Monday, 22 May 2017

Novelty in Arts: An interesting dialogue - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Raza Foundation in association with Civil Officers Institute arranged a dialogue among architect Vikram Lall, Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan, and poet / film maker Udayan Vajpeyi, at Civil Officers Institute in New Delhi. Ashok Vajpeyi, the Trustee of Raza foundation, introduced the speakers and the topic. What is novelty in performing arts? Is it deviation of tradition? Questioning within tradition? Sometimes such questions are seldom understood. He further said that when Ravi Shankar introduced long aalap in sitar, it was understood as novelty and later on became tradition. In classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi and other forms, novelty is seen as retaining continuum. He quoted Mallikarjun Mansoor, the legendary vocalist, who said that it would always be great if the rasikas sat in front row and responded, but even if they were not there and even if the hall was empty, his job was to sing. Such artists are rare now. Even if the audience was less for the evening, Ashok Vajpeyi said the evening had to carry on with few members present. 

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Friday, 19 May 2017

Ushering in Seasons - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


The rich culture of our subcontinent finds its own way to colour the regional New Year celebrations – under either lunar or solar calendar – with ample music and dance, resonating with the whispering winds rushing through the new crops. While Ugadi in the vast tract of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka is the time to get new clothes and getting satiated with good food, Gudi Padwa is, for Maharashtrians and Konkanis, an occasion to tie gudi (a piece of bright yellow cloth) to the tip of a long bamboo and a copper pot inverted on it along with a sugar garland. Baishakhi is the biggest harvest gala across North India, especially in Punjab and Haryana, celebrated with Bhangra and Gidha dance -- as the day of forming the Sikh Khalsa -- with festivities at the birth place of the Khalsa, at the Golden Temple and at Talwandi Sabo.

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Book Review - Drama Queens: Women who dared to succeed in a man's world - Leela Venkataraman


Drama Queens, by Veejay Sai, is about women who created history in the theatre world between 1850-1950 when art traditions were being reinterpreted to usher in a new age, amidst a rigidly patriarchal Indian society where women regarded as lesser beings, in the entertainment world, were considered lowest of the low, confined to the edges of society. Staggering in the sheer range of material pertaining to interwoven threads of history, of politics, of social attitudes, of literature and performing arts like theatre, dance, music and film, the book indeed traverses many worlds - showing the interconnectedness in art streams. To unearth biographical details on unsung Bais, devadasis, kalavantulu, sanis and tawaifs, whose contributions so enriched our art world, is not easy. And one applauds this herculean research effort where source material comprised picking up shards of "a random passing gesture, a miniscule citation in a newspaper clipping", bits of material in defunct Urdu chronicles, old Tamil and Bengali journals, Marathi scripts, vernacular press clippings and not least, bits of information provided by the occasional surviving friend or relative - to make narratives out of. 

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Natya Bharatiyam - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


International Dance Research and Training Centre, Hyderabad, presented a three day classical dance extravaganza Natya Bharatiyam consisting of solo Kuchipudi, group Bharatanatyam, group Kuchipudi, Kuchipudi dance dramas, group Odissi, group Kathak and also on the final day devotional songs at the Shilpa Kala Vedika auditorium at Madhapur, High Tech City, from 24th till 26th April in the evenings from 5pm. And every day it concluded around 9.30pm on account of a large number of participants. After the concluding day, I learnt from the organizers that in all 192 dancers and musicians participated. 

Madhavi Puranam, the editor of Nartanam quarterly, had a year ago arranged documentation of Kuchipudi dance dramas and Yakshaganas at Kuchpudi village in collaboration with Sangeet Natak Akademi. It was a huge affair. In December last year, Andhra Silicon Valley's Anand Kuchibhotla had arranged Kuchipudi Mahabrinda Festival at Vijayawada in keeping with his earlier similar Mahabrinda Festivals of Kuchipudi winning Guinness Book Records. It is on account of Anand Kuchibhotla's Andhra Silicon Valley group of people, whose organizing capacity is amazing, that such events are held on such grand scale.

The chief organizer of the three day Natya Bharatiyam is a young, 28 year old, traditional Kuchipudi dancer Dr. Tadepalli Satyanarayana Sarma from Kuchipudi village. His paternal grandfather Tadepalli Chandraiah was known for his Kuchipudi Pagativeshams and Kalapams. Satyanarayana's great grandfather Tadepalli Periya Sastry was the guru of Vempati Chinna Satyam. Periya Sastry and his lineage were known to support accompanists, mridangam players, nattuvanars, and literary figures for Sampradaya Bhagavata Melam. Satyanarayana is possessed with the idea of reviving the fast disappearing Yakshaganas and Kuchipudi Nritya Rupakas with the establishment of International Dance Research and Training Centre (IDRTC).

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Friday, 12 May 2017

Nine steps to visualising Tyagaraja kritis - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan


I belong to a Thanjavur ancestry. Therefore, the songs of Tyagaraja were literally the melodies I woke up to. My mother Alamelu Viswanathan sang and played them on the veena as her personal offering to Rama. She taught us some famous kritis, which have stayed with me ever since. I remember both myself and my sister Sujaya singing some of the easier songs at Golus during Navarathri. 

Learning vocal music from a young age created a singing repertoire for me, which was rich in range: from the demanding Pancharatnas to the evocative poems in melodious ragas of which Tyagaraja was the exclusive master. But listening to great singers was an even more enlightening experience. I used to marvel at the torrent of "sangathis" in some kritis and enjoy the variety of ragas.

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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Natya Vriksha's riveting salutation to dance matters - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Thoughtfully planned, each year's festival mounted by Natya Vriksha in association with the IIC, to celebrate World Dance Day, has had something original to offer. This year's two-day event began with well known critic and arts columnist Shanta Serbjeet Singh being conferred the first Natya Vriksha Lifetime Achievement Award for the many years of contribution to dance writing. 

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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Sparks of passion - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Kandyan dance, originally performed by dancers who were identified as a separate caste under the Kandyan feudal system - aligned to the 'Temple of the Tooth' and with a significant role to play in the dalada perahera (procession) held each year by the local temple - waned gradually in popularity as the support for the dancers from the Kandyan kings ended during the British period. Now revived and adapted for the stage, Kandyan dance is reckoned as part of Sri Lanka's prime cultural heritage today.

Under UNESCO's laudable vision prevailing over a decade, there is no better means than dance for vividly illustrating cultural diversity and embodying rapprochement among communities and nations. As the ideal means for bringing together people from different countries, there could have been no better initiative, therefore, for the West Bengal Dance Group Federation than to celebrate the World Dance Day 2017 by presenting participants of a workshop under the eminent Kandyan choreographer Buddhi Edirisinghe from Sri Lanka. 

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Temples of BooM! - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar




BM in north and south - that's Bharata muni in south and Birju Maharaj in north, although both are relevant and respected in both parts of the country and beyond. 

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Monday, 8 May 2017

Article - The familiar rejection - Nayana Bhat

My mobile phone beeps to inform me of the new email I just received. No I am not expecting an email, rather a letter, because they would mean different things. Of course, they mean different things in today’s fast world, but that is not what I mean.

I nervously open the email, which cheerily reads: “Honourable dear Ms. Keshava!” Ah, sounds friendly…“Thank you very much,” it continues, “for your application for the ABC prize for 2017. The Jury, consisting of X, Y and Z had to choose from N number of applications and unfortunately, we have to inform you that the jury has chosen another application for this prize...”

Oh well...
And coming to think of it, this is not even the first rejection. Or the second. Or the 10th. Well, for this year, maybe the 10th. I am even getting used to the sound of it, let alone getting familiar with it. It often reads the same way, cheerily, and often comes after a long wait and sometimes, indeed, after a long wait, because I suppose it takes time to sort out those that did get accepted after all.

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Saturday, 6 May 2017

Article - Dance is one of the most caricatured art forms - Madhavi Puranam

(This article is an excerpt from the editorial of Nartanam, Volume: XVII, No. 1, Jan - March 2017)

In 1981 a German language film titled "Mephisto" was produced in Hungary. The film was based on a novel written by Klaus Mann and was directed by Istvan Szabo. It's the story of a German stage actor Hendrik Hoefgen who rises to great heights with his performance as Mephisto in the stage adaptation of Goethe's Faust. Hoefgen conveniently adapts his ideals to the requirements of the new ruling regime. Thus, he attains greater heights in his career. He distances himself from his near and dear. By the time he realises his mistake it is too late. The genius Istvan Szabo universalizes this theme in the film. Hoefgen could be in any country, he could be any artist, intellectual, writer or filmmaker. Artists do sometimes become sycophants of ruling regimes, compromise with their art for small or big favours and short time gains, losing sight of the bigger picture of the ART itself.

In the first quarter of 2017, I witnessed two well-known Kuchipudi dancers/gurus of Hyderabad present very inane productions - Rudrama Devi and Kakatiyam. The Kakatiya/Telangana horse cannot be flogged so often, so blatantly, and above all, with such mediocrity. The spectator manages to put up with it in silence while the critic does not dare/care to touch the holy cows.

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Friday, 5 May 2017

Calligraphy and Kathak - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


When Kathak and Odissi exponent Parwati Dutta invited me for her two day festival Vistaar (April 22 & 23), I was still in a black mood, having seen Kathak performances which had upset me that I told her I do not want to see any more Kathak and I am afraid I won't be able to attend the festival. Parwati Dutta was naturally surprised at my response and only said: "That is not fair, Sunil bhai. We would like to share our new choreographic works with you. If you can come, it will be a great pleasure for us."

After a few days I called her and confirmed my visit to Aurangabad. I am indeed an admirer of her work, performances and total dedication to dance. Having visited Aurangabad earlier and having seen the excellent work she is doing there both in Kathak and Odissi, arranging seminars, discussions, inviting scholars, critics, performers, instituting Sarngadeva Award, research, lecture-demonstrations, performances of different dance forms, summer workshops, starting a course in dance criticism and several other projects, and over 20 years, preparing an audience which has turned into rasikas, one simply marvels at her tenacity, determination to work against all odds. Luckily, the Mahatma Gandhi Mission has supported her all these years.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

Anita says...May 2017

“Some people seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I have known are taught or trained.”- Fred Astaire 

As WORLD DANCE DAY slips past us and a new month dawns, I begin with the most recent experience of performing in FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH in New York City. 

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2017