Friday 8 November 2013

Of banis and gharanas - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Two key events - poles and miles apart – one in Madras and the other in Bhubaneswar, in October, made me delve into the concept and context of banis and gharanas. Both, rather commonly used but easily misunderstood words. The one event in Madras was ‘50 years of Alarmel Valli’s dancing career’ which she had the class to celebrate by not dancing herself (as dancers often generally do!) but she platformed others (with help of upcoming journal and impresario Aalaap). The other event was in Odisha, where the guru bhakti of Guru Gajendra Panda made him mount the 7th Debaprasad Das Award with a 3-day music and dance festival.

Both events were miles apart in content and context but both celebrated the concept of gurus and banis – one in Bharatanatyam and the other in Odissi. Both platformed the art of their gurus, as handed down to them: Alarmel Valli, a star legatee of the Pandanallur bani and Gajendra Panda, the solid legatee of Guru Debaprasad Das. Both didn’t dance themselves but platformed other artistes instead, whom they thought fit for the occasion. Alarmel Valli presented the current music flavor of Madras sabhas, TM Krishna, and the Delhi Odissi diva, Madhavi Mudgal with her niece Arushi.  Gajendra Panda presented and awarded Delhi’s best known Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran; Chennai’s activist-artiste Anita Ratnam;  Seraikella Chhau’s  Shashadhar Acharya and senior Odissi Guru Sudhakar Sahoo. The Governor of Odisha did the honours, no less. And in Madras, film-maker Rajiv Menon gave the keynote address.

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