MLV Book Release
MLV.. the one & only (book and Audio visual) was released on October 5th, 2014 at Chennai by Rupa Gopal. L. Sabarethnam, Chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai Kendra, Aruna Sairam and Priyadarsini Govind were the guests of Honour.
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam was presented the Kalamandalam Fellowship award for 2013, which carried a purse for Rs 35,000 and a citation.
Kalamandalam P K Narayanan Nambiar was presented the Kalaratnam award. Other awardees included Kalamandalam Rajasekheran (Kathakali dress) and Kalamandalam Subramanyam (Kathakali music).
The Papanasam Sivan Rasikar Sangam conferred the title Sivanisai Selvar on T.M.Krishna during the 124th anniversary of eminent composer Papanasam Sivan on 26 September 2014 at Narada Gana Sabha.
Fifth Indira Sivasailam Endowment Medal
Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna was conferred the fifth Indira Sivasailam Endowment Medal at the Music Academy on 25 September 2014. The late Indira Sivasailam was a patron of music.
The artist was selected by a panel comprising members from the Endowments Committee of The Music Academy and Ms. Mallika Srinivasan (Chairman - TAFE Limited), daughter of the late A. Sivasailam, former chairman of the Amalgamations Group and Indira Sivasailam.
The previous recipients of the award have been Sudha Ragunathan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Aruna Sairam and Bombay Jayashri Ramnath.
Carnatica Archival Center-T.A.W.F.
Rasikas.org, is one of the popular websites on Carnatic Music, with members being rasikas as well as few musicians and maestros. Few members observing the plight of artists playing the tambura and the need to offer support to the needy artists and technicians of tambura instrument, conceived the initiative of Tambura Welfare Fund with contributions from members of the rasikas.org. Sri Chitraveena Ravikiran and Carnatica Bros Sri K.N.Sashikiran, in appreciation of this initiative and also committed support. Sri K.N.Sashikiran taking the leadership, has included this initiative as part of Carnatica Archival Center, a Trust, in operation successfully since its launch in July, 1999 serving the cause of Carnatic Music by preserving, promoting and propagating Carnatic Music globally.
Vid. Smt. Aruna Sairam, a maestro and popular musician has consented to perform for a fund raising benefit concert, as a part of Bharath Sangith Utsav-2014 of Carnatica in the month of November, 2014.Vid. Smt. Aruna Sairam’s benefit concert is on 2nd November, 2014, Sunday at Narada Gana Sabha Hall. The proceeds of this fund raiser and benefit concert and contribution by the members of rasikas.org will be the fund for meeting the critical needs of welfare of artists and technicians of tambura, located in the cities of Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Tiruvananthapuram.
CAC-T.A.W.F. is appealing to all the rasikas, patrons, sponsors, Corporate, foundations and institutions to liberally contribute to the fund and support this highly worthy initiative. CAC is a Trust and donations are exempted from tax. Please send your cheque/demand draft in favor of Carnatica Archival Center, New No: 12, Dwaraka Colony, Mylapore, Chennai-600004. E-mail Id: email@example.com. Please also send a note along with the cheque/draft, 1. Name. 2. Address. 3. Contact details. 4. Cause-CAC-T.A.W.F.
Critiquing dance criticism
A small but important initiative was launched on the premises of the University of Pune in August on the eve of Ganesa Pooja in the historic city of Pune. It was a two-day national seminar on dance criticism, much needed to revitalise the dying genre of dance writing.
India has the dubious distinction of having thousands of dancers and dance recitals but few competent dance writers. The rapidly shrinking space in the media has further contributed to the much marginalised genre of dance criticism. Against this depressing backdrop, the seminar that was timely, generated rave responses. Titled “Dance Criticism: macro and micro perspectives”, the well-designed and well-executed seminar was the brainchild of the famous city-based Bharatanatyam exponent Sucheta Chapekar, who was earlier the head of the performing arts department of the University. The idea was wonderfully translated into action by the young and dynamic Assistant Professor of Dance, Parimal Phadke, who was ably supported by a large number of involved students of the dance department.
Spread over four sessions, the two-day seminar featured four focus groups – critics, editors, dancers and readers – with interludes of intense interactions and questions-answers in between two sessions. While the critics group comprised Sunil Kothari, Leela Venkataraman, Manjari Sinha, Veejay Sai and Shyamhari Chakra, the editors group had Ashish Mohan Khokar of the Dance Attendance annual, Lalitha Venkat of narthaki.com, K.K. Gopalakrishnan representing Nartanam dance quarterly, and Shumita Mahajan of Pune who served a major English daily. Similarly, the dancers-scholars segment included Sucheta Chapekar, Shama Bhate and Roshan Datye – all from Pune, Chetana Jyotishi, former director of Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, and Jayashree Rajagopalan, Bharatanrityam exponent from Mumbai. The readers group featured presentations by Jyoti Tilak with a background in library science who teaches at a finance and management institute in Pune, and Neela Sharma, a senior journalist with a regional newspaper.
Setting the tone of the deliberation, globe-trotter Dr. Sunil Kothari termed dance criticism as a “thankless task” in India today. Explaining it as a post-colonial concept that arrived in India along with the British rule, he presented a panoramic picture of the “systematically killed” dance criticism scene in Indian mainstream media down the decades. The job of a dance critic demands sound knowledge of literature, Sanskrit, technique of dance styles and familiarisation with Natya Sastra apart from constant exposure to dance performances, he emphasised. In conclusion, he said, “I see a bleak future for dance criticism in India and I don’t see any reversal in the trend”.
Deliberating on “Terminologies in dance criticism”, Leela Venkataraman referred to the “jargonising writing” that the readers often come across – classical, traditional, experimental, modern, innovative – to explain how it poses a great deal of difficulty for a dance writer to analyse a particular genre of dance. Referring to the works of Chandralekha, Swapnasundari’s Vilasini Natyam, Bengal’s Gaudiya Nritya and Odisha’s Mahari dance, she lucidly explained how ‘convention’ is being confused with ‘tradition’ by the critics and connoisseurs at times. “The approach to dance has changed completely and hence the whole mindset needs to change for appreciating and critiquing dance. The critic has to be vivid in conveying the essence of the dance and has to find out an apt language to appropriately explain changes taking shape in the dance genres”, she pointed out.
Manjari Sinha’s presentation – the relevance of content in criticism – emphasised how a critic must be a ‘connoisseur’ and ‘compassionate’ besides being aware of the essence of the arts form to be able to help the readers to appreciate the arts tradition. Initiation into the art form – that a critic deals in – is immensely important, she felt.
This writer presented a paper on “Dance criticism in Indian mainstream media today – a journalist’s perspective’. Drawing from my own experiences and admitting the challenges aspiring dance critic encounters in India, I hinted at the many ‘hitherto unexplored opportunities’ for a dance writer like research, documentation and writing books on dance. I said that a dance writer need not be confined to classical dances but should write on the numerous folk, tribal and ritualistic dances that India boasts of.
Veejay Sai’s presentation on “The role of a critic as a catalyst for art and culture” defined how “a critic is nothing but an involved audience and a catalyst” as well. Referring to “the Victorian model of criticism”, he observed that arts criticism has not yet come up in India to its desired level.
The findings from the editors’ focus group offered much hope for dance criticism through an alternative media – journals, periodicals and web portals – in view of the rapidly disappearing space for dance in mainstream media. Ashish Khokar shared his experiences through his presentation on “Making space for dance – the Attendance model”. Born out of his illustrious father the late Mohan Khokar’s “idea and inspiration”, the year book has finally become financially viable following 15 years of struggle for survival through hard and good work, he acknowledged. The editor should never be judgemental and yet has to take a stand, he emphasised while stating that “editing is an art”.
Representing the 14-year-old Nartanam quarterly dance journal being published from Hyderabad, its honorary editor, Kerala-based K.K. Gopalakrishnan described the challenges of bringing out the journal in the absence of support from subscribers and advertisers. He made an important observation and a refreshing remark: “The readers’ opinions are as important as of the critics. The critic is a mere instrument in initiating an aesthetic dialogue between the dancers and the audience”.
The wit-laced, lively presentation of Lalitha Venkat, content editor of narthaki.com since its launch 14 years ago, was an eye-opener. The saga of success of this web portal from a mere address bank on Indian classical dances to the most visible web-magazine on Indian classical dances today has made it “a democratic forum for dance writers, readers and dancers”, she said. One of the rare advantages of the web-magazine has been the facility to modify the contents even after being published apart from its no-space constraints and access to the website from any part of the world.
Shumita Mahajan’s presentation, ‘In defence of media’, revealed how advertisers come ahead of the readers in the mainstream media today and how the editors have been sandwiched between the commercial motives of the management and the expectations of the critics and readers for more space in an era when “the voice of the media has been silenced”.
The session of a dancers-scholars focus group on the following day emerged as a healthy dialogue – and not a duel – with the critics and editors who, on the previous day, had blamed a section of the dancers for not tolerating dance criticism and for not supporting dance publications as readers and buyers. In her presentation “Reflections of a dancer”, Sucheta Chapekar maintained that “the critics’ views should be taken seriously” while making an appreciative assessment of the presentations made by all the critics and editors. She, however, pointed out that the use of language in criticism matters a lot to dancers. The younger generation dancers feel discouraged by negative reviews, she indicated.
Kathak exponent Shama Bhate’s paper on “Subjective criticism” emphasised the “holistic evaluation of dance as it is a composite medium”. She lamented the lack of national level presence of dance criticism and publications. “No more do we get to read the review of a performance across India in any newspaper as it used to be earlier. Coverage of dance events has gone regional and hence there is the need for more of national level publications”, she felt.
Roshan Datye, another Kathak exponent from Pune, emphasised on dancers getting into dance criticism. Presenting a panoramic picture of the dance criticism scene of Pune down the years, she regretted that “rarely do we come across a dance critic who has due understanding of more than one dance form”.
Jayashree Rajgopalan’s narration of her guru Padma Subrahmanyam’s sweet-sour experiences with dance critics spanning over several decades made an interesting presentation. Her narrations revealed how critics and dancers can complement each other in pursuit of knowledge and in the service of dance. The most poignant presentation of the session was, however, by Chetana Jyotishi who, extensively quoting Bharata Muni from the Natya Sastra, lucidly explained the qualities of the critic and of the audience. Being a critic means bearing a big responsibility and therefore the critic has to a unbiased, hard working, with the ability to surrender ego, willing to learn and enquire apart from acknowledging the source of the knowledge.
The presentation by the readers focus group during the concluding session had Pune-based senior journalist Neela Sharma who put forth her views in Hindi as “aam darsak, aam pathak” (common audience and reader) in her presentation of “Sameekshyaki upekshya kyon!” (Why negligence of criticism!) in which she gave a bird’s eye view of dance criticism in Maharashtra. There are only reports on dance and no reviews, she lamented and reminded how Pune’s late luminous dance personality Rohini Bhate used to write in mainstream media on dance in Marathi in an attempt to reach out to the layperson. Jyoti Tilak, the other reader with a background in library science, made a very informative and articulate presentation which was a useful guide to access the world of publication of books on dance.
The keynote address on “Introduction to criticism” was offered by Rekha Sahni, an expert on literary criticism.
(Arts journalist and writer)
Dr. MLV Memorial Award
Well known Carnatic vocalist Geetha Raja has been selected to receive the Dr. MLV Memorial Award instituted by CMANA (Carnatic Music Association of NorthAmerica), U.S.A.. The award will be presented during the inaugural function of the Music and Dance Festival of Narada Gana Sabha on 13th December, 2014 at the Sathguru Gnanananda Hall, Chennai
Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan honoured in New Jersey
Mridanga vidwan Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan was honoured in July 2014 with the New Jersey Assembly proclamation for promoting Carnatic music abroad.
The citation said Vaidyanathan, born in a family of percussionists, began training at the age of six from his grandfather and uncle. With his inherent sense of rhythm, disciplined practice and urge to excel in the art of playing the mridangam, he was showcased in concerts when he was a high school student. He underwent rigorous training under the tutelage of mridangam maestro Karaikudi Mani and with dedication and hard work he became a much sought after percussionist for countless leading musicians in India and abroad.
Vaidyanathan has performed in leading venues such as Lincoln Center in New York and Kennedy Center in Washington DC. He launched a symphonic ensemble called Vibrations which performs multiple genres of music on a global level. He promotes music through his position as Faculty Member of SIFAS in Singapore and as a mentor of young musicians who established the Tiruvarur Talavadya Vidyalaya in Chennai, the official proclamation added.
Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan was honoured by Upendra Chivukula, deputy speaker of New Jersey State Assembly. Divya Yeluri, founder director of Nrithya Madhavi School of Dance, in New Jersey and Venu Yeluri participated in the ceremony.
India by the Nile
After a successful first edition in 2013, India by the Nile, returned for the second consecutive year (1-20 April 2014) to cheer the politics-weary people of Egypt in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Hurghada. The festival offers an avenue for dialogue and collaborative exchange between Indian and Egyptian performing arts, ‘Women of Substance’, the major theme of this year’s festival, attempted to highlight the challenges and similarities between women in India and Egypt.
This year’s festival was a large-scale event featuring classical dance, folk arts, an Indian Film Panorama showcasing well-crafted films, Bollywood dance workshops and talks by celebrities, an exhibition of Indian women’s traditional saris, and culinary specialities.
Kathak exponent Marami Medhi enacted stories from Indian myths and legends in a thematic concert. Free Kathak dance workshops were also conducted.
Nagada, of the Indian folklore kettledrums, was performed by the Rajasthan Josh troupe at Cairo and Alexandria. The performance showcased folk traditions of Rajasthan using instruments like the morchang, nagara and the bamboo flute.
India Inc. presented an exhibition of Sudhir Tailang’s political cartoons at the Egyptian Modern Art Museum. Literary figures exchanged ‘Words on Water’ – scripting engaging discussions at the Supreme Council of Culture.
TCI Sanmar Chemicals SAE was the lead sponsor for the festival, which was scripted by Teamwork Productions in partnership with the Embassy of India, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and the Cairo Opera House.
“We have always enjoyed close ties with Egypt and there is a genuine fondness for Indian culture amongst the Egyptian people. The festival is part of the embassy’s pro-active approach to reach out to the Egyptian public and to promote cultural understanding,” said Navdeep Suri, India’s Ambassador in Egypt.
As one of the most attended international arts festivals in Cairo since the 2011 revolution, India by the Nile added more layers to the Egyptian conscious, deepening the level of awareness of Indian arts.
Manipur dance academy celebrates diamond jubilee
The Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy (JNMDA), Imphal, a constituent unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, celebrated its diamond jubilee (60 years) in the first week of April. It was established in 1954, when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the state and after seeing the traditional Manipuri dances suggested that an institution be set up to preserve and perpetuate the traditions of the region. Well known exponents and teachers Amubi Singh, Amodon, and Atomaba were appointed as gurus and thus began the first move to institutionalize Manipuri dances.
Over the last six decades, JNMDA has made phenomenal progress and trained generations of dancers, offering practical and scientific knowledge about the rich heritage of the art forms. Pre-Vaishnavite dance forms like Lai Haraoba, the dances of Maibees and the Vaishnavite dance forms have a long history. Nowhere else in India are music and dance so closely interwoven with rituals and religious practices in daily life as in Manipur. This sets Manipuri dances apart from other dance forms. From the birth of a child, the piercing of the ears, the sacred thread ceremony, marriage, death and after-death ceremonies, all the major stages in life are celebrated with dance and music in Manipur. You rarely come across a Manipuri (Meitei) who does not know dance and music.
In November 1958, I was part of a research team of the Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur which visited Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura under a Fellowship from the Ministry of Scientific Affairs. I have happy memories of having met the great gurus and watching the classes held at Johnson School. I was ushered into a world of dance in its natural habitat, which mesmerised me and since then regular visits to Imphal have helped me appreciate Manipuri dances. Therefore to attend the celebrations on its 60th year revived memories of several performances of Nata Sankeertan, Rasaleela and Lai Haraoba.
As the programme was overcrowded and I had missed my flight, I could not attend the inaugural events and the seminar. On the Foundation Day the Governor V.K. Duggal, who is also the Chairman of JNMDA, attended the ceremonial pooja. The invocation was presented with Nata Sankeertan, the solo dances were performed by gold medallists of the Academy, and items from Lai Haraoba, Holipala, Thang-ta (martial art) and Nata Sankeertan were performed. Next day Leela Samson, Chairperson of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, initiated the proceedings and the souvenir and commemorative volumes were released. Special Diamond Jubilee honours were conferred on eminent gurus, dancers and scholars, and the cultural evening consisted of Kabui, Kuki, Mao dances of the tribes, and Vasant Raas. It was followed by Rabindranath Tagore’s Bidai Abhishap – a dance-drama choreographed by Amusana Devi and performed by artists of the Production Unit of JNMDA.
The symposium on ‘Growth and Development of Manipuri Dance – a Perspective’, was held the next day with Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan chairing the session. Speakers R.K. Singhajit Singh and Debjani Chaliha emphasised the need to preserve these forms without imitating other dance forms. In the afternoon session chaired by Ratan Thiyam, Leela Venkataraman and Priti Patel participated in a discussion on the solo presentation of Manipuri dances, which are essentially group dances. There were solo performances in the evening by Noyonsakhi Devi, Ibemubi Devi and a presentation of Kathak by Sharmistha Mukherjee and her group from Delhi on the theme of Varanasi.
A variety of Manipuri dances was presented during the celebrations, including a Pena recital by Guru Leibakmacha Singh, Cholom by Guru Shyamchand Singh and some scenes from the dance-drama Moirang Sha choreographed by W. Lokendra Singh.
There was an interactive session with gurus, artists, scholars and critics which could have been more meaningful if immediate translation had been given after a few brief speeches. The topics covered were physical training and the relevance of Natya Sastra with Manipuri dance. Many more young performers should have taken part in these discussions.
The most fascinating presentation was that of Nupi Pala by A. Tombino Devi and group. Two groups of women singers seemed to be competing when two drummers joined them, matching their singing with frenzied movements and arriving pat on the sam. As many of us could not follow the Meitei song, the import was explained by Prof. Tombi Singh, Vice-chairman of JNMDA and senior exponent R.K. Singhajit Singh. The women dressed in costumes with pink borders and singing in high-pitched voices reminded me of opera singers of the West. The way they played the small cymbals with their neck movements synchronising with the notes of their singing was fascinating. I suggested to Prof. Tombi Singh that someone must translate the text of the sung into English for its proper appreciation. A mind-boggling variety of Manipuri dances was showcased.
Ariba pala, which is rarely presented, was performed by Ng. Ingochou and group. The men, clad in spotless white dhotis and pugrees, moved gracefully in a circle as they played the cymbals gently, and at times at a fast pace. They performed with great intensity and devotion, in praise of Gaurangaprabhu. The pung drummers competing with them kept both the tala and the rhythm. This form of dancing, in many ways, reminded us of Nata Sankeertan. Once again I wished the recited text would be translated into English. I was told a text is published in Meitei language as Sankeertan Vichar. These performances in traditional mandapas have their own charm and magic.
During the valedictory function the Governor honoured some of us visiting scholars and critics as well as Sattriya guru Jatin Goswami from Guwahati. Goswami had choreographed in Sattriya style Rabindranath Tagore’s Chandalika, which was presented by Anita Sharma and dancers from Guwahati. Though it was a departure from Sattriya tradition, a decision was taken to present Chandalika during Tagore’s 150th birthday celebrations and it has since become a part of the repertory of the Sattriya Kendra. Since the dance form has come to be recognised as the eighth classical dance form of India, it needs to keep pace with changing times.
Though the songs were translated into Assamese, the Rabindrik music was overpowering. The form of Sattriya in terms of nritta could have been explored more to give the flavour of Sattriya dance. The dance of the Bhairavis was well choreographed, Padmalochana Konwar was Prakriti, and Anita enacted the role of Prakriti’s mother in an impressive manner. It was indeed heartening to observe neighbouring states coming together with their dance traditions while retaining their regional flavours.
The diamond jubilee will be a yearlong celebration that will include presentation of Manipuri dances in other states, honouring of dancers, panel discussions, and presenting famous exponents of other classical dance forms in Imphal. A volume on Manipuri dances reflecting the “voice of Manipuri scholars, gurus, and exponents” on the lines of books on Kathakali and Sattriya dances, is also under consideration and I have been invited to edit it.
The challenge that JNMDA and Manipuri dance are facing with globalisation and lucrative careers is to retain the core values and spirit of Manipuri art forms. However, JNMDA has a commendable track record. It offers three years Foundation, Diploma, and Post-Diploma course. The subjects taught are Rasa, Lai Haraoba, Nata Sankeertan under three categories of Ishei, Pung and Cholom and also tribal dances and Thang-ta (martial art). Gold medals and merit awards have been instituted and several scholarships are offered. The Production Unit established in 1976 has to its credit several dance-dramas including the famous classic Kaibul Lamjao about the vanishing species of the Sangai deer. JNMDA has 23 gurus, 17 visiting gurus, 21 members of the Production Unit and an office staff of 31 members. It has at the helm an experienced young Director L. Upendro Sharma along with Vice Chairman Prof. Tombi Singh. From 1964 till date the Production Unit has travelled to more than 35 countries, and 50 gurus and dancers have received national awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi awards. Currently a history of JNMDA is under preparation.
From stories of gods to stories of people, Manipuri dances have come a long way. With the emergence of young choreographers, the boundaries of Manipuri dances are being extended. Dancers do not shy away from boldly bringing in elements of martial arts which quickens the pace and invests the form with a pulsating, throbbing, vitality. We no longer think of Manipuri as slow-paced, as only a flowing, meandering, gentle form. Instead we marvel at the ability of the exponents to adapt to changes reflecting contemporary sensibilities. Night-long performances of Rasleela coexist with bold experiments. JNMDA has played a major role in its development and we can look forward to its pioneering efforts in balancing tradition and open mindedness to embrace changes without diluting tradition.
Chittirai Kalai Vizha
While the Kapaleeswarar temple attracts hundreds of people everyday, the crowd swelled in the evening on 18th April. Devotees had gathered not only for a darsan of the deities, but also to witness the inauguration of the Chithirai Kalai Vizha (18 to 25 April).
The crowd milled in and around the Navaratri Mandapam. There was a dearth of chairs and many people stood and watched the show for the entire duration. CCTV screens on either side of the stage provided a better view of the performance (see below). I could see women with children on their hips and men with baskets filled with pooja material, alternating between watching the screen and craning their necks to get a view of the stage. A little boy scurrying around the temple came to a halt when he saw the bright lights on stage and stood transfixed watching the dancers.
Thirty young women from the Abhinaya Natyalaya School of Bharatanatyam took to the stage to perform Sri Venkatadri Vaibhavam choreographed by their guru Krishnakumari Narendran, with music by the late Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan.
The dance-theatre production was a synthesis of music, dance and religion. It chronicled the pilgrimage to Tirumala-Tirupati. The portrayal of the uphill journey to the shrine of Varahaswami, the dip in the Pushkarini and a glimpse of the stately golden gopuram was followed by the enactment of two incidents: the descent of the Akasa Ganga and the story describing the placing of camphor on the Lord’s chin.
The set resembled the door to the altar and opened out to reveal a dancer dressed as Lord Venkateswara, weighed down by strands of flowers and glimmering jewellery.
The show marked the beginning of a seven-day festival of Carnatic music showcasing “gen-next” musicians.
VINITHRA MADHAVAN MENON (A freelance journalist)
Aani Isai Vizha
A series of Carnatic music concerts were organised every evening from 15 to 21 June during the Aani Isai Vizha. Established young musicianslike the Akkarai Sisters, Tiruvarur Girish, the Mambalam Sisters, Kasturi Rangan, Salem Gayathri Venkatesan, Charulatha Mani and Saketaraman treated the crowd to classical fare.
The Navaratri Mandapam was a riot of colours with its numerous pillars and figurines painted bright, the stage decorated with strings of scented flowers, the artists drenched in focus lights, and rasikas seated on chairs and on the floor enjoying the music. The pictures of musicians attached to the pillars was, however, an eyesore. So too was the bigger poster announcing the festival, put up near the Pillaiyar shrine.
Bright big rangolis adorned the prakaram. There was an air of informality and nonchalance pervading the mandapam. As the musicians explored the contours of Kalyani, it was amusing to watch a child waving a handkerchief under her grandmother’s nose as she was lost in the music. After a while, a middle-aged woman walked up to the stage even as the musicians were completing the song; she was in a hurry to convey her song request in a voice louder than the music. It somehow blended into the surroundings. It was quite a different experience – a pleasurable one – to listen to the music in an open space unspoiled by air-conditioning, with the natural breeze blowing around you. Art music in a devotional setting.
Art festivals at the Kapali Temple
Music and dance festivals have become a regular feature at the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore. Soon after the Arupathumoovar festival, the temple authorities organised the Panguni Kalai Vizha which featured famous classical musicians and dancers. Encouraged by the public response, the temple authorities, spearheaded by the Thakkar P. Vijaykumar Reddy, have decided to conduct art festivals regularly at the ornate Navaratri Mandapam in the precincts of the temple.
Panguni Kalai Vizha
It is a fine line between atavism and recreating the magic of a time gone by. The organisers of the festival of dance and music at the Kapali temple in Mylapore, Vijaykumar Reddy and Preetha Reddy have walked this line with aesthetic care. Attending some of the concerts and taking in the ambience, I got the feeling it was the right thing happening in the right place – a feeling of good vaastu! It evoked within me the simple grace of an unpretentious culture – where temples are organic centres of art, where art is inspired by divine quest, where the artist is a seeker, the common man a rasika, and the patron is a true connoisseur. Every evening, as I removed my footwear outside the entrance to the temple, bought some jasmine for my hair (the fragrance of jasmine is somehow more irresistible outside a temple!) and walked onto the smooth, cool, stone courtyard, I could feel the classical strains of music fill the night, fill the large courtyard, fill my ears. And as I walked around the sanctum in the traditional clockwise direction (there was no rush to grab a vacant seat, we were, after all, in a temple!) the music filled my heart. It wasn’t so much who was singing but what was being sung.
And day after day there were so many people, a packed audience. There were people sitting everywhere – on the floor in small groups, leaning against the beautifully engraved pillars, on the many steps that line the various precincts of the temple, on the odd bench. Younger people (those with less grey hair) gave up their sitting place to the elderly who moved closer together on their step to fit in another. Mothers brought their toddlers who happily played under the night sky and a father brought his disabled son everyday in a wheelchair. There were friends and neighbours in simple cotton sarees and veshtis with perhaps the odd salwar kameez and pant. Everyday people in everyday clothes. It wasn’t the Kancheepuram silk parade of the sabhas!
Everyone was soaking it in. Devotees perambulating the sanctum muttering some mantras under their breath were unconsciously keeping talam with their fingers. The priests who were done with their duties of the day stood by, leisurely taking in the graceful dancing; even the rickshaw puller on the road tells you as you enter the temple: “Today Bombay Jayashri is singing …. Full crowd.” On another day, my flower seller told me “You can pay me later. They are playing the tani avartanam already, you are late. Go in soon.” Even the sudden clanging of the temple bells to mark the evening rituals did not seem to disturb the rhythm. The musicians (sometimes at the high point of his or her niraval) often paused gracefully (even as many in the audience subconsciously joined their palms in namaskaram) only to begin exactly where they had left off as soon as the bells ceased.
In this temple festival the music, the musician, the audience and the ritual were all linked, it seems, by religiosity rather than religion. There was space (literally and otherwise) for old acquaintances to catch up quietly, there was space to enter in the middle of the main piece, listen for a while and leave in the middle of the tani. There was space for the connoisseur to sit in a far corner and feel like a common man. But more important, there was the space for the common man to feel like a connoisseur. Isn’t that then the spirit of all art?
(Bharatanatyam exponent and yoga teacher)
Musical homage to Lalgudi in Houston
Lalgudi Samarpanam was an event organised by Houston Youth Music Association (HYMA) at the Anjali Center of Performing Arts on 4 May to pay homage to the violin maestro and composer Lalgudi G. Jayaraman who passed away last summer. They were supported in their endeavour by Krishna Gana Sudha Music Academy (KGSMA) and Samskriti.
The first offering was a performance by 40 students of Krishna Gana Sudha Academy trained by Rajarajeswary Bhat. This was followed by an ensemble of vocalists and violinists – direct disciples of Lalgudi Jayaraman – which presented marvelous music. Eminent artists like Vittal Ramamurthy (violin), Rajarajeshwary Bhat (vocal) and Poovalur Sriji (mridangam) participated in the musical homage (see photo). They presented Lalgudi’s varnams, kritis and tillanas in quick succession.
Jayaraman’s compositions are a rage with Bharatanatyam exponents. Years ago, Rathna Papa Kumar’s Bharatanatyam guru K.J. Sarasa, after listening to Lalgudi’s pada varnam, wanted to present it in dance in the presence of the composer. She choreographed and taught it to her young disciple Rathna Papa who performed it in the presence of Lalgudi Jayaraman. Rathna Kumar recalled this and presented the varnam with musical rendition by Kruthi Bhat. The dance was interspersed with video excerpts of Lalgudi Jayaraman explaining the meaning and beauty of the composition. The navaragamalika varnam Angayarkanni on the nine forms of Devi, is Lalgudi’s magnum opus, rich in meaning and melody.
Senior disciple Vittal Ramamurthy read a message sent by Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. He then shared his own experiences with his guru “Lalgudi Sir” from the time he started learning from him. He fondly recalled his guru’s sterling qualities – his wit, intelligence, helping nature, and simplicity.
Gowri Ramnarayan visiting from India, spoke about some remarkable features in Lalgudi’s compositions. Amrita Murali, also from India, joined the violin group as a guest artist. The emcee Uma Ranganathan presented the programme exceedingly well.
The group singing by B.N. Chinmayee, Thanmayee Krishnamurthy, Keerthana Bhat, Kruthi Bhat and Rajarajeshwary Bhat was enjoyable. The violinists Sujatha Kidambi, Subha Comandur, Vikram Murali, Neha Krishnamachary, Sharada Krishnan, Pavani Anupindi and Vittal Ramamurthy captivated the audience with their musical tribute. Lalgudi Jayaraman touched many lives with his music, wisdom, care and compassion. He lives on through his music and compositions.
The music and dance homage paid to Lalgudi Jayaraman by the Greater Houston community was a befitting tribute by musicians, dancers, connoisseurs and lovers of Lalgudi in Houston, and other parts of the U.S.A.
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