
The entire production bears an all India feel with a touch of Kathak, Odissi and the music is inspired by Tansen and other saints of this country.”
The production depicts the different aspects of the river, from the “very physical sangam in Dev
Prayag” to Varanasi, which she considers more “a state of mind” than a place.
Varanasi is my favourite city
‘’I was sitting on the banks of the Ganga in my favourite city, Varanasi,’’ Malavika
says. “Travelling down the Ganga to me is like watching the tapestry of life reveal itself in all its variety and colour.
Children splashing in gay abandon, priests performing their rituals, people burying their dead, fisherman singing their songs — to me
this is the epitome of life in all its moods and moments. Varanasi is not a place to me, but a state of mind; the Ganga is not just a
river but a woman. She is a blend of Alkananda — seductive, sensuous and awash with the cool green of the glaciers; and
Bhagirathi, mature, warm and nurturing. They join in an amalgam of oneness and fulfilment at Devprayag, before surrendering to the
ocean in accordance with Advaith philosophy,” she says.