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.
Pictures of Melody Book Launch
Two new editions of the Pictures of Melody series were launched on 12th April 2014, Saturday at Ragasudha Hall. The series having covered 4 musicians so far (MS Subbulakshmi, GN Balasubramaniam, Madurai Mani Iyer and T Brinda) now expands to include the Composer Series with "Swati Tirunal - A King and a Composer" and the Vernacular Series with "MS Subbulakshmi - Isai Arasi" (the tamil edition of MS Subbulakshmi - Queen of Song). The Malayalam edition of Swati Tirunal is also to be published very shortly. The launch was a very well attended event, evidenced by the packed hall on the 12th. The book on Swati Tirunal was released by Dr Sajith EN, Director, South Zone Cultural Centre and the first copy was received by Smt Gopika Varma, noted Mohiniyattam Danseuse and member of the Trivandrum Royal Family. The tamil edition of MS Subbulakshmi was released by Dr Radha Bhaskar, musicologist and noted organiser and the first copy was received by Smt Gayathri Venkataraghavan, popular Carnatic vocalist.
Dr Sajith felt very strongly that the Government should support this project in every way, while Dr Radha Bhaskar emphasised on how crucial the support of schools is, in reaching these books out to children. Smt Gopika Varma complimented the author on her eye for detail and Smt Gayathri Venkataraghavan marvelled that the sterling qualities and monumental legacy of MS Subbulakshmi had been brought out in 24 pages so completely and so entertainingly. Smt Nandini Ramani who was instrumental in ensuring that the project was a given a grant by the Ministry of Culture, was the Guest of Honour on the occasion. She was very appreciative of the books and expressed her desire that many more books should be brought out in the near future.
The launch was followed by a wonderful thematic concert by Smt Gayathri Venkataraghavan on 'Swati Tirunal Kritis and Tamil Songs popularised by Smt MS Subbulakshmi'.
Nataka Choodamani Award
Sri Krishna Gana inaugurated their 22nd Chithirai Nataka Vizha 2014. Mr. Girish Karnad was awarded the Nataka Choodamani. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Chairman of Kalakshetra and former governor of West Bengal presented the award to Karnad. N. Ram, presented the Poornam New Theatres Rolling Trophy for the Best Drama Troupe for the year 2014 to Augusto of Augusto Creations. M. Narendra, Chairman and Managing Director, Indian Overseas Bank and Bharathanatyam dancer Alarmel Valli felicitated Mr. Karnad.
Krishna Gana Sabha president Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti and general secretary Y. Prabhu were also present.
From Malaysia – to widen their horizons
On a pleasant afternoon in November, I was happy to witness some 40 and odd students from Malaysia, dancing a crisp Mallari, in the foyer of the Narada Gana Sabha. They had been trained by Bharatanatyam dancer-teacher Roja Kannan in Chennai for nearly a week. Initiated by Nalini Ratharishnan, Founder-Director of Ratharishnan Bharatanjali, even nine-year olds had come all the way with their teachers to be part of this intensive training programme, which comprised teenagers and some dancers in their twenties and thirties.
As I distributed the certificates to the participants of this training camp, I was touched by the earnest pursuit of these budding dancers, who spent their time and resources to make this trip to learn more about Bharatanatyam. Nalini had organised this project with the objective of providing the youngsters some exposure to other schools of Bharatanatyam in Chennai which is undeniably an important centre of Bharatanatyam. It was a worthwhile attempt as Nalini had chosen to rope in a teacher and senior exponent like Roja Kannan, who is one of the best students of the veteran Guru Adyar K. Lakshman.
It was heart-warming to see the sincere efforts of Nalini Ratharishnan who also joined her students in this camp. The students were happy to have enriched their repertoire and more so that they got an opportunity to perform the items learnt in the city before their departure. The group also learnt a little bit of the dance texts and visited some local schools. It was heartening to see the students attempting to rise to Roja Kannan’s expectations as she had put in a lot of hard work to achieve such a result.
Vasantrao Deshpande Award for Deepak Raja
The Vasantrao Deshpande Smruti Puraskar was conferred on Deepak Raja during the Vasantotsava music festival organised on 19 January 2014 in Pune. The award is given by the Vasantrao Deshpande Pratishthan every year for outstanding contribution to scholarship in the performing arts. It was instituted in memory of Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande, popular and erudite vocalist on the concert platform and regional theatre.
Deepak Raja received the award from the legend Vikku Vinayakram. The ghatam maestro gave a mind blowing performance before a 4000-strong crowd, which was also very appreciative of the awardee’s acceptance speech.
Deepak S. Raja, a columnist for Sruti, is among the finest contemporary writers on Hindustani music. He is the author of several books on Hindustani music and frequently contributes papers to seminars and prestigious journals on music. This scholar is also a musician who plays the sitar and the surbahar. Well versed in the traditional concepts of Indian musicology, Deepak Raja brings to his writing a fresh perspective using the conceptual tools and analytical methods cultivated by his careers in media research, business journalism and financial accountancy.
Percussion of Northern India
The Music of Northern India is a motley collection of musical instruments and concepts as a mixture of cultural and religious sentiments as sampled from traditional Hindu themes and Persian impressions. It is also known as Hindustani Sangeet, where Islamic influences caused Hindu music to absorb some practices and interpretation from several centuries of exposure to arrangements administered during the time of Islamic rule over Northern India.
The Percussions of the Northern India album is a compilation of Jugalbandi (fusion of Northern India Percussion instrument.) It includes the Pakhawaj, Tabla, Nagada and Dholak.
The first ever and extraordinary album compilation of Percussion performances by the leading and nationally recognized artists like Pt. Basant Lal, Pt. Jwala Prasad, Pt. Subash Nirwan along with other reputable artists.
Six compositions constitute the album where each Indian classical rhythm arrangement comes with an exuberant tone, style and designs and holds a rich historical and cultural value.
You may refer to http://guitarmonkrecords.com/product/percussion-northern-india for the sample music and more details on the album.
Geeta Chandran honoured
Veteran Kuchipudi exponent and guru, Yamini Krishnamoorti honoured Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran for her contribution to Bharatanatyam, at a function held on 5 April 2014, at Azad Bhavan in New Delhi.
Photo: S. Dhillon