Natalie Savelyeva

Performance of Kalanidhi Mami in 2009

I must confess, I'm a fan of Smt. Kalanidhi Narayan. I have seen all DVD available about her abhinaya. Thus, seeing her in a life concert was the greatest pleasure for me. Like the Sun, she put into shade all other katcheri.

Smt. Kalanidhi Mami showed us a real miracle of human feelings. Her third padam was about a husband returning home after a long absence. The heroine opens the door and suddenly sees him - at this moment the eyes of Smt. Kalanidhi Mami were like two projectors - so much light streamed out of them! She lighted the hall with them! The sudden burst of joy, making the heart stop and all limbs get paralyzed. Then she showed overwhelming excitement, her eyes were shining, her gestures were sudden, indistinct as if she could not speak a word, as if she wanted to say everything at once, but cannot conclude even simple phrase of welcome.

It took a minute, but I can write three-four pages more, so concentrated and impressive was her abhinaya. Her art is the quintessence of communication between human beings, from soul to soul, without uttering a word.

Visit to Kalanidhi Mami in 2010

What can I say about my life? Those were the worst days, those were the best days.

Today I watched Kalanidhi Mami's class. She taught my friend Jagato Dharana. She lives in casual well-off apartment in Shastri Nagar, very neat and even with elevator. She is very old now, 82 y.o. She's in traditional cotton sari, red with green border. She is skinny. She's sitting on comfortable chair, very quiet, without unnecessary words.

When she starts showing abhinaya her face as if opens, like a flower. Her eyes start seeing things created by her imagination, as if the world round is suddenly filled with new life, new inhabitants, things and sounds. She looks on her Krishna and feeling of his presence is unmistakably real.

Her gestures are as minimal as her explanations. Even choreography of Jagato Dharana is extremely simple, near illustrative. But! While sitting there, near by my friend Manjula, Mami's student, I got several drastically important ideas which I would like to share.

Fist of all, Krishna is not just a God or Lord, whatever. There is certain world-view which creates Krishna as embodiment of main its ideas.

In Jagato Dharana Yashoda addresses kid-Krishna as the Lord of the Universe, but at the same time teases him by offering piece of butter and drawing it back, in tree steps, so Krishna cannot catch it.

He is great creator, sleeping in yoga-nidra, and she caresses him and puts on tiny cloths and plays hide-and-seek with him.

He all-pervading, but she locks him in, he bangs the door but cannot open it and starts crying.

He is all-mighty, but she screens him from Gopi-s who come to complain about his pranks and protects him by consoling their indignant protests.

Only mother is able to understand how such incompatible features can meet in her only child. Only mother can believe that it is possible for her son to be as he is, the Lord and baby at the same time. He is incomparable. He symbolizes infinity of the Universe, where opposites meet and exist in eternal struggle and balance. He is beyond cause and effect.

He is like wing beat of a butterfly changing the whole history of the Universe.

Only mother is able to feel how tiny embryo growths inside the womb, comes into being as a baby and becomes a man, then powerful king and even the Lord (as in case of Krishna).

Thus, Krishna, so dear to each and every Indian heart, is not only embodiment of hope or parental instincts or heritage of cowherd cult of child-god. He is certain world-view, reflecting eternity and connectivity of this Universe on each and every level.