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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  2. I congratulate Madhavi Puranam on this article. She has addressed several key aspects that are crucial. Yes it has become fashionable to "quote" the Natyashastra even without taking the time to go through at least the key chapters relating to dance. The sloka she is referring to is "Angikam bhuvanam yasya" from Abhinaya Darpana. I too have questioned some young speakers about this. Back in 2008, I wrote about the wastage of time & resources that happens with this pointless gravitation towards the first ever, largest ever, biggest ever, longest ever galas and Guinness record obsessions - - Unfortunately that trend has not changed! I reiterate what I wrote back then, that, if we want our traditional art forms to continue from generation to generation, what we need is the inventiveness to consciously re-create what we have already inherited from the masters and the sensitivity to structure it not just for ourselves but for our children and for the global community in which we live. Thank you Madhavi for speaking up. Now we need dancers, teachers and choreographers too to meditate on the importance of her words and dump that "what's my next gig" attitude. - Ramaa Bharadvaj