Monday, 14 January 2019

The Quintessential Calcutta - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Amidst all the anguish and agony of a troubled daily life, and all the squalor and scampering of an ever-busy pace of city living, the denizens of the eastern metropolis never ignore their utsavs (festivities) and melas (fairs), which seem to anybody caring to observe, as dime a dozen. The current powers-that-be have added an unending string of Public Holidays to bolster up the spirit and there you are, moving from one celebration to another -- all through the year! And yet, the two occasions the enthusiasm and frenzy of enjoyment reach their peaks are: the autumnal Durga Puja and the vernal Yuletide wave, when the lights are set ablaze; the whole city pours out on the amply-lit and copiously-decorated streets and persist on staying out enjoying and merrymaking till the wee hours of the morning! Though not quite at par with the Marghazhi frenzy of Chennai this is quite something that the people ardently look forward to. Here follows a random sampling from the enthusiastic and colorful dance scene this Christmas and New Year Season...

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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Article - Response to Srividya Natarajan's interview on 'The Undoing Dance' - VP Dhananjayan

('This (pseudo) spirituality made dance boring': Srividya Natarajan by Vaishna Roy)

I know Srividya as an accomplished Bharatanatyam artiste from the lineage of Natyacharya Thanjavur Kittappa Pillai who carried the Thanjavur Brothers' legacy till he lived. Though I have not read her new novel 'The Undoing Dance,' I could trace a kind of frustration in her tone of narrating the incidents in the story, irrespective of whether the characters are fictitious or real. 

First of all, I want to reiterate that Srividya is talking about the specific tradition called Sadirattam or Dasiattam later rechristened as Bharatanatyam by the Madras Music Academy by a resolution passed accepting the suggestion of E. Krishna Iyer. Taking the new nomenclature Rukmini Devi popularized that name to attribute dignity and divinity to the performing art form and maybe we can say she did give a new lease of life to this ancient natya which I suppose has an antiquity of more than 3000 years. But Srividya questions the antiquity of the existence of Natya Sastra, a treatise on Bharateeya Kala attributed to a sage called Bharata. She says it is completely made up. Practitioners of Bharateeya Natya traditions, irrespective of the various regional classical forms, may not accept her theory as these verities of traditions that flourish in this century are offshoots of the mother text, the Natya Sastra. Definitely every one draws inspiration from these monumental texts available today. Natya Sastra being the original 'Panchama Veda' or the fifth Veda, the texts that came later have the umbilical cord of the mother book. I don't understand Srividya's vehement contention of casting away all these monumental scriptures as 'pseudo' spiritualism. 

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Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Profile - Lalitha Srinivasan celebrates 40 years of Nupura - Sunil Kothari

On the occasion of the 40th year of Nupura Academy of Dance, I pay my humble tribute to Dr. Lalitha Srinivasan who shall continue to do her remarkable work in classical Indian dance. Lalitha Srinivisan has every reason to celebrate this landmark of her institution. Training scores of dancers in Bharatanatyam, she is herself a distinguished exponent, and believes in transmitting the best of Bharatanatyam to her disciples.

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Kadamba of Natya Darshan flowered without rambling - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It never rains, it pours! And with so much happening at the same time, my preference was for attending morning discussions, which are generally ‘once only’ happenings, whereas the chances of catching up with the artists featured in the evening performances, at some other event, are always greater. Natya Darshan’s Kadamba - the flowering Path, under its curator Priya Murle, very wisely spread its events with different venues like the Forum Art Gallery, Bharata Kalanjali, Kinsley Manor and the Government Museum – not just highlighting the inter-relationships existing among art disciplines, but also making festival proceedings accessible to people living  in different areas. 

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Friday, 4 January 2019

Colours of Kashmiriyat - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Are the agonies of displacement to be experienced in perpetuity by humankind? What happens when a long-settled community of social beings are suddenly ordered out of their peaceful living environment - on grounds of ethnicity, religion, language or whatever -- and thrown to the four winds? Years of happy existence are forgotten and the simple, contented folks are suddenly made homeless, without any address and become a drifting mass of humanity, like flotsam and jetsam of the high seas! Who accounts for their uncalled-for distress and disarray? 

Fiddler on the Roof penned by the Jewish author Joseph Stein, is just one such saga from the beginning of the twentieth century, when Jews and Orthodox Christians lived in a nondescript little village of the pre-revolutionary Russia of the Czars. In episode after little episode, the tale of the poor dairyman and his faithful wife - with their five growing daughters - unravels how life holds for them its joy and sorrow; its rituals of orthodox matchmaking and avarice of the rich old men for the hands of the nubile maidens; its little escapades of love and amour between the indigent tailor and the dairyman's daughter, and again between the visiting student from Kiev and yet another daughter, and all hell breaking loose in the final liaison between the Christian youth and now the third daughter. 

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Thursday, 3 January 2019

Book Review - Art begets what art gets! - Kasturika Mishra

I started encountering the artiste T.M. Krishna from a tweet by my arts world friends and found a man similar in taste. He was barred from entering Delhi to perform in a cultural festival managed by the government due to his unconventional thoughts. That led to a melting point when I held Krishna's book in hand to read. 'Reshaping art' is a series of deep thoughtful essays on practices in art forms and the psychology of the artist in classical and folk traditions of India. Quoting his words, "The greatest obstacle in freeing the arts from their burdens is convincing insiders that they are indeed unwelcoming. Whenever I raised this issue with the torchbearers of high art, the immediate response is: we have never said, 'Don't come!'"

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Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - January 2019

Anita says...January 2019

I would rather be a meteor
Every atom of me in magnificent glow
Than a sleepy and permanent planet

- Jack London

Chennai was aglow and in full bloom in the last month of 2018.
All the cliché words used to describe this South Indian metropolis rang true during the month of MARGAZHI.
(Non Tamilians merrily said MAARGAZZZZZI with aplomb and we just smiled in unison!)

Silks, gold, jasmine, sandalwood, kajal, bindis, beaming faces meeting old friends and everyone discussing DANCE in excited chatter made us feel that WE WERE INDEED in the centre of the universe, even if it was just a 30 day illusion!

Between conferences and daily performances, culture tours and cuisine, Chennai was the hub of the Indian dance universe for a brief and glorious time. I was fortunate NOT to perform this season but promised to watch as much dance as I possibly could. 
And I did.

Here are my observations. They are random and not in any particular order.

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