The SNA fest: showcasing experts
The Festival of Performing Arts featuring recipients of the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowships and awards was held from 12 to 18 April at the Meghdoot Theatre Complex in Delhi. It had as much variety as the awardees who hailed from the length and breadth of India. It showcased folk and classical music and dance, plays, puppet shows, lecture demonstrations and interactive sessions with instrument makers.
Some of the plays presented during the festival were Dara in Urdu featuring Kusum Haidar, Charpai in Hindi written by Rameshwar Prem, Saari Raat featuring Vasant Josalkar, Valarkalai a multilingual (Tamil, English and Hindi) play written and directed by Prasanna Ramaswamy, Suring in Konkani written by Pundalik N. Naik, and Gaddi Charan di Kaahal Bari si in Punjabi directed by Kewal Dhaliwal.
Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2013
One of the important activities of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi is to honour outstanding performing artists, as well as teachers and scholars for their contribution to the performing arts, by conferring on them its fellowships and awards.
The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, presented the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships and Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards for 2013 to musicians, dancers, and theatre artists at a ceremony held on 11 April 2014 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi. This year, three eminent artists and scholars were conferred Fellowships and 38 artists received the Akademi’s Awards (this includes two joint awards).
The awardees are selected by the Akademi’s General Council, comprising musicians, dancers, theatre artists and scholars in these disciplines, and nominees of the Government of India and of the States and Union Territories of the Indian Union. The recipients of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award or Puraskar receive a purse of one lakh rupees, an angavastram, and a tamrapatra. The SNA Fellowships are restricted to 40 living recipients at any given time.
This year, the three Fellowships or Akademi Ratna were conferred on R. Sathyanarayana, Kanak Rele, and Mahesh Elkunchwar. They were presented a purse of three lakh rupees, an angavastram, and a tamrapatra.
Akademi Ratna (Fellowships)
Born on 9 May 1927 in Mysore, R. Sathyanarayana is one of the leading scholars in music and dance. He was a teacher of chemistry for many years (1949-84), who simultaneously pursued his research in the performing arts, and disseminated his knowledge through his writing and public interaction. He learnt music from his mother Varalakshmi, a disciple of Veena Sundarashastri of the Mysore durbar.
Through his study of ancient and medieval texts on music and dance, tested through practical application, Sathyanarayana has made wide-ranging contributions in these fields. His work has impacted education, psychology, philosophy, and cultural anthropology. He is the author of over 70 publications on dance and music including critical editions of Sanskrit treatises, original works on these subjects, and a number of translations and commentaries. Among his original works are Pundarikamala, Sooladis and Ugabhogas of Karnataka Music, The Mela Triad of Venkatamakhin, Bharatanatya: A Critical Study, and Sruti: The Scalic Foundation.
The treatises edited by him include the Abhinava Bharata Sarasangraha of Mummadi Chikkabhoopala, Sarangadeva’s Sangeeta Ratnakara, the Chaturdandi Prakasika of Venkatamakhin, the Ragalakshanam of Mudduvenkatamakhin, and Matanga’s Brihaddesi.
He has translated the Sangeeta Ratnakara, the Chaturdandi Prakasika, and many other works into Kannada. He is also a wellknown orator on music, dance, philosophy, yoga, tantra, the Upanishads and related subjects. He has led several delegations to international seminars and festivals. He is associated with several prestigious institutions, and is at present president of the Indian Music Congress.
He is the recipient of several honours and awards including the Karnataka State Rajyotsava Award, the Karnataka Sangeetha Nrutya Academy Award, and honorary D. Litt of the Indira Kala Sangit Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh, and Mysore University. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for scholarship in the performing arts in 2008, and was conferred the title of Rajya Sangit Vidwan by the Government of Karnataka in 2011.
Born on 11 June 1937 in Bombay, Kanak Rele is a well-known figure in the world of Indian dance. Both an artist and a dance educator, she has had the benefit of learning Kathakali from Karunakara Panikkar and Raghavan Nair, Bharatanatyam from Nana Kasar, and Mohini Attam from Chinnammu Amma.
She has distinguished herself as a performing artist in festivals of dance over the past 50 years. She is regarded as a leader in the field of dance education, having established and run the Nalanda Dance Research Centre founded in 1966, and the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya founded in 1973. Earlier, as Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Bombay, she played a key role in introducing courses in dance and other arts in that university. She was awarded a Ph.D by Bombay University for her research on Mohini Attam, which is among the early academic explorations of this traditional dance form.
Kanak Rele’s stage productions, besides solo recitals, include a number of dance-dramas. These are enriched by elements drawn from various art forms of Kerala. She has presented lecture demonstrations under the auspices of institutions within the country and abroad. She has authored two books on dance – Mohini Attam: the Lyrical Dance (1992), and Bhaava Niroopana (1996) – and has edited a Handbook of Indian Dance Terminology (1992). She has besides published a number of articles and papers in periodicals connected with dance.
Kanak Rele has received many prestigious honours which include the Gaurav Puraskar (1989) of the Government of Gujarat, Padma Shri (1990), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1994), Kalidas Samman (2006), and Padma Bhushan (2012).
Born on 9 October 1939 in Maharashtra, Mahesh Elkunchwar is an eminent figure in modern Indian drama. He is based in Nagpur, where he took his Master’s degree in English (1963), and where he has taught for almost 40 years (1963-2000). He was guest faculty at the National School of Drama, New Delhi, intermittently over these years, and later taught screenplay-writing at FTII in Pune (2000-01).
Elkunchwar is the author of about 20 plays in Marathi that have contributed to an upsurge in Marathi theatre since the late 1960s, attracting some of its most talented directors and actors. His one-act plays Sultan and Holi, published in the reputed journal Satyakatha (1967 and 1969), were produced by Vijaya Mehta for Rangayan in Bombay (1970).
In the eight plays that followed over the next five years, Elkunchwar delved into themes such as death, loneliness, and the purposelessness of life. After the production of Party (1976), a discussion play, he took time off to write its screenplay and that of Holi for films by Govind Nihalani and Ketan Mehta, and to act in the former’s film Akrosh (1980). In the classic Wada Chirebandi (1985), he turned his attention upon a social theme, examining the encroachment of urban values on the life of a feudal household.
His plays after a long hiatus, Magna Talyakathi and Yuganta (1994), explore this theme further, and together constitute the Wada trilogy. His subsequent plays such as Atmakatha (1988), Vasansi Jirnani (1996), Dharmaputra (1997), and Sonata (2001) are concerned with the nature of art and reality, death, and interpersonal relationships. This varied output of subtly crafted plays undoubtedly marks out Mahesh Elkunchwar as an outstanding dramatist of our times. His plays have been translated into several Indian and European languages, and are regarded as part of India’s postcolonial theatrical canon.
He is a recipient of the Homi Bhabha Fellowship (1976-78), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for playwriting (1989), the Sahitya Akademi Award (2002), the Saraswati Samman (2003), the Brittingham Fellowship of the University of Wisconsin, U.S.A. (2005), and the Janasthan Puraskar (2011).
The following is a list of SNA awardees in the fields of music, dance, theatre and allied arts.
Aruna Sairam (C-vocal)
D. Seshachari and D. Raghavachari –
the Hyderabad Brothers (C-vocal)
Thiruvizha Jayashankar (C-nagaswaram)
Trichy Sankaran (C-mridangam)
Ritwik Sanyal (H-vocal)
Veena Sahasrabuddhe (H-vocal)
Dhruba Ghosh (H-sarangi)
Hashmat Ali Khan (H-tabla)
Bankim Sethi (Odissi music – other major traditions of music)
Jamuna Krishnan (Bharatanatyam)
B. Herambhanathan (Bharatanatyam)
Rajashree Shirke (Kathak)
Kalamandalam M.P.S. Namboodiri (Kathakali)
Chinta Seetha Ramanjaneyulu (Kuchipudi)
Sangeeta Dash (Odissi)
Jogen Dutta Bayan (Sattriya)
Srinivasa Rangachariar (Arayar Sevai – major
traditions of dance and dance theatre)
Dhaneswar Swain (music for dance)
Overall contribution/ Scholarship in performing arts
Mysore V. Subramanya
Rameshwar Prem (Playwriting)
Pundalik Narayan Naik (Playwriting)
Kamalakar Muralidhar Sontakke (Direction)
Kewal Dhaliwal (Direction)
Prasanna Ramaswamy (Direction)
Vasant Josalkar (Acting)
Kusum Haidar (Acting)
Krishna Borkar (Make-up – allied theatre arts)
Traditional/Folk/ Tribal Music/ Dance/ Theatre and Puppetry
Raj Begum (folk music/dance and theatre – Jammu & Kashmir)
T.A.R. Nadi Rao and N. Jeeva Rao (folk music – Tamil Nadu)
Gurdial Singh (instrument making – Punjab)
Mohan Singh Khangura (Rabindra sangeet – West Bengal)
Umakanta Gogoi (Bairagi), (Tokari geet and Dehbichar geet – Assam)
Lilavati M. Kavi (Bajaj), (puppetry)
Meenakshi (instrument making : Ghatam – Tamil Nadu)
Sheikh Riyajuddin aka Rajubaba (folk theatre – Maharashtra)
(Source: Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi)
Samsmaranam, a three-day festival of Odissi dance, organised by Srjan and Art Vision, was held at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar from 7-9 April. Several disciples paid tributes to Guru Kelucharan Mohaptra on his 10th death anniversary. Says Guruji’s son Ratikant says: “Guruji has left an indelible imprint on our lives – as Odissi dancers and human beings. Each of us has partaken of his affection, and his love for the art, artists, for people and ideas. It is this quality of giving and nurturing that we wish to celebrate on his tenth anniversary. In many ways Guruji continues to live with us and amongst us.’
The three-day presentations showcased a crosssection of Kelubabu’s choreographic creations set to music by Bhubaneswar Mishra. Theirs was an amazing dancer-musician combination which has created a rich treasure trove of compositions for Odissi. These are being learnt and performed by two generations of dancers. The evening was a trip down memory lane for me as I had grown up savouring the compositions for the past 50 years.
On the opening night, Kelubabu’s prime disciple Kumkum Mohanty enacted Brajku chor asichi depicting vatsalya bhava which Guruji had composed for her in 1981. Aloka Kanungo performed Khelalola khanj nakhi, ‘Kha’ champu from a dancedrama Guruji had choreographed in 1983, staged at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai. The traditional music was rearranged by Ramahari Das. Panchanan Bhuyan, a young male dancer performed the Keervani pallavi, composed by Guruji for Kumkum Mohanty in 1986. The music for the pallavi by Bhubaneswar Mishra kept us in thrall.
Sikata Das, a disciple of Kelubabu for 45 years could not come but sent a moving message. As Rina Jana performed the Behag pallavi (choreographed in 1988), she reminded us in her movements and appearance of Sanjukta Panigrahi. Sharon Lowen, the American dancer settled in Delhi, performed abhinaya for the ashtapadi Sakhi hey choreographed by Guruji in 1967 for Kumkum Mohanty. Madhavi Mudgal presented poet BanamaIi’s Pranasangini re, an exquisite piece of choreography by Kelubabu in 1976, and recorded in 1979, in which Guruji played the mardala-pakhawaj.
The selection of items was so meticulous that no composition was repeated. It revealed the range of creativity of Guruji and Bhubaneswar Mishra and the dedication with which the dancers adhered to the spirit of the choreography. The guru bhakti of the disciples was overwhelming.
The next day, Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena performed Manikya veena composed in 1965 for Sonal Mansingh, and Rajashri Praharaj (a disciple of Ratikant Mohapatra) danced the Hamsadhwani pallavi composed in 1979 for Kumkum Mohanty. Bangalore-based Sharmila Mukherjee presented the Mohana pallavi composed in 1965 for Sanjukta Panigrahi, unfolding Guruji’s use of movements drawn from the famous Ratha Yatra. Pranati Mohanty performed a traditional Gotipua number which Kelubabu had demonstrated at the Kal ke Kalakar festival in the 1970s and won over the Mumbaikars with his inimitable abhinaya. Itishree Dwivedi’s depiction of the ashtapadi Dheera sameerey brought back memories of Guruji’s picturesque choreography. Students of Ileana Citaristi’s academy Art Vision, presented a Bilahari pallavi. She also presented Mahanadi – a dance-drama about the river which is part of Odisha. Ileana who came from Italy and made Bhubaneswar her home, deserves all praise for merging with the Odiya society and following her Guruji’s path.
During the festival, we got an opportunity to watch Kelubabu’s third generation dance – Preetisha is the daughter of Sujata and Ratikant Mohapatra, and the granddaughter of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She has dance in her blood and shows promise of blossoming into a gifted exponent. The Legend Speaks, a film on Guruji, produced by Srjan was screened.
On the final evening, veteran and seniormost dancer Minati Mishra presented the Jagannatha ashtakam composed by Kelubabu for the international Yoga conference held in Switzerland in 1979 (music by Balakrishna Das). Debi Basu’s abhinaya for Patha chhadi de, composed for Sonal Mansingh in 1966, brought back memories of Guruji’s abhinaya. Rajib Bhatatcharya, performed the vintage Kalyan pallavi composed in 1959, while Daksha Mashruwala from Mumbai performed Ahe nila saila, a song by Muslim poet Salabeg, for which Guruji composed the dance for Kumkum in 1977.
Sujata Mohapatra presented Ardhanareeswara composed for Sanjukta Panigrahi in 1977 (music by Raghunath Panigrahi), another choreographic gem by Guruji. Kumkum Lal performed a rare abhinaya piece which Guruji had composed for his wife Lakshmipriya in 1946, originally choreographed by Krushnachandra Mahapatra, based on traditional music. It had an old world charm.
The finals consisted of two group performances Samakala and Bhaja Govindam choreographed by Ratikant. He has done his father proud and extended the boundaries of Odissi, while retaining its essential spirit. Lighting by Deviprasad aka Tikky was excellent.
A morning session was devoted to musicians who were close associates of Kelubabu in his long career. Mardala player Sachidananda Das, violinist Ramesh Chandra Das and vocalist Bijay Kumar Jena provided valuable insights.
Ileana Citaristi invited some of us to share memories of our association with Guruji. The highlight of the session was Kumkum Mohanty’s demonstration of how Kelubabu would mimick others specially his wife Lakshmipriya. Daksha Mashruwala, Debi Basu, Pranati Mohanty, and Kumkum Lal, spoke with great feeling. I tried to recollect my association with Guruji since the 1960s and broke down as I was overcome with emotions, as many others. Leela Venkataraman, summed up Guruji’s art and contribution with finesse.
It was an excellent effort by Ratikant Mohapatra and Ileana Citaristi to pay tribute to the memory of Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra in a meaningful manner. The festival mapped the creative journey of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra over the years as he composed special items for his disciples. It served to highlight his tremendous contribution to the Odissi repertoire. The exhibition of photographs was a rare record of Odissi as it developed under Guruji’s guidance. It needs to be archived with more details.
Dessert in the desert
Udaipur, the city of lakes and palaces, was ruled by the royal dynasty of Mewar and is well known for its valiant warrior Rajput race. Very few may be aware of its glorious melodic history and the fact that this famous tourist town in Rajasthan is also known as the seat of classical music. Maharana Kumbhakarna (1433-1468), better known as a warrior and administrator, whose reign was considered as the golden era in the history of Mewar, had deep insight into the arts as well. He wrote outstanding treatises on music, his Sangeet-Raj has 16,000 slokas.
“It was Sangeet Martand Pandit Omkarnath Thakur who, during a research project, chanced upon Maharana Kumbha’s works related to music. He visited the City Palace, Udaipur in search of his works. That was the beginning of another glorious chapter. Omkarnath Thakur established the Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Parishad, Udaipur in 1962. Its aim is to pay homage to this immortal son of the soil by remaining dedicated to promote Indian classical music and dance in this part of the country,’ said S.S. Ranawat, a direct descendent of the royal family of Mewar, a retired IAS and now President, Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Parishad.
With its own office, a music library and a training academy, the Parishad has continued to preserve and propagate classical arts since its inception. It organises monthly concerts regularly to promote young, up-and-coming artists. Its annual music festival is the oldest and the most prestigious festival of Rajasthan and is open to all music lovers. In these soirees it has presented almost 800 eminent musicians from all over India. The Parishad continues to nurture the seeds of classical arts even now and their Sangeet Samaroh completed its golden jubilee in 2012 with a grand five-day music festival. The ‘Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Puraskar’, an award instituted by the organisation is given to an eminent musician every year by the Parishad.
Dr. P.P. Chattaraj, an engineer by profession with music as his passion, plays an important role as the organiser of this grand annual event. He said, “The present venue is in a shambles. To accommodate the growing number of listeners and also to maintain the grandeur of its annual festival with good acoustics, the Parishad needs a new, well equipped auditorium in Udaipur. Though we are grateful for the government support in our endeavours, it is not enough. We need patrons from the corporate sector as well to propagate classical music in this region which was once the seat of arts. We are striving to bring back its lost glory.”
That, they are earnestly trying to do so was more than apparent during the 52nd Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Samaroh (February 7-9, 2014). Organised in style at the Sukhadia Rangmanch of Udaipur’s Town Hall, the star-studded three-day soiree caught the attention of fans from not only Udaipur and adjacent areas but also from cities like Delhi, Indore and Ahmedabad. It was wonderful to see a full house even after 10 pm where commuting is not so easy and nights are rather cold.
The Samaroh featured Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, who was the only vocalist featured in the festival. She opened her recital with raga Khem Kalyan. An elaborate introductory passage etched the raga before she sang the slow composition twice to reveal the features of the raga more noticeably and to show its rhythm encrusted curious melodic gait, set to Addha-teental. The antara of the fast Teental composition was laced with short, crisp aakar taans and displayed some stunning descending patterns. Her next choice was raga Basant – replete with beautiful aochar, medium Ektal (Mori aayi ritu Basant) and fast Teental (Banban phoolat rahi kaliyan). The mood led to a Hori the lyrics of which were explained by her in a fashion that aroused suspense. This was magic! As a result encores poured in for her to sing a Meera bhajan, steeped in devotion.
Santoor maestro Shivkumar Sharma portrayed raga Jhinjhoti with all its melodic charm on the opening day’s final session. Brilliantly aided by Ramkumar Mishra’s tabla, by his inimitable flights of imagination and technical virtuosity he took the Roopak gatkari to a different plane. The fast Teental, as usual, offered varieties of aural effects produced by the strikers and the fingers.
The second day’s second half was slated for Ashish Khan’s sarod recital. He was supported by his young nephew-disciple Shiraj Khan on the sarod and played alap-jodjhala in raga Darbari Kanada. For gatkari he chose Bagesree Kanada. Swapan Chaudhuri’s masterly tabla accompaniment made this segment really enjoyable with a variety of bols and rhythmic designs. The first half of the third evening also had the same kind of thrill in store with sitar virtuoso Nishat Khan and tabla maestro Sabir Khan on stage. After an elaborate alap in raga Marwa, both settled down to display their prowess.
The festival began and ended with dance recitals. The opening day commenced with a Kuchipudi recital by the duo Raja-Radha Reddy supported by their equally renowned entourage. Kathak exponent Shovana Narayan, the final artiste of the soiree, presented a group of her young, well groomed disciples. She was at her best in Hari-Hara paran. Earlier in the evening Sabir Khan was felicitated with the M.N. Mathur Award (accompanist) of the year.
In December, the city offered dhrupad-based melodic tributes to the Dagars – illustrious sons of the soil under the aegis of Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Parishad. The ustads Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Zia Fariduddin Dagar were born and brought up in Udaipur and learnt music under royal patronage. The event, spread over four evenings, essentially focused on the products of Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal, who are the disciples and grand-disciples of the late ustads. This was covered by Doordarshan.
In step with the times
29 April 2014. It was a riot of colours as young girls in pavadais, teenagers in half-saris or salwarkameez, and women draped in saris stepped into the atrium of the Citi Centre mall on Radhakrishnan Road in Mylapore, Chennai. They mingled with the shoppers and hung around the kiosks enjoying their ice-cream, or snacks and hot drinks, or simply window shopping.
At 5.30 pm the music flowed in from the audio system placed strategically near a kiosk, Taking the cue, a few senior dancers casually walked to the centre and broke into adavu movements. As the music played on, more and more dancers joined in groups of five or six.
In a trice, there were as many as 75 classical dancers on the floor. And what did these Bharatanatyam dancers perform but the centuries old Ganesa kavuthvam. Shoppers crowded in, and spectators watched from every floor as they clicked on their cellphones, television cameras rolled and the event was even telecast live on NDTV.
The flash mob was orgainsed by the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India (ABHAI) to mark World Dance Day. It was a delight to watch young students dance alongside senior artistes. At the end of the kavuthvam, the audience was asked to join the dance to instrumental music and many did so with enthusiasm. The artists joined hands with the audience and danced in circles, even as some of them performed solos in perfect harmony with the rest. Holding a banner proclaiming ‘Viswa Natya Dinam’ two ABHAI members danced their way through the crowd. And as the music faded away, the dancers struck poses and the crowd cheered. It was a joyous celebration. “We want classical dance to reach more people. We want to de-mystify it and share its celebration,” said Chitra Visweswaran, president of ABHAI, minutes before she was swept into the swirl of colour and movement.
The objective of World Dance Day as declared by the International Dance Council in 1982 is to reach out through dance to places where it is not usually performed. At the end of the presentation at Citi Centre, the message had been successfully and artistically communicated.
“It is the first time I am seeing a flash mob by so many classical dancers. It is beautiful to watch them,” said an onlooker. “It is such a delight to watch so many of them in traditional attire in a swank mall, performing classical dance,” said another. “It was amazing to dance in a mall to a mixed audience. I am happy to be a part of it,” said a young dance student. “We demonstrated that classical disciplined dancing can also give so much joy,” said a senior dancer-teacher.
How did it all happen? It was an instance of putting social media and technology to good use. The idea of a flash mob mooted in a casual group conversation among dance lovers on Facebook was formally placed before the President of ABHAI by a board member of AAT. Enthused by the idea, the committee swung into action and initially thought of the Kapali temple in Mylapore as the venue, but younger members came up with the idea of performing in a mall. With barely a few days to go, arrangements were stepped up. Emails were sent out, and the youtube link of the Ganesa kavuthvam was sent to the dancers who had registered so that they could learn the item. The entire group met just a couple of hours before the event, when the ABHAI committee members tweaked the action into place. The dancers then proceeded in small groups to the Chennai Citi Centre, and what followed made everyone sit up and take note. The AAT crew led by its CEO Rathish Babu and film director and producer Sharada Ramanathan played a major role in facilitating the action. The flash mob was filmed, edited and posted on Youtube by a team of AAT students.
In the midst of election fever, classical dance caught the attention of the media which generally shies away from coverage of things classical! The flash mob made a splash.
The ARTery, a Chennai-based arts portal & culture magazine is hosting a four-day national festival of performing arts. Titled SVATANTRA as it falls during the week of Independence Day, the festival is billed as a celebration of creative freedom! The festival will be held at Kumararaja Muthiah Hall, Chettinad Vidyashram (RA Puram) between August 13th and 16th. "The uniqueness of this event is that it aims to bring together diverse Indian performing art forms such as classical music, jugalbandi, dance, vernacular theatre and contemporary music", says Ramanathan Iyer, promoter of The ARTery. The lineup features several celebrated names such as danseuse Shobana, Carnatic vocalist Dr. S. Sowmya, actor Suhasini Maniratnam, Hindustani singer Sanjeev Abhyankar and classical pianist Anil Srinivasan.
The festival opens on August 13th with a thematic presentation by Dr. S. Sowmya of the Ramanatakam, Arunachala Kavirayar's magnum opus on the Ramayana. The musical presentation led by Sowmya will also feature noted young vocalists Nisha Rajagopalan, K. Gayatri, Bharat Sundar and Sandeep Narayan. Adding an unusual visual perspective to the show will be a series of paintings by Keshav Venkatrghavan, better known as Cartoonist Keshav! The paintings capture the scenes described in the musical sequence.
Occupying pride of place on Independence Day evening is a special dance presentation by Shobana's ensemble which includes noted city-based instrumentalists Rajesh Vaidya, Ghatam Karthick and Palakkad Sreeram. Another notable performance will be a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Hindustani vocalist Sanjeev Abhyankar and city-based classical pianist Anil Srinivasan.
Suhasini Maniratnam rounds off the festival with a grand finale on August 16th in a show titled "Classically Kodambakkam" conceived by noted TV personality Subhasree Thanikachalam. This will be an audio-visual retrospective on classical music in Tamil films, with live performances by young playback singers. The festival fulfills its twin goals of celebrating freedom and youth power with a bunch of supplementary performances including a special pallavi concert by vocalist Ashwath Narayanan, a choir presentation by Sargam comprising children from thirteen Chennai schools and a show by The Hybrid Division, a band of students from PS Senior Secondary School, Mylapore.
Ellarum Paadalaam - Your chance for stardom!
The ARTery will setup a special booth set up at the festival where anyone, irrespective of age, gender, experience or musical genre can record a five-minute performance for free. Video clips from a selection of the best performances will be uploaded on the ARTery's YouTube channel and there will be special prizes for the top three. It's your chance to become an overnight singing sensation!
The festival is sponsored by L&T Financial Services, Appaswamy Real Estates and Arun Ice Cream. Please see attached schedule for more details.
The ARTery presents
Celebrating Creative Freedom
A National Festival of Performing Arts
Title Sponsor: L & T Finance Holdings
Co-sponsors: Appaswamy Real Estates, Arun Ice Cream
Hospitality Partner: The Residency Group of Hotels
Venue: Raja Muthiah Auditorium, Chettinad Vidyashram, Near Ayyappan Temple
R. A. Puram, Chennai - 28
Wednesday, August 13th 2014
6.00 pm - Inauguration. Guests of Honour: Shri. N. Sivaraman (Director, L&T Finance Holdings), Vidushi Dr. S. Sowmya, Shri. V. V. Sundaram
6.15 pm - Vidushi Dr. S. SOWMYA presents RAMANATAKAM - A musical and visual interpretation of Arunachala Kavirayar's magnum opus! Paintings by Shri. Keshav (Noted artist and Cartoonist at The Hindu); Vocalists: Smt. Nisha Rajagopalan, Smt. K. Gayatri, Shri. K. Bharat Sundar & Shri. Sandeep Narayan; Violin: Parur Shri. M. S. Ananthakrishnan; Mridangam: Poongulam Shri. S. Subramanian; Khanjira: Shri. K. V. Gopalakrishnan
Thursday, August 14th 2014
5.15 pm - Carnatic Vocal: A special thematic pallavi by Shri. Ashwath Narayanan with Shri. B. Ananthakrishnan (Violin) & Shri. N. C. Bharadwaj (Mridangam)
6.30 pm - Hindustani Vocal: Pt. SANJEEV ABHYANKAR with Shri. Vyasmurthi Katti (Harmonium) & Shri. Ravindra Yavagal (Tabla)
7.45 pm - Creative Confluence: A unique vocal-piano collaboration between Pt. SANJEEV ABHYANKAR & Shri. ANIL SRINIVASAN with Shri. Ravindra Yavagal (Tabla)
Friday, August 15th 2014
5.15 pm - SARGAM CHOIR: A presentation by Rhapsody featuring children from 13 Chennai schools!
6.45 pm - LOTUS FEET: A special Bharatanatyam presentation by Padmashri SHOBANA & ensemble. Live orchestra featuring Shri. Rajesh Vaidya (Veena), Shri. Palakkad Sreeram (Flute), Dr. S. Karthick (Ghatam), Smt. Revathy (Vocal / Nattuvangam), Shri. Guru Bharadwaj (Mridangam). Dancers: Srividya, Asha, Abitha, Aparajitha, Anusha.
Saturday, August 16th 2014
5.15 pm - Youth Power: An orchestral presentation by The Hybrid Division (School band from PS Senior Secondary School, Mylapore)
6.30 pm: Classically Kodambakkam! - SUHASINI MANIRATNAM presents a musical & audio-visual retrospective on classical music in Tamil films! Concept by Subhasree Thanikachalam; Vocals & Live Orchestra: Saindhavi Prakash, Sathyaprakash Pillai, Anand Aravindakshan, Ravishankar Iyer & Sinduri Vishal; Dance: Krithika Shurajit
ALL ARE WELCOME!
·Free seating, first-come-first-served. Premium reserved seating (first 8 rows only) may be availed with Donor Passes (Rs. 2500 / Rs. 1000). Proceeds go to charity.
·Shared transportation by mini-van / share-autos available at the end of each day's programme to Alwarpet, Mylapore, Mandaveli & Adyar
·Webcast at www.theartery.in for ARTery members and rasikas worldwide (except Chennai)
·Contact 94440 18270 / 94440 18274 / 86088 88092
100th "Kala Poshakam"
Report of 100th Month “Kala Poshakam”
The Mylapore Trio of Sri Sumukhi Rajasekharan Memorial Foundation celebrated the 100th “Kala Poshakam” programme recently. ‘Satya Kala Poshka Sundaram’ was a title conferred on the trio for their Multi-faceted cultural contributions by Bharatanjali Trust in 2005, on the occasion of Swami Satya Sai Baba’s birthday. In order to perpetuate the divine title, The Mylapore trio started monthly programmes in the name of Kala Poshakam in February 2006, which was inaugurated by late Smt. Leela Sekhar, (former Chairperson-IDA) and Smt. Anita Guha of Bharatanjali. Today “Kala Poshakam” is a free monthly platform for anybody and everybody in any art form.
On 29th June, the historic 100th month event was celebrated at Narada Gana Sabha with pomp and splendor. Smt. Anita Guha was the Chief Guest, who explained the jam-packed audience on how she was impressed by the Mylapore Trio’s Great Grand Golu and the divine intuition from Baba to confer the exclusive title on them. She appreciated the earnest efforts of the trio in upholding and perpetuating the spiritual, cultural and traditional values amongst the children through their innovative cultural events, workshops, camps and golu etc.
On this memorable occassion Smt. Saraswathi Chandrasekhar, was conferred the title “Isai Gnana Chudar” and presented with the Recognition Award for her commendable talents in Carnatic Music & Tamizh Isai. The award trophy had a spiritual touch of the trio as usual. It was a gold lacquered “Kumbha Deepam” – Kumbham signifying knowledge (gnanam) Deepajothi symbolising chudar.
Nearly 150 participants of “Balar Chithirai Kalai Vizha” competition also received their certificates, medals, prizes, talent and multi talent prizes from septugenarian and octogenarians maami who are all experts in the respective fields. There was a cultural programme by winners which included Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam, Naatupura Nadanam, Violin Isai, Mono acting, Oratory etc.
The stage décor of the Trio added glitter to the magnificent event.
Tarpan – an offering by Gandharva Mahavidyalaya
Gandharva Mahavidyalaya New Delhi presented Tarpan (an offering) – a festival of dance and music (23-30 March) – at Kamani to mark the 75th year celebrations of the institution. It was a runaway success. The institution established in 1939 by Vinaya Chandra Maudgalaya, is a historical landmark in the capital as it enabled the vertical and horizontal growth of Hindustani classical music. It is now run competently by Maudgalya’s son Madhup Mudgal who is the Principal. During the festival, a book which traces the history of the institution with rare photographs was released. A galaxy of musicians and dancers are featured in the volume designed by Vinay Jain.
Tarpan was conceived as three segments. The Gandharva Choir and group choreographies in Odissi by the students of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya were presented on the opening day. Some of the best young talent in classical dance was presented two on each day from 24th to 26th March. The last three days featured stalwarts of music, many of whom have been closely associated with the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya for many years.
An outstanding feature of Tarpan in terms of dance was the attempt of four senior dancers to mentor six young dancers who have learnt other classical dance forms. This crosspollination was successful in some cases. The senior mentor-young dancer combination was Geeta Chandran for Monisa Nayak (Kathak), Sharmila Biswas for Amrita Lahiri (Kuchipudi), Madhavi Mudgal for Vishal Krishna (Kathak) and Mythili Prakash (Bharatanatyam), Leela Samson for Arushi Mudgal (Odissi) and Sadanam Balakrishnan for Ragini Chandrasekhar (Bharatanatyam).
A disciple of maestro Rajendra Gangani of the Jaipur gharana, Monisa comfortably sailed through the ashtapadi Lalita lavanga lata in Vasanta raga. The Ashtamangala tala of 11 matras was executed with finesse. Under Geeta Chandran’s guidance she presented Tedhe roopa sundar, a composition of Maiya Ram in Sindhubhairavi with enchanting poses of Krishna. Her recitation of a jati was flawless, and as Samiullah melodiously rendered Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Yamunakalyani tillana, Monisa danced gracefully using the Kathak ‘ang’ to underline the common elements of tillana and tarana. This was a happy presentation.
Under the guidance of Madhavi Mudgal, Mythili Prakash rendered Subramania Bharati’s Siva Sakti, set to tune by Lalita Sivakumar. Her presentation of the pure dance number Pallavi in Nalinakanti raga (composed by Mythili’s brother Aditya Prakash) was interesting. The ukutas, mnemonic syllables, recited perfectly by Bombay Jayashri, brought out the essential nritta element, which was visually and aurally impressive. Mythili was in her element in the Kapi tillana composed by Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.
Odissi exponent Sharmila Biswas’s mentoring of Amrita Lahiri in Kuchipudi threw up a novel episode from an Odiya tale about Moorchhana, translated into Sanskrit. It was cast in the Kuchipudi mould and vachika was woven into it as Amrita narrated various episodes. The lilting Kuchipudi movements and their quicksilver quality were eye catching. Sudha Raghuraman’s ragamalika rendering went hand in hand with the dance. Amrita danced joyously, and Mosalikanti’s nattuvangam helped Amrita to project the typical Vempati bani in Kuchipudi.
Vishal Krishna from Varanasi, as was expected, kept the audience in thrall with his spirited dancing. Mentored by Madhavi Mudgal, he competently danced to a dhrupad composition delineating the dance of Krishna on the banks of the Jamuna river. But soon he reverted to his very own style and unleashed a number of nritta pieces highlighting the Benaras gharana, which he has inherited from his uncle Gopi Krishna and aunt Sitara Devi. His leaps, ekapada bhramaris, effortless leg splits, and the Mayur gat had fire and brought down the house. His dance on the rim of a brass plate could give any Kuchipudi dancer a run for her money. Here was a dancer brimming with confidence, determined to entertain the audience with a tradition he has gained from senior exponents of the Banaras gharana of Kathak.
Arushi Mudgal has everything going for her. Trained in music by father Madhup Mudgal, in Odissi by aunt Madhavi Mudgal, and mentored by Leela Samson for this festival, she had the audience watch her with bated breath. In Moorta/Amoorta she wove in Siva’s tandava, Krishna showing the Viswaroopa to mother Yasoda, enacted a dignified Lord Rama to chaupais from Ramacharitamanas, and with the Poornamidam verse from the Manduka Upanishad delineated abstraction – amoorta, in a seamless manner. Baudhnath’s mardala playing was excellent. Arushi did abhinaya to Baldev Rath’s ‘Kha’ champu with ease. The most challenging segment was the varnam dwelling on Andal’s desire to merge with Lord Krishna. In its Odissi interpretation, with sister Sawani Mudgal singing a classical Carnatic ragamalika, it evoked mixed feelings. There was a distinct Hindustani music flavour in Sawani’s rendering, which detracted from the rasika’s response to Carnatic ragas.
Bharatanatyam dancer Ragini Chandershekar’s Todayamangalam in ragamalika with Sudha Raghuraman’s vocal support was excellent. She also rendered Vidyapati’s song about Radha’s Kandarpa prati akshepa, with clarity. It was quite a challenge for her to render a padam from the Kathakali repertoire. Sandhya Raman’s imaginative costume was innovative, but Ragini’s dance using typical Kathakali movements for the Kalyansaugandhikam padam did not jell. Sadanam Balakrishnan’s mentoring seemed to be inadequate, taking into account the limited timeframe for working together, especially when Bharatanatyam and Kathakali are so different in kinetic movements and temperament. The chenda/maddala and mridangam too have a different tenor; and the samam and eduppu posed problems. Ragini’s ragamalika finale exploring nritta in Bharatanatyam was presented with competence.
Over the years, Gandharva Mahavidyalaya has presented landmark dance festivals like the Angahara Odissi Dance festival (1985), a thematic presentation on Amaru (1990), Marg featuring eminent exponents of major dance styles within a prescribed dance margam (2000), and Pradakshina honouring Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra on his 75th birthday. In keeping with its earlier attampts at exploring various aspects of dance, the Tarpan festival helped young dancers to understand the intricacies of other classical dance forms under the guidance of stalwarts in the field.
Palani DVD Release
The Palani Sri M Subramania Pillai Trust in collaboration with Swati Sanskriti released a DVD on the laya mastero Palani Subramania Pillai on 21st May, 2014 which was also the 52nd Guru Puja Anniversary of Palani.
R. Krishnaswamy, Secretary Narada Gana Sabha Trust released the DVD and R. T Chari, MD TAG Group of companies, received the first copy.
Utsav: a celebration of Indian arts in Washington
Indian classical music and dance have crossed international borders. Today you can enjoy performances of top Indian artists in any major capital or a metro of U.S.A., Europe, Russia, Japan, or Australia. However, when an institution of standing of eight decades like The Music Academy of Madras plans to organise a threeday festival selecting the brilliant dancers and musicians along with two sessions of morning panel discussions, to take stock of how Carnatic music and classical dance have become a part of mainstream performing arts, it indeed creates history. More so, when the venue is the prestigious Kennedy Centre in Washington.
In collaboration with arts aficionado Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu’s Sivam Inc. (a Washington based organisation), the Music Academy presented in September 2013, recitals of the artists of the calibre of Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi (violin duet), Ranjani and Gayatri (vocal), Aditi Mangaldas (Kathak), Surupa Sen and Bijoyini Satpathy of Nrityagram (Odissi), and Mythili Prakash (Bharatanatyam). The panel discussions were moderated by T.M. Krishna and Priyadarsini Govind.
The timing was perfect as only two years ago the Kennedy Centre had, in a month long ‘Maximum India’ festival, showcased mind-boggling performances and visual arts. It provided a befitting background for the Indian diaspora and Americans to look forward to savouring Indian arts. Gone are the days when Indian arts were termed ‘ethnic’. Alastair Macaulay, the chief dance critic of The New York Times writes informed and critical reviews extolling Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak on par with Western classical ballet. Thus, the media also has played an important role in creating interest in classical Indian arts, which augurs well for artists.
Bharatanatyam exponent Hema Rajagopalan, based in Chicago, observed during a panel discussion on dance: “Classical Indian dance and music have come a long way during the past 40 years. The second generation of America born Indians has shown great pride in the strides made by the classical arts. To be a part of the Music Academy initiative in the U.S.A., reiterates the faith in our cultural heritage.” A galaxy of international experts on music spoke of the phenomenon of growth and interest in Carnatic music.
Though it seemed a lot was packed in the three-day festival, the response from the discerning audience was overwhelming. An awareness about classical music was palpable in the air. The performances were of a very high standard. Often I felt I was in Chennai during the ‘season’ relishing the music. And those from Washington and other cities, who make it a point to visit Chennai during the ’season’ shared the feeling with performing artists.
The classical music recitals were scheduled at 2 pm, and the dance recitals at 7 pm. On the opening night, Aditi Mangaldas in her solo titled Immersed, displayed her virtuosity and imaginative rendering, selecting choice songs, extolling Krishna’s presence everywhere. Using intra-forms of Kathak like toda, tukda, parans, weaving them imaginatively, circling the stage in breathless chakkars, Aditi transcended the technique, and with the tintinnabulation of just one anklebell, she seemed ‘immersed’ in the Lord. The musicians and light designer gave her excellent support.
Surupa Sen and Bijoyini Satpathy have been performing regularly in the U.S.A. and have a following. They have expanded their Odissi vocabulary incorporating physical traditions like yoga, Kalaripayattu, fitness exercises as well as chari and karana movements of the Natya Sastra they have studied from Padma Subrahmanyam. The resultant kinetic language of Odissi is rivetting. Beginning with the Annamacharya kriti Mukunda Madhava till their signature duet Vibhakta, based on Adi Sankaracharya’s Ardhanareeswara stotra, they engaged the audience in their seamless presentation. Lighting by Lynne Fernandez and musical support were of customary finesse.
On the final day, Mythili Prakash, who has become a role model for the young generation of dancers in America, proved that she was ready to take on the mantle from her seniors. Her own choreography of Surya, Devi, replete with imaginative iconic images, highlighting the architectonic form of Bharatanatyam and its geometry, was like visual poetry. But when she performed to Pandit Ravi Shankar’s melodious Tarana, and the unconventional benediction of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music and Mohammad Iqbal’s lyrics, sung in a mesmerizing manner by Mahesh Swamy, she receiving a standing ovation. The exalted celebration of the supreme consciousness found a felicitous expression in her choreography. The support from musicians including her brother vocalist Aditya Prakash was exemplary.
The festival was attended and supported by leading dignitaries such as India’s Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao, CEO of Pepsi Cola Indira Nooyi, industrialist Ajay Rayan, and Nina Davuluri, Miss America. The Music Academy’s initiative to bring some of the star artists to such a prestigious venue is most welcome.
Dance fest showcases forms less known in Mumbai
Nalanda Dance Research Centre presented the four-day Nalanda Nrityotsava at Kalangan, Ravindra Natya Mandir. Besides the presentation of different classical dance styles, the highlight this year was the inclusion of Nangyar Koothu and the Kandyan dance that made the festival colourful and delightful.
On this occasion, the Nalanda Bharata Muni Samman were given to veterans in the field of classical dance, music and theatre and the recipients were Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi exponent Yamini Krishnamurti, flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and theatre personality Ratan Thiyam. Veteran dancer and educationist Dr. Kanak Rele was felicitated for winning three prestigious awards in a row – the Padma Bhushan, SNA Ratna (Fellow) and Nritya Kala Sudha.
Among the fourteen dancers who participated in the Nrityotsava, eight dancers who excelled in their respective styles were given the Nalanda Nritya Nipuna award and the winners were Radhika Nair for Mohini Attam, Sangeetha and Prasanthi for Nangyar Koothu, Anand Satchidanandan and Parimala Hansoge for Bharatanatyam, Moumita Ghosh for Odissi, and Bhakti Bhatawadekar and Priyanka Surve for Kathak. The other dancers who participated in the festival were Apeksha Mundargi, Anahita Bharadwaj, Mythili Anoop, Shreyasi Gopinath, Sakshi Kumar, and Jigna Dixit.
Radhika Nair, a disciple of Kanak Rele, revealed her prowess in the abhinaya numbers like Ponthen and Theliviyalu, but it was also exciting to watch her perform the pure dance number Panjari Katla executing various swaying and ‘andolika’ movements with perfect finish and elegance. Parimala Hansoge’s Bharatanatyam was noteworthy for its clarity and precision of movements and good abhinaya displayed in the kriti on Akhilandeswari portraying the virile and benevolent aspects of the goddess. Parimal’s presentation of the intricate Balamuralikrishna tillana won her the appreciation of the audience.
Anand Satchidanandan impressed the audience with fine anga suddham and precise execution of movements, Moumita Ghosh was powerful in the interpretation of the goddess as Mahishasuramardini. Prasanthi and Sangeetha excelled in performing Nangyar Koothu, not often seen in Mumbai. The audience was pleasantly surprised to witness the Kandyan dance performed by Nuwan Theekshana and Nirmani Oruwalage whose performance was marked by vibrancy and enthusiasm. Kudos to the Nalanda team for organising and conducting the colourful young dancers festival.
Purandara award for Sivaraman
The Indiranagar Sangeetha Sabha (Bangalore), has been actively engaged in the promotion of classical music and dance for more than 29 years now. Apart from running a music and dance school and training students, the sabha conducts monthly programmes and an annual festival of music and dance. In addition, national and international conferences and workshops are all part of the sabha’s activities for the year, thus filling a cultural vacuum in the eastern part of Bangalore city.
The sabha conducted its third International Conference on Music and Dance (ICMD) 2014 and the 10th Annual Music and Dance Festival from 22nd to 27th of January this year. The crowning moment of the festival was the conferment of the prestigious Purandara Award on Sangita Kalanidhi Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman for his immense contribution to Carnatic music. Several stalwarts have been decorated with this award since its institution in 2006 including R.K. Srikantan, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, Kadri Gopalnath, M. Balamuralikrishna, Bombay Sisters, Maya Rao, and T.N. Krishnan.
As an active effort towards furthering the growth of the art forms, the sabha has also been conducting the International Conference on Music and Dance (ICMD), encouraging scholars and vidwans to be part of discussions concerning topics of importance in relation to the changing arts scene. The third in this series was held this year and showcased interesting paper presentations, poster sessions, and lecture demonstrations by eminent people. The theme of the conference was `Classical Forms in World Music’ and it was inaugurated by Chiranjeev Singh.
The keynote lecture was delivered by Dr. T.S. Sathyavathi, on the topic ‘Carnatic music and its multi dimensions’. The conference included presentations on interesting topics such as `Universality of musical forms in the musics of the world’ by Dr. S.A.K. Durga, `Niraval, an important aspect of manodharma sangeeta’ by Mala Mohan, `Changing soundscapes: the history and evolution of sound recording in India’ by Vikram Sampath, `Carnatic music in North America and its influence on the Indian music scene’ by V.V. Sundaram, `The Abhanga’ by Dr. M. Prameela, `The Evolution of Varnam in Bharatanatyam’ by Dr. Uma Anand, `An analytical study of Khayal in Hindustani music’ by Dr. Maneesh Mahesh Kulkarni, `The contribution of Haridasas to Kannada literature and music’ by Sumitra Nitin, and `Adaptation of voice culture techniques into Carnatic music’ by Ashwini P.R. The valedictory lecture, `Carnatic music combined with Western Classical and Jazz style’ delivered by Geetha Bennett, interestingly showcased the immense scope offered when one combines these music forms. Apart from these there were also panel discussions on `The Kutcheri Paddhati’ chaired by vidwan R.K. Srikantan, and `Impact of technology on music opportunities’ by very eminent panelists including Dr. N. Raghu of All India Radio, Bangalore.
The annual festival of music and dance held in parallel to the conference at the Purandara Bhavana was a treat to art lovers in the city, offering an exciting line-up of programmes by top-notch artists. The first day’s programme was a Carnatic-Hindustani jugalbandi by Mysore M. Manjunath and Pandit Praveen Godkindi — two artists who shared a mutual understanding and admiration for each other’s styles of music. Gayathri Venkataraghavan’s concert was a melodic treat, with the support of her accompanists Dr. M. Narmadha, Poongulam Subramaniam, and Sukanya Ramgopal. She sang Dasara padagalu and other kritis. Parallel Strings a veena and piano conversation between Jayanthi Kumaresh and Anil Srinivasan on the piano left the rasikas wanting for more. Following the award ceremony was a concert by S. Saketharaman, accompanied by stalwarts Umayalpuram Sivaraman (mridangam), Mysore M. Manjunath (violin) and G. Guruprasanna (khanjira). The thematic presentation on Pandharpur based on Marathi abhangs by P. Praveen Kumar with Ganesh Desai was beautifully presented. The image of the artist dressed as Panduranga, with the chanting of the name of Vitthala in the background remained in the memory of the audience for long.
Also part of the festival was Peacock Blue, a thematic dancemusic-theatre production created by Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan with Sheejith Krishna and Anjana Anand as the lead dancers and Lakshmi Rangarajan (vocal). Opening with Jayadeva’s Dasavatara ashtapadi, the artists went on to depict Krishna as conceptualised by different poets. Amrythm, an instrument ensemble presented by K.V. Prasad and his troupe, was an interesting experiment with different genres of music from across the globe. The concluding day’s dance performance was by Aniruddha Knight, who showcased the signature aspect of the Balasaraswati style of dance. Its non-choreographed improvisations and exploratory movements won audience appreciation.
Kudos to the president of the sabha Dr. R. Balasubramaniam and his team for putting up an event of this scale. Artists and rasikas enjoy being a part of the festival which has consistently showcased spectacular performances year after year.
(A Carnatic vocalist)
Theatre at the threshold
In its tenth year now, the Indian Society for Theatre Research organised its annual international conference at the Department of Culture and Media Studies, Central University of Rajasthan, from 8-11 January, 2014. The theme ‘Interdisciplinary Negotiations in Performing Arts: Indo-Global Praxis’ was aimed at Theatre at the threshold capturing the contemporary shifts across genres and disciplinary and political boundaries. The conference brought together performing arts writers, scholars, researchers, theoreticians, teachers and practitioners.
Ravi Chaturvedi, President, ISTR, charted out the decade-long journey of ISTR from its humble moorings in Jaipur at the IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research) conference. Vibha Sharma, General Secretary, ISTR, outlined the future plans and vision.
Sadanand Menon’s keynote set the tone for the conference. In a radical departure, the cultural thinker and teacher moved away from the term ‘interdisciplinary’ to introduce the concept ‘anti-disciplinary’ as the call of the day. Arguing for the recovery of the sense of flow in the creative fields, he also talked about the increasing marginalisation of performing arts with the rising violence around us. His critique of the ‘numbing irrelevance of performing arts’ today raised significant questions and opened up threads for exploration and discussion.
The second keynote by Devendra Sharma of California State University delved into the history of Nautanki and emphasised the importance of ‘reclaiming respect for the community/folk performance traditions’. Based on interesting and rare material, anecdotes and demonstrations, he shared his perspective of being a performer, writer and director of Nautanki and other musical theatre genres of north India.
While there were parallel panels through the days following a variety of discursive tangents, there were performances of dance, music, poetry and dastangoi in the evenings.
Theatre studies and performance studies are emerging disciplines at a nascent stage in India today and a closer network between scholarship and practice would be significant for providing unique directions to the process. Platforms like the conference provide opportunities to open up dialogues between theoreticians and performers that are important to break the impasse and create new visions for theatre, to reclaim its autonomy from imposing cultural industries and to align critical discourse with performance practice.
Vikram Sarabhai Arts Festival
An arts festival has connotations of a celebration. But as people walk in for the last evening of the 38th Vikram Sarabhai Arts Festival on 30th December 2013 at Ahmedabad, they are greeted with banners requesting silence. The next sight is strange and unsettling. It is meant to be. A man immersed in a drum full of water upto his nose, sits patiently, quietly. A visibly unnerved member of the audience is reassured: “Yes, ma’am. This is real but part of our show.”
This is an annual three-day festival held in Ahmedabad at Natarani, an amphitheatre situated on the banks of the river Sabarmati. A few years ago, we could see the river as a backdrop when artists from the Darpana Academy performed on a wooden stage. For some shows, the artists even performed on the sandy riverbed as the stage space merged into the river, blurring the boundaries between theatre and the real world. But that was in the past. Today, the riverfront project has barred the view with concrete walls, a road is constructed behind the stage area. “The people who lived there, for example, the dhobis whose washing of the clothes timed with the rehearsal of the artists every morning, have all been displaced,” says Mallika. No wonder then that the theme of the three shows in this festival is ‘displacement’.
The festival opened on 28th December 2013 with Unearthed, a theatre-cum-dance piece based on a story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, adapted by Gowri Ramnarayan. Mallika Sarabhai and Yadavan Chandran’s direction heighten the experience of story telling with puppets as an art form. The danceractors perform wearing masks with highly stylised movements like that of string puppets. While they become live puppets, they also use puppets in turn, multiplying the visual effects in scenes that depict a milling crowd. The narrator, performed by Mallika, tells the audience the story of a small town lashed by rain where a couple find a strange creature, half-bird, half-man in their midst. Some in the town consider it an angel, some, a devil. The ‘self’ vs. ‘other’ duality takes on both geo-political as well as psychological overtones. A displaced or an alienated self demonises the ‘other’, who is different leading to societal clashes.
The second show on 29th December, was a shift from this idea of internal displacement to that of a situation where young people across countries struggle to maintain a long distance relationship. LDR is the first solo full length show by 28-year old Revanta Sarabhai. The show opens on a casual note with Revanta clad in jeans and a T-shirt, discussing his plans for the Vikram Sarabhai Festival with his partner Sarathy Korwar who plays live music on stage. Revanta explores notions of distance and space in relationships beginning with Indian mythical stories such as Kalidasa’s Meghadootam and Sakuntalam. This is interspersed with periodic phone calls to and from his paramour that disrupt the rehearsals. Each phone call incites a mood that is expressed by Revanta in a dance, ranging from a romantic waltz with a gown that symbolizes the loved one, to expressive Bharatanatyam movements and an energetic contemporary dance that expresses frustration and anger at a relationship that breaks. Revanta brings in a young contemporary feel to diverse dance forms creating a new vocabulary on stage. He uses Bharatanatyam mudras to speak of conversations on skype and mobile phones, and he dances gracefully with a virtual male partner who is projected on a large screen, timing his moves perfectly to explore the gap between virtual connection and real connectedness. Each sequence builds up culminating in contemporary dance moves superimposed with video images of social media flashed with high intensity. The show ends in silence with the drummer playing imaginary drums sans sound while Revanta finally dances, in silence, both timing it with a silent music. Text and image, video and dance are deftly woven to convey desire and waiting.
Revanta uses several Brechtian techniques such as calling for more lights or particular effects and interaction with the audience. The show is laced with humour that creates an aesthetic distance that helps bring in risqué topics of love and erotica into mainstream performance space. Revanta creates a fast-paced cutting edge performance with the energy of London streets, effortlessly merging it with the strength and poise of a classical India. This is a coming of age show, not just for the dancer, but for the audience too.
The grand finale of the festival was The Dammed, a dance performance with the Darpana group, choreographed by Naomi Deira. As its title suggests, it is a show about people who are displaced by projects of development or in the name of beautification. The body becomes both the signifier and the signified as Naomi’s choreography makes use of African dance forms with an extensive use of the back and spine. This is not a representation of suffering as an aesthetic, rather, it is the ‘embodiment’ of it that becomes the message. Dancers run across the stage, grapple with bags and use contemporary dance moves to convey their angst and helplessness. The movement of the dancers is juxtaposed with close up facial shots of the dancers, immersed in water, reminding us about the protest by village people in Khandwa where they stood in water for 17 days. “We filmed this in water and it took more than seven hours. Darpana dancers were crying. Something has shifted within us after this show. We will never be the same again,” says Yadavan Chandran. The show ends with the dancers moving into the audience, sobbing while shouting: “We cannot go back, Hum waapis nahi jaa sakte.”
After the show, Mallika speaks poignantly to the audience about the plight of the 65 million displaced people in the world. She urges us to go to Pirana, a dumpyard full of stench where the dwellers on the riverbanks have been ‘settled’. Her voice is choked, her dancers wipe their eyes. Many in the audience are crying too.
Some purists may be sceptical about overt activism through the arts. But Mallika combines aesthetics of form with a content that reflects contemporary human issues, giving voice to the voiceless, making visible those who are marginalised. It is art with heart that pleases even as it disturbs.
(Educationist and author)
World Dance Day workshop in Hyderabad
Natya Tarangini Institute of Classical Dance & Music, run by Kuchipudi dancer Yamini Reddy in Hyderabad, conducted a workshop to celebrate World Dance Day. It was organised in association with Golkonda Hotel which was the venue for the event on 23 and 24 April 2014 in Hyderabad.
The focus of the workshop was on topics allied to dance. Yamini’s idea for the dance workshop emerged when parents of dance students frequently sought her advice on costumes and food habits. She decided to address these issues and organise a workshop with inputs from experts. The two-day workshop was designed as a free parent-student programme, in which they could improve their knowledge and skills together.
The famous Kuchipudi duo and parents of Yamini – Raja and Radha Reddy – presented a lecdem on ‘Tradition and trends in dance’. Eminent fashion designer Ganesh Nallari’s session showcased costumes and make-up, which was followed by a talk on ‘Nutrition for dancers and psychological benefits of dancing’ by Dr. Harita Shyam, chief clinical nutritionist at Apollo Hospitals.
On the second day, Carnatic musician Prema Ramamurthy, with decades of experience in singing and composing music, gave insights into music for dance, while Yamini Reddy and Navjeevan Vishwakarma conducted a session on Yoga for dancers.
Yamini attributes the success of the workshop to the speakers who delivered well crafted lectures and demonstrations, as well as media awareness, which helped them reach out to people. There were about 150 participants.