Saturday, 22 September 2018

Fluent, fragrant, flamboyant - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Living in Delhi, one comes across a very large number of highly esteemed Indian artists, including those from the performing arts of dance, having made the capital their centre of activities, for residence as well as performance. This seems to happen primarily for two reasons. First, the capital remains an assumed source of patronage from various quarters. And second, one gets to witness -- and thereby get intellectually stimulated -- by the visiting foreign artists, who always touch the capital in order to count "having done" a country, much like any other foreign tourist. Living in a far away eastern metropolis however, one perceives that Kolkata is disadvantaged precisely on the same two scores. 

At the beginning of a well-organised, three-day Festival of Indian Classical Dance, presented on September 7-9 by Dover Lane Music Conference and Dover Lane Music Academy at the ICCR Kolkata, when the latter's regional director made an observation on the relative absence of artist quality as well as audience enthusiasm in the classical dance scene, it was immediately pointed out by the secretary of the venerable Dover Lane authorities -- who have been organising these festivals every year very much on quality criteria alone -- that out of nine eminent performers this year, as many as five are from this very city. It became an interesting exercise for this critic to examine both these points and counter-points. 

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Interview - Watch dance, it will give you joy: Dr. Sunil Kothari's life in dance - Shveta Arora


Dr. Sunil Kothari received the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship from the President in January this year, but his is a name that has been associated with dance since the 1950s. This intellectual personage, frail, with greying hair and an affable smile, is a well-known figure in dance circles. A dance scholar, critic and author, he has travelled extensively in India and abroad for his work and penned many books. The story of how he came to be associated with dance and the people who have enabled him on this journey is told in most part by Dr.Kothari himself, and some information taken from others who have chronicled it.

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Thursday, 20 September 2018

Celebrating hundred years of Guru Bipin Singh's Manipuri Nartanalaya - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Manipuri Nartanalaya is synonymous with its founder late Guru Bipin Singh, who has left behind a legacy of innumerable good students and a fund of goodwill, with programs in his memory organized all over the country for a year now. Heralding 100 eventful years from August 23, 1918 to August 23, 2018, when yeoman service has been rendered to Manipuri, by spreading its message to different parts of India and even abroad, a special event in Kolkata as a thanksgiving to this institution and its Guru, sponsored an evening of a group expression - Ghana Baari Barikhata: Reflections in a Raindrop - comprising a part of Manipuri's very traditional repertoire of songs as part of the rites of living, tracing the pangs of a nayika. On an evening sponsored by Darshana Jhaveri and Srimati Kalanidhi Devi of Manipuri Nartanalaya, one only had to hear the fulsome observations of all the distinguished guests during the inauguration, to know what a significant influence Guru Bipin Singh was on Manipuri. A traditionalist with a very contemporary mind, he worked with the belief that tradition while necessarily changing to be relevant to the people of each age, had to be anchored in the eternal verities prescribed by the texts. 

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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

#TimesUp, and it is your time now: Why the dance world needs to think about #MeToo - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi


I had different plans for this column till I visited the Royal Ontario Museum and realised that the coming month of October marks a year since the "Weinstein moment" and the start of the "Times up" and "Me too" movements. I felt I owed it to dance, in fact to all arts, to talk about this unhappy reality of our world. For too long have issues like this been pushed under the carpet, weighed down with discomfort in dialoguing, wrongful restrictions of 'respect', and all of this has always worked against us women.

In Canada presently for lectures, and a chance to spend some time with my son, I went one morning to one of Canada's largest museums, the Royal Ontario Museum, where an exhibition of photographs by one of India's most iconic, visionary and celebrated pioneers in colour photography, Raghubir Singh (1942-1999) were on display, in a special exhibit, a career spanning survey of his work, titled "Modernism on the Ganges". The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art with the cooperation of Succession Raghubir Singh, and made possible by Nita and Mukesh Ambani and the Reliance Foundation. 

Singh who was known for his "democratic eye", and his ability to capture moments of eternal truths despite the constant movement of India's hordes, in the continuous play of multiple colours, seems to have failed in these qualities closer to home. 

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Saturday, 15 September 2018

Obeisance to an icon - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Now that Odissi has assumed a paramount place in the Indian classical dance landscape -- both in the country and overseas -- and signal contributions of a handful of Odissi's great gurus loom large on its dance horizon, one can safely look back and assert three verities about arguably the greatest of them: Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. First, among the conclave of the Jayantika's very senior choreographers and scholars of the late fifties, his was perhaps the utmost attention paid to the kinaesthetics of the dancer's body and limbs that has stood the test of time. Second, Kelubabu's unique insight into the Odissi hastamudras and mukhabinaya, derived from his illustrious childhood upbringing among the Patachitrakars of Raghurajpur hamlet and honed by the later life exposure to the Odisha temple sculptures which he painstakingly surveyed and copied down with a scholar's eye that helped him enormously in widening his imagination that enabled him to provide ever new insights to his disciples. And third, talking about disciples, perhaps his was the largest number that has been created for Odissi - due to his indefatigable workshops conducted frequently especially in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi, outside his normal ambit within Orissa, throughout his lifetime, resulting in a very large circle of knowledgeably groomed dancers in India and abroad. 

Shraddhanjali, organised on August 25 and 26 in Kolkata by the Odissi Dancers Forum, to pay a joint tribute to their illustrious guru, was an appropriate occasion to observe, over the two days, how the savant's contribution has borne fruit in the eastern part of our large country, especially to let his solo choreographies proliferate into group compositions, thanks to his well-nurtured disciples and the latter, in turn, aiding to create a new line of millennial generation versed in Kelubabu's signature style.

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Thursday, 13 September 2018

Reaching for the skies prematurely - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The desire to explore new terrain among young dancers must be encouraged. But one has to realize that there are no short cuts to fame, even when one has the good fortune to command facilities and chances not easily available to most upcoming dancers. Watching the collaborative endeavour at the India International Centre, between Sikkil Gurucharan, the eminent young Carnatic vocalist, and Bharatanatyam dancer Aranyani Bhargav, who for some time now has veered away from the Margam into new areas, the first thought that occurred to me was of the imponderables on which this event was built. First was taking Annamacharya's Adhyaatma Sankeertanas for interpretation through dance. Even under normal circumstances, Annamacharya is not an easy poet/musician to understand and his metaphysical poems which are more in the nature of an expression of a stream of consciousness, by their abstract nature almost defy translation into a language of gesture and expressions. As for the two artists, while the ability to interact is all to the good (though one wonders if Gurucharan would agree to sing even for other established senior dancers) , the dancer must be brave to think that having a singer like him will not overwhelm the performance taking attention away from the dance. 

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A Kathak-Bharatanatyam jugalbandi - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Aseembandhu Bhattacharya and Rajdeep Banerjee are both established names in the Kolkata dance scene, as young gurus in Kathak and Bharatanatyam respectively, running their institutions 'Upasana Centre for Dance' for 26 years and 'Parampara' for 18 years now. Aseembadhu had an early grooming in Jaipur gharana from guru Susmita Mishra, continuing studies in Rabindra Bharati University. He was later trained by Pt. Birju Maharaj in Lucknow gharana. Rajdeep was initially trained in Bharatanatyam under Ambali Praharaj and then under Ganga Thampi of Chennai, a stalwart choreographer and performer of Kalakshetra style. It was quite creditable for them to get together and perform a Sawal-Jawab with a great degree of improvisation from both sides. Such innovative jugalbandis among disparate forms of our classical dances are relatively rare, though - as it turned out -- this can open up imagination and mental horizons a great deal.

Anuranan presented on August 30 in Kolkata by Parampara (in close cooperation with Upasana) opened with a Bharatanatyam recital by Sayani Chakraborty.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

8th edition of Parampara Dance and Music Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


It was eight years ago that Sattriya exponent Anita Sharma, disciple of Guru Jatin Goswami, had started the national festival of classical music and dance at Guwahati. She and her husband Samar Sharma pooled their resources together and invited leading dancers and musicians from all over India to give an opportunity to local Assamese people to witness their art. Though difficult, with goodwill and support of their friends and institutions they generated an interest among the connoisseurs and lay public for these arts welcoming the dancers and musicians to Guwahati to present their art.

Anita Sharma was interested in classical dance forms from her very childhood, having studied Sattriya and then Odissi under Gourima Hazarika. It so happened that when she saw Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's performance, she was completely mesmerized and decided to study under him. She visited Bhubaneswar from time to time to study from Kelubabu, spending three to four months at a stretch and mastered the nuances of Odissi. Not only that but also with blessings of Kelubabu, she established Abhinaya Society at Guwahati inviting Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra to train young aspirants in Odissi. Thus began a new chapter in the East for popularity of Odissi.

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Love is like a red, red rose - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Eternal love embeds time within itself and uses it as an element to build upon. That is what makes all love ethereal. And this ineffable love is fairy tale to some, a sacrificial saga to others. One seeking the other, finding consummation or distancing oneself unto eternity - these are the stuff folklores are made of: also longing without desire, attainment without fulfilment. 

Giving "a local habitation and a name" to all the world's lovers are the Sufi and other esoteric legends carried down the ages. In our land of myriad cultures, they cover Laila-Majnu from the rugged frontier provinces, Heer-Ranjha and Soni-Mahiwal from the Five Rivers of Punjab, and Dhola-Maru from the desert sands of Rajasthan. If these heroes and heroines are marked by palpable divinity of the Upper Himalayas, they also bear the vigour of valorous river crossings of the fertile Doabas, and the treacherous sand dunes and formidable forts of the Western terrains. And, almost without fail, they ebb into sunset, reaching forlorn horizons from where no one returns. 

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Saturday, 1 September 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - September 2018

Anita says...September 2018


Being very good will not change the world
Excellence will
- Usain Bolt, Olympic athlete

Cheers from Durban!

With seasons and hemispheres upturned, our faithful #TEAMSITA spent a full week in this historic South African city. Replete with references to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, we had a chance to visit many of the sites that triggered my country's independence movement and influenced South Africa's destiny. 

With 1 million Indians making up 25% of the city's demographic, I saw Indians everywhere! Dressed in saris even as I exited the airport, silks, shiny crystal dipped georgettes, bling shoes, hair in various tiers of curls and clips- I had to look around to confirm that I had actually left T Nagar!

Read on...

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Interview - Bhavana Reddy: Kuchipudi should become as popular as ballet - Dr S.D. Desai


Bhavana Reddy, daughter/disciple of Raja Reddy at Natya Tarangini Institute of Kuchipudi Dance in Delhi, has been selected for Ustad Bismillah Khan Puraskar in the Kuchipudi dance category this year by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in appreciation of her work so far in the form and the promise she holds out.

Read the interview in the site

Monday, 27 August 2018

The good, the bad and the ugly - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


In the variegated schema of life, there is seldom any certainty which qualities one is going to encounter over the entire range of urban society and its deep entrails. Can there be a wide enough canvas to draw one’s urgent attention to the prevailing ills and can there be a flicker of light that may just per chance lurk at the end of the tunnel of darkness? 

The veteran playwright Manoj Mitra can wield an acerbic pen if he chooses and still retain his sympathy unerringly with the underdog. In his pen-portrait on the melting pot of the rampant ills in the emerging middle class of Bengal’s metropolis, he uncannily lists them as the old parents’ solitude with the generation next emigrating to greener pastures;  the rape as an unmitigated evil and its devastating effect on the survivors; the menace of promoters out to grab the available urban property; the vicious nexus of the political and the business class; the oppression of women belonging to the marginalised community; and the one-way push nudging the hapless aged towards the lonely old-age homes. And, yet behold, the downtrodden can unite and rise, literally like a Phoenix, from the ashes!  

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Book Review - Bharata Natyabodhini - Arjun Bharadwaj


Today's aspiring artists in general and dancers in particular are grappling with access to resources that deal with the basics of their respective forms of art, presented in an easily comprehensible manner. While honing performance skills is one dimension of an artist, which is usually aimed at perfecting the grammar of the art form, a thorough understanding of aesthetics, classical literature, art history and the life stories of artists of the past can enrich the content of the art form. A remarkable attempt in this direction has been made by Dr. BN Manorama, a thorough scholar of classical Indian dance and aesthetics with an insightful understanding of the underlying philosophy and aided by practical experience. 

The work 'Bharata Nāṭyabodhini' released on 12th August 2018 in Bangalore can act as a stepping stone in a dancer's career by laying strong foundation in the fundamentals of the art form.

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Sunday, 26 August 2018

The grace of gratefulness and the activism behind Thanksgiving - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi



At the recently concluded seven day dance festival and seminar, evocatively titled "Looking Back to Move Forward," organised by Odissi, Chhau and Manipuri dancer and guru, Sharon Lowen, under the aegis of her organisation Manasa-Art Without Frontiers, something happened that impressed me very much, set my mind buzzing and compelled me to write this piece, the second in the series 'Soch'- a thought.




Young, Vilasini and Bharatanatyam dancer Purva Dhanashree, recipient of the Bismillah Khan Yuva Puruskar (2008), spoke in a session on 'Transitions and Traditions'. She opened her address by offering her gratitude and thanksgiving to generations of Devadasis that had practiced dance before her and nurtured and enriched it since centuries. 

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Monsoon Moods - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Just when lauding the increasingly healthy audiences for IIC's annual Monsoon Festival, this year's attendance dipped - thanks to inbuilt resistance to an all-male dance festival, albeit chosen with care. Instead of a festival only for male dancers which is aimed at helping them, but which again looks like ghettoizing male performers into a separate class, the better idea would be a mixed festival, with one male and one female dancer each day. A fine Manipuri dancer like Yum Lambam Bidya Nanda from Imphal (now Kolkata) sadly had to perform to a very scanty gathering. Imphal trained and now under Hemanth Kumar of Shantiniketan, working for a PHD, this aesthetically costumed dancer, right from the opening Dashavatar based on the Gita Govindam ashtapadi, impressed with his light footed excellent technique, full of grace, in Tanchep tala and Dashkosh. The physical balance and ability to evoke emotion through angik or bodily stances while maintaining a serene countenance, showed the all-round grip over Manipuri dance.


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Thursday, 23 August 2018

9th edition of Naman Odissi Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Come August and Bangalore is all agog with a series of dance festivals. Principal among them are two major ones: Nrityantar’s Naman, a two-day dance festival and other is Nrityagram’s in memory of Protima Bedi’s death anniversary on 18th August. I make it a point to attend both festivals to see what new choreographic works are created by Madhulita Mohapatra of Nrityantar and by Surupa Sen of Nrityagram.

On first day 11th August at ADA Rangamandira, from 3pm Madhulita presents the several students studying under her and their parents. She also presents her main dancers who form a core group of hers to showcase their progress and with whom she creates new works. When I arrived at the auditorium it was a pleasant surprise to watch Shankarabharanam pallavi by women in age group of 40 plus learning for past two years. 

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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Article - A Dancer Looks Back - 45 Years in India: Photographic Exhibition - Sharon Lowen


Manasa-Art Without Frontiers founded by Sharon Lowen, Kamalini Dutt and Naresh Kapuria organized a 3 day festival LOOKING BACK TO MOVE FORWARD from July 25. Part of it was the photographic exhibition, A DANCER LOOKS BACK: SHARON LOWEN'S 45 YEARS IN INDIA. It offers a historical glimpse of the cultural activity of the time.

The resurgence and awareness of classical dance traditions of India in the second half of the 20th century brought legendary artists and rare dance genres to public attention. These images captured in Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal, Seraikella, Baripada offer a unique entre into the cultural activity of the 1970's and 80's.

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Indian dance as part of the world cultural community - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


In the three-day festival of Manasa- Art Without Frontiers 'On looking back to move forward' one of the morning panel discussions pertained to Indian Classical Dance Transnationally. Though the point was not discussed, one realizes that in many countries of the west, Indian dance has a fringe presence particularly in the main festivals and that its high activity is restricted to the Indian diasporic circles, particularly in the States and the U.K. But this is not the situation in all countries and that our dancers are constantly vying with one another to be sent on tours by the ICCR for participation in festivals, is well known. As part of the world cultural community, the discussion featured Rama Vaidyanathan and Arshiya Sethi, and the person who was supposed to be on the panel Riva Ganguly Das, the ICCR DG, was not present. The session had Ambassador Amarendra Khatua as moderator. 

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Sunday, 12 August 2018

Tales of the bull and the tiger - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Known for her excellent productions of Panchatantra and Seagull, when Ananda Shankar Jayant announced the premiere of ‘Tales of the Bull and the Tiger,’ one expected something on the line of the two dance choreographic works. But trust Ananda to explore through the two vahanas of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, and the vahanas of  their two sons Kartikeya and Subrahmanya,  the stories of ‘Him’ and ‘Her’! Come to think of it, it is Shiva and Parvati who appear as gods with a family. To suggest it, naughty Mushika runs, there is sound of vessels falling and someone calls ‘Mushika!’

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Saturday, 11 August 2018

Interview - Dr. S. Vasudevan: Without an understanding of music and rhythm, dance is impossible - Shveta Arora


The dancer takes the stage. The performance has the rock-solid foundation of a guru’s teachings, knowledge and many years of sadhana. The musician, singer and dancer Dr. S. Vasudevan has been an integral part of many classical performances in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi as a composer and vocalist. He practices and teaches in Delhi, and has been a disciple of Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali and Jayalakshmi Ishwar. It was after his very moving dance performance at the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s event Sanskriti that I got to talk to him about his views on music in dance. His latest works have been very impressive, for example, the music for Anekanta, dance and music for Dramatic Tales by Vanashree Rao, music for Pavitra Bhat’s Shri Ranga Kshetra and Dakshina Vaidyanathan’s Shri Venkata Kshetra, among the most recent ones.

Read the interview in the site

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Swing from sublime to the ridiculous during homage to Guru Kundanlal Gangani - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


See-sawing between dismay and ecstasy while watching the annual Guru Purnima homage Gurave Namah at Stein auditorium, Delhi, by the Guru Kundanlal Gangani Sangeet Akademi to the late Guru of the Jaipur gharana, one wondered at the present state of Kathak. 

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Sunday, 5 August 2018

Rasa Rangini Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Under the aegis of his Debnrutyam Studio, Debasish Pattnaik, a disciple of Durga Charan Ranbir, dividing his time between Rourkela, Moscow and Bangalore, organizes a three- day festival every year in Bangalore titled Rasa Rangini. Durga Charan Ranbir is a disciple of late Guru Deba Prasad Das, whose gharana he maintains faithfully, investing imagination to his choreographic works. So does young Debasish Pattnaik. He has a sizable number of students and it seems that local Odiya community also supports his efforts to popularize Odissi in Bangalore.

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Friday, 3 August 2018

Book Review - The ritual dance of devotion from Melattur - Dr. Utpal K Banerjee


Bhagavata Mela: My Tryst with Tradition
By Indumati Raman

Indus Source Books, Mumbai, 2018
ISBN: 978-93-85509-08-7, Price 1200 

As graphically described by the author at the outset, deep in the interior of Thanjavur district lies a small village, Melattur, redolent with traditions of rituals, dance, music and theatre. The male Brahmin priests of the local temple of Sri Varadaraja Perumal perform classical dance of Bhagavata Mela to pure Carnatic music, enacting various divine stories of Vishnu. The dance's unique feature is that all artistes are male, including the dancers for female roles, keeping alive a 500-year-old heritage carried across generations. 

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Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - August 2018

Anita says...August 2018

With white rings on wet umber
With moonlit sand I worship
You who thought burnt bodiless
Stroke ardour's ache: save my body.
I char for his sooty resplendence
Send me to him who grasps
The sphere spitting fire -
I'll follow as liquid shadow.
ANDAL's song to Kamadeva, God of Love
From NACHIYAR TIRUMOZHI
8th century CE
Translation by Priya Sarukkai Chabria

I open with a heartfelt round of gratitude to all those young dancers who wished me on Guru Purnima Day. Not being a guru in the traditional sense, I was moved, as I am each year, by the numerous messages and mails that come to me citing my work and words as an inspiration.
Thank you all... and may the light continue to burn within each of you! 

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Sunday, 29 July 2018

Golden Jubilee celebrations of Sangeet Sattra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Raseswar Saikia Barbayan, the legendary Sattriya guru, established Sangeet Sattra in 1968, after he returned from Kamalabari Sattra to Guwahati. He got married and started teaching young maidens Sattriya dances. This was a revolutionary step as the celibate monks of Sattras performed in the Sattras and women were not allowed to either enter Sattras, or dance. However, realizing that there need not be any gender bias and women are equal devotees with a right to perform, his earlier students included Indira PP Bora, Sharodi Saikia and his own two daughters Ranjumoni and Rinjumoni.... 

This being the Golden Jubilee of Sangeet Sattra, Ranjumoni as the principal organizer had planned to present a large number of students to showcase their training....

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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The many contra facts and fractals of dance scholarship - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

This is my first of the monthly column I hope to write for Narthaki for a long time to come. I have titled it ‘Soch’ as each column will have one idea that I will explore, exfoliate and excavate. I debated about calling it some of the more resonant synonyms of soch, like ‘khayal’ and ‘chintan’ because of their more ponderous meaning, but soch is a sufficiently significant starting point for a flight of imagination, light as a bird and ever on wing! 

I would also like to honour the place where Narthaki founder Dr. Anita Ratnam offered me this column - Malta, by locating the perch of the first Soch in this magical Mediterranean island embedded in the embrace of azure waters.  Nestled between southern Italy and northern Africa, Malta’s beautiful shores, baroque architecture, ancient monuments, to say nothing of its mouth-watering cuisine, make it a highly sought after tourist destination.

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Monday, 23 July 2018

Venkateswara of Seven Hills and Panduranga Vitthala of Pandharpur - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Never-say-die art consultant Usha RK has come up with another dance production of divya kshetras, Tirupati and Pandharpur.Roping in bright young dancers Dakshina Vaidyanathan Baghel for Tirupati and Arundhati Patwardhan for Pandharpur, Usha led the audience to these two pilgrimage places in an engaging manner. Both the artists have in their mothers, seasoned dancers, and both the daughters have done their mothers proud.

Usha's commentary on Tirumala Devasthanam was well researched with excellent Annamacharyakirtanas to go with dancing. Ditto for Pandharpur and Tukaram's abhangas and ovis, vachanas, with vachikabhinaya. They evoked bhakti rasa and in terms of music, whereas Dr. S.Vasudevan and other accompanists offered melodious music highlighting Annamacharya kirtanas, Arundhati's Pune based musicians brought a whiff of fresh air with Marathi abhangas to which audience clapped and tapped with their feet. The joyous mood lingered on and both the dancers kept us in thrall with their dancing.

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Damnation to Redemption - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay (1894-1950) was one of the leading writers of modern Bengali literature. Examples of his highly diverse literary genres are: Pather Panchali (autographical ‘saga on the road’ transferred memorably on the celluloid by the cineaste Satyajit Ray); Aranyak (nature’s saga on a forest trail with all its mysterious intimacy); Chander Pahad (a travel saga of adventures in the then unknown world of Africa); and Devjan (the esoteric saga of the after-life of its hero). A lesser known genre, verging almost on ‘morality’ play was his Athai Jal penned in 1947, where he explored the epic saga of a perfectly normal man’s encounter with the so-called ‘degenerate’ world of the early 19th century Bengal, his plunge into its passion driven turmoil, heart and soul, and eventual resuscitation back into the familiar normalcy. 

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Saturday, 21 July 2018

'Her Say' by women theatre directors - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


It is heartening that The Raza Foundation's Art Matters series, which so far has been largely concerned with music, dance and painting has finally begun to look at theatre too - perhaps the most dynamic of art expressions along with painting, in terms of being largely engaged with contemporary situations reflecting the thirst and fire of life as lived now. 

The evening at IIC's Kamaladevi complex termed Her Theatre comprised a panel discussion by well known women theatre directors - Neelam Mansingh, Kirti Jain and Maya Rao. Are women directors different from male directors? Does Her Theatre have gender leanings? Do female directors have a heightened feel for democratization? Has the entry of women directors led to more humanized or more civilized theatre? These are some of the points that Ashok Vajpeyi raised in his introduction.

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Thursday, 19 July 2018

Awards on an arbitrary criteria - Madhavi Puranam

The Sangeet Natak journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), the premier body for arts in the country is languishing without an editor and with no regular issues coming out. In a country with a population of more than 130 crores, there is no serious academic journal on dance. Much has been spoken about the SNA and the culture departments and the bureaucrats and how they have failed to deliver. 

But what about the dance community? Impeccably dressed to kill, they light up any party or gathering. Scratch the surface and there is a vicious streak of jealousy and self centred vanity and even intolerance. Standards of dance are not getting any better. The best in most cases is just mediocre. Spouting a few slokas here and there with the torso bent with humility which can vanish to expose claws and fangs at the slightest review of their work by able critics, the dancers (there are exceptions to the scenario) make for a scary world.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Opulent Odissi - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Kolkata, the eastern metropolis, is lucky to be rich in its number of well-groomed Odissi dancers. Thanks to several visits, residency programmes and extended workshops that legendary guru Kelucharan Mohapatra conducted in this part when he was alive, a number of his illustrious disciples today perform and run disciplined centers of training and performance here. Sharmila Biswas and Sutapa Talukdar have been foremost among them and now the young Subikash Mukherjee has joined the rank. Bahana and Ravash were two of the most recent works of the last two choreographers. 

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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Enterprise and talent keep Sutra afloat - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Odissi on High, the latest of Ramli Ibrahim's concepts, presented by Malaysia's Sutra Foundation at Kuala Lumpur's Experimental Theatre, Universiti Malaya, had audiences exclaiming over the verve and vivacity and excellence of the presentation. But one was more taken up with the manner in which Odissi as an art form has acquired such a strong permanent presence in a region outside of Odisha or even India. Even more mind boggling was the fact of the same ticketed programme presented over four evenings consecutively, attracting good audiences every evening. Try as one would, the comparison with India just could not be wished away, and I was unable to erase the image of our spoilt public wanting invitations, with even friends and so called well wishers having to be cajoled into attending dance events.

How does Ramli Ibrahim, settled in an area which cannot provide him with the allied disciplines needed for Odissi like mardal percussion, Odissi music, Odiya poetry for thematic material, present a block buster festival every year? From where does he get the resources?

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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Folk divas from Bangladesh drama - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Theatre - - in all its manifestations - - forms the lifeline and blood sinews of the culturally conscious people of Bangladesh. Jatra and other folk variants are favorites and, come winter, the whole countryside goes agog especially with Jatras, mythological or historical or even socially nuanced ones, often running through entire nights. The rich literary heritage of Bengali lingo does not preclude adaptations from Sophocles and Shakespeare, Ibsen and Brecht. A new surge of life has come into the vibrant performing arts scene after the liberation of the country in 1971, today's playwrights and theatre personalities are justifiably varied, and many theatre groups fly their bastion of excellence with great aplomb.

Theatre Narrative from the East, held recently at the E.Z.C.C, Kolkata, from June 22-28, showcased seven plays performed by as many theatre groups from Bangladesh. One major trend that emerged from the festival was the canvas of a woman's life: her love, separation, deprivation, chastity, struggle for survival, self-sacrifice and the history of sheer fight for existence. The patriarchic society seems always to control her destiny and determines her self-expression in conformity with the male-defined norms. This critic took up two folk annals that poignantly echoed this age-old ethos and registered their muted protest.

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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Two day Festival of Bharatanatyam at Dhaka University - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

In continuation of the two day festival of Manipuri dances celebrating birth centenary of Guru Bipin Singh, Lubna Marium arranged Rangasree Bharatanatyam Festival (June 24 & 25, 2018) showcasing artists of Shadhona at Nat Mandal Theatre Studies Department of Dhaka University.

Two years ago, I had seen Amit Chowdhury and others at Khajuraho Dance Festival. Bangalore based Kirti Ramgopal, disciple of late Padmini Ramachandran, had trained him with few Bharatanatyam numbers including a varnam. In Bangladesh, Bharatanatyam performances by leading dancers from India are arranged by ICCR and Indian High Commission. Leela Samson, C.V. Chandrasekhar, Alarmel Valli have performed at Dhaka often. They have been also invited privately. Under ICCR, C.V. Chandrasekhar has often conducted Bharatanatyam workshops and offered training in Bharatanatyam. Other dance forms like Odissi and Mohiniattam have also been staged in Dhaka by Madhavi Mudgal and Bharati Shivaji.

Lubna Marium has received training in Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra for a brief period. She is anxious that Bharatanatyam dance form takes roots in Bangaldesh. Samson has trained a young Muslim dancer Anisul Islam Hero and he trains young students in Bharatanatyam. At Shadhona under Kolpotoru, several Rongoprobesh (arangetram) have been arranged in the past and regular training twice a week in Bharatanatyam is given. Amit Chowdhury supervises the classes. He is working in Theatre Studies Department and carries on practicing as well as learning whenever he gets opportunity. From Kolkata, Rajdeep Banerjee, a Bharatanatyam teacher, has earlier trained him in Bharatanatyam. Later on he took further lessons from Kirti Ramgopal.

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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Interview - Swarnamalya Ganesh on research in dance - Shveta Arora


Recently, I watched a most interesting performance of Sadir. It was a first for me. The fact that it was Bharatanatyam, but the performance very different from what a regular Bharatanatyam recital looks like, made me want to understand more about the research that goes into the production. Swarnamalya Ganesh is a dancer, who has been researching not just Bharatanatyam pieces to be performed, but also the dance itself - how it was influenced by cultural and political changes, who practised it, their lives and society, and the more secular repertoire that said a lot about all of this. Here is an interview about a recent performance in Delhi called When Stories Take Form, in which she presented stories about the settings and audience for Bharatanatyam - or Sadir - during the colonial rule in the Madras Presidency.

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Thursday, 5 July 2018

Many and Mono - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


This metropolis saw, in quick succession, two quality productions with mixed media: a multi-starrer spectacular - with nearly a hundred actors - - as an audio-visual extravaganza and the other a lonely monologue of a hapless girl led astray by an unkind world. Interestingly, both productions had credible choreographic inputs by Sudarshan Chakravorty, who steers Sapphire Creations.

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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy’s two day Manipuri Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy arranged a two day Manipuri dance festival in collaboration with Guru Bipin Singh Centenary Festival to pay tribute to the legendary Manipuri guru in Bangladesh. It was Guru Bipin Singh’s disciple Shantibala Devi who had thirty years ago during her visit to Dhaka started teaching Manipuri dances to local young girls. Among them was Tamanna Rahman who took to studying it seriously. The seeds of Manipuri dance were thus planted in Bangladesh.

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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - July 2018

Anita says...July 2018


A work of art, when carefully contemplated, enters our mind, becomes part of ourselves, as happens with a gripping tale, and adds another life to our own.
- Sylvain Bellanger
Director, Capodimonte Museum, Naples

A familiar pattern seems to have emerged each July. 
I find myself outside India, outside home ground and embraced by strange and exciting environs.
Greece, Spain, Africa, Chile. 
And now Italy and Malta. 

These annual summer travels are propelled by various factors.
Family reunions, theatre and dance conferences, recharging and recouping times.

This trip is a combination of many strands. I have been in preparation for a grueling tour of 3 countries and the advance work relies heavily upon my single shoulders. Without the usual diaspora MAAMA-MAAMI circuit to cushion the classical dance shows, my theatre and educational trips are not as well funded but oh so rewarding! With visas becoming more difficult to obtain for accompanying artistes and fees becoming squeezed by global right wing/anti-art lobbies, the present and future is mottled to put it gently!

I have never understood the wisdom of leaving India to dance again and again only for your own people who live outside. Yes, the wealthy diaspora - especially in the USA - also have demands for culture/entertainment (sometimes they confuse one with the other) but the new societies themselves exist beyond the ghetto clusters of most diaspora groups. And our immigrants refuse to remove their blinkers and realize that they actually DO NOT LIVE IN MYLAPORE ANY MORE! And Mylapore has changed more than San Jose!

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Thursday, 28 June 2018

Freud and Flashback - Glimpses into World Drama - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


The Bratyajan International Theatre Festival 2018 - bringing to the eastern metropolis the vignettes of experiments being carried in the domain of theatre in remote corners of the world - has now touched its seventh year. The brainchild of Bratya Basu, an accomplished theatre artist, playwright and director, the festival aims at evolving a theatre consciousness among the spectators in this part of the country about the varieties of productions that are metamorphosing the course of this art form everywhere and are pointers to new directions. Basu, who is reaching his own half century only next year, is already a formidable force to reckon with in the cultural milieu in the metropolis and with his inspiring guidance, the festival is scaling new horizons every year. 

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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Poem - From Kolusu to Salangai - Ashley

Dhalangu thaka dhiku thaka thadingina thom,
Thath Thei Tham, Dhith Thei Tham
Adavus are the stepping stones,
Dancing musically with each step
Ankle bracelets accenting every move,....

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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Roses and Thorns - Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2017: Is the process mechanized? - Bhavanvitha Venkat

Bravo! 

Sangeet Natak Akademi awards announced and congratulatory messages pouring in the social media is now the order of the day. During this time of the year it has also become essential to critically analyze the results. No doubt there are many complaints, some justified though. It has become a practice to ignore one classical dance art form, set more as an authoritarian assertion about prerogative of the body. There is no base for this. 

This time they did not consider Mohiniattam... "What's wrong with our dance?" exclaimed a Mohini! Is there logic? Yes, there is the mechanics of it coming to the fore. Previous year they omitted Odissi, remember?? The new phenomenon though is about self-promoting lobbies this year. The good thing about the lobbies is that they clearly put the selection committee to alert and the not so good thing is that their main objective is their very own benefit. Often you sense this informal and tacit understanding that they are ok with balance of mutual interests! 

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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Obit/Tribute - Guru Thokchom Brindashabi Devi (1934-2018) - Sinam Basu Singh


Manipuri dancer and singer, Guru Thokchom Brindashabi Devi, daughter of (late) Th. Thaobi Singh and (late) Th. Atolshija Devi , born on 31st March 1934 at Thangmeiband Hijam Dewan Leikai, Imphal, passed away on June 10, 2018. 

At the age of 4 she started to learn Manipuri Opera (Gouranggalila, Sansenba, Udukhol etc.) from various gurus of Manipur.

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