Thursday 24 January 2013

Roses & Thorns - Turning down Sangeet Natak Akademi Award - Aditi Mangaldas

Brilliant dancer Aditi Mangaldas turns down the National Sangeet Natak Akademi award in the category of Creative and Experimental Dance. Reproduced below are some relevant correspondences on the matter.

Read the details in the site


  1. I think this is an interesting situation not only because of the emotions involved but because of the sheer confusion in definition and classification. In science, the definitions are precise and objective and in art it seems to be subjective. Who can define "what is exactly Bharatanatyam?" or "what is exactly Kathak?" but every one understands Bharatanatyam and Kathak when they see it. This is akin to defining the term "Quality", ever so brilliantly argued by Richard Pirsig in his famous book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Recognizing a particular form depends on the cultural analogues built-up in the minds of the observers over the years by tagging movements, costumes etc. to a particular form. So when a thinking artiste pushes the envelope by novel costumes or movements, it is not immediately recognized. Why? Because the sustenance of the innovation is time dependent. My basic question is "why define?" If a cultural body wants to honor an artiste, why doesn't it just honor her for what she does - rasotpatti which is the ultimate goal of an artiste.

  2. Dear colleagues,

    Has the dupatta become a noose?

    I have been following the debates posted on Narthaki and elsewhere surrounding Aditi Mangaldas, dupatta, tradition, authenticity, and modernity. Permit me to say a few words on the subject.

    First, this is absurd. How ridiculous it is that we (the educated, urban, middle and upper-middle classes in India) are having this conversation about dupatta in the twenty-first century...a topic more suitable for the khap panchayats.

    Second, this is historically and materially wrong. Who says that the dupatta is a necessary element in Kathak? Esteemed gurus, choreographers, and performers of the dance have contributed significantly to its oeuvre minus the dupatta. We need look no further than the work of Kumudini Lakhia, who, as we know, modernized Kathak four decades ago (ingeniously so, without recourse to some other dance style or vocabulary) and inspired a whole new generation of fabulous artists like Aditi Mangaldas and others.

    Third, knowledge, seriousness and self-awareness do not seem to have a place in this discourse. These questions on tradition and modernity have been debated and more or less put to rest in the academy. We have read historian Eric Hobsbawm’s "Invention of Tradition" as well as Partha Chatterjee, Asish Nandy, and many post-colonial and feminist theorists on the subject. I have personally written about the construction of the category called "classical", the gharana, the patriarchal construction of lineage and the marginalization of the tawaif/courtesan in history. There are many scholars who have written extensively on the history of Kathak (look up Margaret Walker, Mekhala Natavar, Peter Manuel, Joan Erdman, Sarah Morelli, Veena Oldenburg, Pran Nevile etc). If we have any sense of Indian history and the history of Kathak within it, we know that what some accept as the “traditional” Kathak costume is a modern invention of a Hinduized Kathak. A quick look at miniature paintings and photographs from the past will reveal the wide range of costumes, hairstyles, jewelry that were in vogue and how they have changed.

    The larger questions for me, however, go much beyond aesthetics. I ask as a Kathak dancer, scholar, and a citizen of India these basic questions:

    1. Is it possible to be a liberal, progressive secularist and a socially-aware human being and still embrace Kathak today?

    2. How do we engage the youth today and make them interested in the classical arts. The youth in India are a force to reckon with; they are asking bold questions and seeking new identities. As we witness the restructuring of the old order we need to think seriously about how we can make the classical arts such as Kathak relevant to the new generation. This is an old question: it was taken up by nationalists, artists and intellectuals during the nationalist movement. That is what led to the creation of what we now call the classical Indian. But how do we reclaim the classical as part of contemporary culture? In our moment of change, how do we craft new opportunities, encourage experimentation and new thinking?

    3. How do we reclaim Kathak from its patrilineal oligarchy and ideological mindset of a feudal past. In many quarters, intellectual debates regarding the classical arts are dismissed as elitist, upper caste, and owned by only a handful. But the truth of the matter on the ground is that Kathak today is largely practiced by people who are not from the privileged classes. This is as it should be. In the twenty first century Kathak should belong to everyone regardless of their lineage, race, class/caste or gender. But how do we release Kathak from a culture of sycophancy and cronyism that stems from a deeply embedded patriarchal narrative of guru-shishya parampara?

    How do we stop the dupatta from being a noose around Kathak’s neck?

    I want to thank Aditi Mangaldas for starting this much needed dialogue in Kathak.

    Pallabi Chakravorty
    Associate Professor and Director
    Dance Program
    Swarthmore College

  3. Congrats! i am sure sna must arise from darkness with leela samson as the leader, for the awarness you have given this national academy bestowing awards. This has happened to karnataka dancers also, wrong category, wrong dancers, and dancers serving as professionals all their life are ignored, the department of culture and govenrment of India concerned people should take action on the selection committee, they are not eligible personalities.committee should be competant and proper survey should be made before awarding the national prestigious awards.
    thanks for giving this alert to sna, now atlest they will function with utmost care, leela samsonji kindly look into the matter professionally.
    sai venkatesh
    Bachelore degree in dance
    3years Dip. in dance choreography.Under Dr. Maya rao.
    25 years of stage/light designer for dance.
    organiser of dance festivals: sai nrityotsav(every month 1st., world dance day, National dance festival in december.
    dance activist, promoter of dancers, our art, our culture.
    Director: Sai arts international. Bangalore, Karnataka.

  4. Really very Interesting as I am a layman and intersted in Arts and Dance, I happened to see the on going discussion and question and answers with precision. Indeed it helped me to know the depth of the art/ dance forms. I like to appreciate
    Aditi mangaldas as the answer last paragraph as claimed heself
    as still as STUDENT OF LIFE AND DANCE.
    MOBILE 8453814659

  5. After reading this litany of dupatta defenses, I feel blessed to be watching dance OUTSIDE India. The dupatta has gone the way of the dodo, thankfully, in international kathak dance centers. The readers can see photos of dupatta-free performances by such groups as Chitresh Das Dance Company, Kathak Arts center in NJ directed by Tanushree Sarkar, Sonia Sabri Company in the UK, and many more. Once you see kathak performed without a dupatta, you will realize that far from enhancing, the dupatta has been disguising the line of the dancer's body all these years. Without dupatta one can appreciate the graceful yet steely spine of the kathak dancer. One can also see clearly some of the interesting developments as far as back bends and diagonal incline of the body which are becoming part of the kathak vocabulary. So from the point of view of an American practitioner of Indian classical dance, I say dupatta, begone!
    Christel Stevens