“The Unseen Sequence”, a film by Sumantra Ghosal is not exactly about the celebrated Bharata Natyam danseuse Malavika Sarukkai or her mastery over the art. It is about her journey of forty years, her evolvement as a dancer who can now transcend the barriers, to be in a state when nothing matters, neither beauty, nor youth , nor all that baggage that comes with being a celebrity or a renowned dancer. It is about how she had mastered “to let go” of everything, barring dance and dance alone. This, one could see in the opening sequence of the brilliant film, where she dances in the Chidambaram temple, holding a dialogue with the God of Dance himself, Nataraja. The poignant scene captures the essence of the film and the passion behind not just Malavika’s dance, but that of the filmmaker as well. He calls his muse, “a one stop shop”. A self declared lay man, Bharata Natyam never meant anything to him until Malavika happened. A terrific journey started and the process ( two years), of understanding as to how an artist evolves, culminated in a brilliant film. The challenge was more conceptual than economic - internalizing one form of art to put it through another form of art.
Lakshmi Vishwanadhan’s sparkling analysis at every stage, has given a deep insight into the subtle nuances of the dance form. Watching Malavika perform a Jawali, “ nee maata lemaayenu raa ?” was a treat to the eyes and senses. Her “ astham gatho ravi hi ” where an old woman grieves her son’s death was the most moving. A rare interview with Kalanidhi Narayanan, the queen of Abhinaya will be treasured by everyone.
Clever and aesthetic use of murals has certainly enhanced the narrative. Varanasi has further added to the mystique. Striking a gong in a cloister in Switzerland and the resonance thereafter was an outstanding cinematic metaphor the filmmaker used, that aptly reflects the dancer’s viewpoint, “While dancing I don’t think too much about the audience. I think of dance. Audience is not paramount…if the dance is powerful, the audience will go back with different impressions. ….that resonance is important”.
That resonance was exactly what the audience experienced when the film ended.
The film was screened in Prasad’s Preview Theatre on Friday, 7th March. It was a well appreciated effort by Smt. Anuradha Reddy, who, through her Saptaparni, always strives to promote arts, bringing artists and rasikas closer, for a better and deeper understanding and appreciation of art.