I am always intrigued by Padams and Javalis in the Bharatanatyam repertoire. I couldn't possibly complete a recital without either one of them , as is the case with most other performing artistes (except of course in temples, where we would prefer sticking to Bhakti as the main Rasa, and for good reason).
To my knowledge, and in my words, Padams are Abhinaya pieces where the dignified heroine is in a rather heavy mood due to reasons ranging over a wide spectrum - intense pangs of separation from her beloved to infidelity of her spouse/lover. Myriad emotions of pain, distress, sweet sorrow, and deceit all come alive in these slow paced numbers composed in weighted Ragas. Javalis on the other hand can be defined as an antonym to the Padam - a young, playful heroine forms the protagonist, usually in a light mood with a sense of humor, displaying forthright emotions of joy, love and sometimes lust all coming together in a fast paced, foot tapping number.
The portrayal of these pieces is quite an interesting moot point. While some portray the content as is, without any aberration (which would sometimes be termed as a bold, ostentatious attempts) , many choose to take a neutral stand and subtly bring out the expressions while not taking away the essence of the lyrics.
A while ago, I heard someone say - what is the relevance of these Padams and Javalis today anyway ? After all, today where does one find a pining woman asking her friend to bring her beloved back to her (one who left her months ago for some not-so-convincing reason), or how does a woman so easily forgive her husband for cheating on her and even worse, how does a woman with ailing in-laws and who's husband is away on tour have the courage to invite another man home ?
That got me deeply thinking because I couldn't ever imagine a performance without performing an Abhinaya piece, and here a fundamental lesson in Bharatanatyam was being questioned. Was everything I learnt and worked upon all these years suddenly an irrelevant piece of entertainment? After much contemplation and keen observation, I think I found my answer, not because I wanted to refute another's viewpoint, but because I wanted deeper meaning to a conviction that I've believed in since forever.
Yes, the content of these Abhinaya pieces may / may not be relevant. The situation of the protagonist is probably not relevant at all. But isn't the context something we can all relate to ? There are women suffering pangs of separation, whose husband's have gone away on long tours and haven't returned for months. And there are happy love stories. And then there is infidelity all around.
Despite the content being so-called-outdated, the context and the emotions are absolutely relevant and ubiquitous. Emotions that are oft felt by most but seldom expressed.
A believer in tough love and true love myself, I would love to hear about the obsolete nature of these multi-shade, multi-purpose and multi-partner love stories, but sadly the world is far from ideal. And till we do move to a planet called Idealistica, Padams and Javalis and Ashtapadis and every other Abhinaya piece exploring emotions is bound to be pertinent.
And so I did the happy dance ... my love affair with Abhinaya pieces will continue forever !!!
Here's a Padam which I have been intoxicated by for a long time now. I'm not sure if its the Raga Huseni or the vocalist's rendition, or just the Abhinaya itself. But this one will be one of my top favourites for a long time to come.