Tuesday 26 September 2017

A magical evening - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

After a few years if the dance aficionados were to discuss and recollect the arrival of Sunanda Nair from USA where Houston was submerged in water, to perform for Sai Nrityotsava 100 on September 1, 2017 in Bangalore, they would not believe that she had made it on time to perform at JSS Rangamandira, without showing slightest sign of jetlag! To put it in terms of mythological context, it would not be an exaggeration to say that some very special guiding angel, must have flown her across the ocean and placed her invisible to the eyes of the mortals, in the green room. For, when she arrived in her full Mohiniattam regalia she was a Mohini, enchantress, who mesmerized the audience. She was ushered into the auditorium with a resplendent royal red umbrella over her head with the hosts Sai Venkatesh and his wife Suparna and other retinue members following her with fanfare! That was dramatic enough to set the celebrations for the 100th evening of dance performances.

Never-say- die Sai Venkatesh had started presenting on the first of each month, young up and coming dancers. That was for eight years and four months. And during this time he never missed any date. For the record, months ago he had planned the 100th dance as a gala event inviting four senior dancers like Sunanda Nair from Houston for Mohiniattam, Sujata Mohapatra for Odissi from Bhubaneswar, Manju Bhargavi for Kuchipudi from Bangalore and Dhananjayan and Shantha for Bharatanatyam from Chennai. 

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Events with an identity - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

More than just a festival
Dance festivals are a dime a dozen. To make each event stand out with a flavour of its own requires imagination to curate. Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, in its very enterprising fashion has designed festivals wherein a theme or a selected line or verse from Sanskrit literature is made a compulsory part of each dancer’s recital, the interpretation being left to the individual dancer’s creativity. Bringing back to central focus the solo dancer who ultimately represents the core strength of a dance tradition, and featuring young dancers who are the future torch bearers, Prastaar, the Vidyalaya’s latest event mounted at the Kamani auditorium, prescribed as central motif and as bonding thread a verse for interpretation by all artists, from Subhashitavali 1049 (Shringarapadhdhati), compiled by Vallabhadeva in the 15th century, providing immense possibilities for abhinaya elaboration.

A fitting festival for Kelucharan Mohapatra
Yet another festival, which has begun acquiring a stature of its own is Srjan’s Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival, carefully nurtured over the years by the Guru’s son Ratikant Mohapatra. The mood is set, right from the entrance to Bhubaneswar’s Rabindra Mandap, where one sees the carefully grouped enlarged photographs of the participating artists outside -- with the modest lobby of the auditorium transformed into a photographic history down memory lane, with old priceless pictures of Guru Kelucharan on various occasions. One climbs the steps to be greeted by a large photograph of the Guru at whose feet exquisite rangoli floor design has a burning lamp in the centre. One could spend a long time just going through these pictures. 

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Tuesday 19 September 2017

Spectacular musical Mughal-e-Azam - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

My generation of people who have seen K. Asif's film Mughal-e-Azam both in black and white and in colour will remember with great nostalgia, Madhubala as Anarkali singing "Pyar kiya to darna kya" in Emperor Akbar's court to the choreography by legendary Lacchu Maharaj. The film took seven years to be ready for screening. The melodious music by Naushad Ali has produced evergreen songs which have captured the audiences all over India and wherever Indian Diaspora is. 

It was a big challenge for Feroz Abbas Khan to adapt Mughal-e-Azam for theater from the film. It could have been a monumental failure also. But with his passion to make it stage worthy, with a reputation for making productions like Broadway Musicals and vast experience of making films, working for television and directing plays, Feroz Abbas Khan created history on 21st October 2016 when he staged Mughal-e-Azam, his dream, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.

I had seen Feroz Abbas Khan's musical West Side Story, his plays like Mahatma Vs Gandhi, Tumhari Amrita and was quite familiar with his work. But like many others, I too was apprehensive before watching this mega production in Delhi at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium. How would it compare with the film which I had often seen and also during my lectures on classical dance in Bollywood films, shown that very famous song "Pyar kiya to darna kya" by that enchantress Madhubala. 

The challenge of choreography was given to Bangalore based contemporary dancer Mayuri Upadhya of Nritarutya. Having choreographed 'Madhushala,' an original piece of musical work for Amitabh Bachchan and 'Make in India' for Hannover Messe for representing Republic of India, Mayuri had earned fame for choreographing large productions. Such works had inspired confidence not only in her but also in director Feroz Abbas Khan that Mayuri Upadhya would deliver the goods.

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Sunday 17 September 2017

Article - Tihai and its types: Elaborate analysis - Rajashree Oak

Tihai is a distinguished feature of all the Indian music forms. Vocal, instrumental and dance, all the forms have their own unique fashion to use tihai and thus tihai is given different treatment in every form of music.

Cultural and historic context
The number three and trio have special importance in the ancient Indian concepts. Many such trios or trinities are seen such as Triguna, Trimurti, Trilok etc. This importance of trinity is reflected in the concept of tihai. In addition to this, the concept of tihai is thought to be originated from the oral recitation tradition of Vedas called as Ved-pathan. In the oral tradition, without any written scripts, the last pada or the phrase of the line was repeated thrice to show the end of the line. This thrice repetition denotes the end of the current line as well as the beginning of the next line. Scholars consider this tradition as the source of the concept of tihai in music.

Tihai is repeating a rhythmic piece identically three times with equal interval in between the repetitions. In the context of dance, when a rhythmic pattern beginning from any matra of the taal cycle, is repeated three times with equal intervals to reach the sam, it is called as Tihai.

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Saturday 16 September 2017

Crisis of critical analysis in music and dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Even as our traditions of music and dance have survived thanks to an inbuilt dynamics of preservation of eternal verities of tradition while accommodating individual creative innovations, a large repertoire of critical writing articulating new concepts and analysing the changes, subversions, innovations over the last half a century is missing. From the marginalised Devadasi to the elitist Diva of today, the nationalist framework in which so many changes took place in what has been singled out as classical (wherein resistance to the colonial was not a factor) to the folk, continuity has been stressed above deviations and innovations, and what with altered notions and dynamics of orality of the changing nature of audiences, the proscenium space and the fact of the utter perishability of music and dance at the point of creation itself, it is surprising that a more dynamic body of critical work has not emerged. Supporting a greatly felt need for interaction on this aspect, The Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla, under Ashok Vajpeyi as convenor, organised a National Seminar from September 4 - 6, 2017 to deliberate on Music and Dance: The Absence of Critical Attention and Analysis - with the historic Viceregal Lodge at Shimla as venue for a gathering of musicians, young dancer scholars, music and dance critics and thinkers. 

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Friday 15 September 2017

Obit/Tribute - Ritha diva! - Ashish Mohan Khokar

There was always something frail yet strong about her. Pint sized, there was nothing short about her talent though. 

Born on 6 Dec 1924 to a family of litterateurs of Assam, she was the granddaughter of Sahitya Ratna Lakshmirath Bezbaruah. She took great pride in her lineage, also linked to Rabindranath Tagore as a great grand niece! It was however in Indian dance her life lay. She was unstoppable where dance was concerned. She was possessed and sacrificed her everything including her marriage to Indra Chatterjee for cause of dance.

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Voice and vision of Bhakta Salbeg - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Years later, there is another historical figure of Salbeg (or Salabega), born of a mixed marriage of a Mughal nobleman and a Brahmin window in the 17th century. The chronicler Nilamani Misra narrates the biographical events of his life, while the folkloric musical Bhakta Salbeg (1982) captures on the celluloid his times somewhat on a mythological level.

One respectfully approached some gurus and senior practitioners of Odissi dance in our land with the following three queries:

1: Since Salbeg is undoubtedly Odisha's heritage figure cutting across narrow religious barriers and since his compositions are copiously sung in the holy Ratha Yatra Festival of Lord Jagannath, would you regard Salbeg as a worthy symbol of inter-denominational amity and universal peace?

2: If you do, would you like to add Odissi choreography on Salbeg compositions in your own rich choreographic repertoire?

3: Do you think there should also be a regular Salbeg Festival, where you could join other Odissi dancers, with your choreographic oeuvre, to highlight the message of tolerance and harmony of Salbeg?

Reproduced are the responses received (presented in alphabetic order) to the three queries.

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Thursday 14 September 2017

Manipuri Guru Bipin Singh's centenary celebrations in Kolkata - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Guru Bipin Singh’s centenary celebrations were flagged off in Kolkata by Manipuri Nartanalaya on 23rd August on his 100th birthday by Dr. Anuradha Lohia, Vice Chancellor of Presidency University at West Bengal Rajya Sangeet Natak Akademi. A large number of disciples of Guru Bipin Singh from Kolkata and also from his birthplace Silchar, from Bangladesh, Mumbai and New Delhi were present.

From among Bipin Singh’s principal disciples, Darshana Jhaveri, the youngest of the four Jhaveri sisters reminisced about their early years of training in Mumbai when Guruji had come to Mumbai after working with Madame Menaka’s Nrityalayam. He was in great demand, said Darshana. No sooner was their tuition over, the car would be waiting downstairs to take him to another student. Later on, the Jhaveri sisters made arrangements for him to stay and give them training instead of running around and devote time to research and choreographing new numbers.

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Wednesday 13 September 2017

Article - The joy of sad tales! - Padmaja Suresh

The philosophical rationalization of the esoteric science of energy, Tantra Shastra interprets into its assimilation to aesthetics.

In the Yoga of classical dances, with Nada - music and Laya - perfect tempo in movement, along with the inherent principles of a Shastra or science embodied in it, there is a mystical journey in aesthetic experience. What is it that travels, in a performance? If one is keeping the foreground as dancer-actor being extremely skilled and involved and background as a spectator with a heart to receive without bias or conditioned thoughts, one can witness this flow of empathy. This is a kind of positive energy which travels from poet to the spectator. Rasa, the bliss supreme, is in the seed and pertains until the flower or fruit. Word becomes song, written and then composed and dramatized or danced. 

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Monday 11 September 2017

Obit/Tribute - Mala Gaur (Nov 4, 1952 - Sept 8, 2017)- Ashish Mohan Khokar

Mala Gaur and students
Photo courtesy: Ambika Paniker 

Goa's prime ballet and Orissi talent and teacher passed away on 8th Sept 2017 of cancer. Mala Gaur was born on Nov 4, 1952 in Kolkata into a family that was linked to Bengali theatre and films. Moving to Delhi as a child, she was exposed to various arts - Bengali theater, dance and music - one of her older sisters being Aloka Paniker, who is the well known Orissi dancer and teacher

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Wednesday 6 September 2017

8th edition of Nrityantar's Naman Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Madhulita Mohapatra, a disciple of Aruna Mohanty, has done her guru proud. When Madhulita planned to settle down in Bangalore, Aruna lent her all assistance and support. Within a period of eight years with untiring zeal, hard work and passion Madhulita has been teaching Odissi to several young spirants and school children. Over the years she has evolved her technique of teaching children with such affection and care that they perform with confidence. Two six year old girls Shrinika and Angeleena Avnee have under her training displayed great promise as child prodigies. 

Every year in August, Madhulita's institution Nrityantar holds a two day festival Naman, showcasing the progress made by her over 200 students from six branches across Bangalore. They include senior dancers who are part of her choreographic works. She invites established Odissi dancers from Bhubaneswar to the festival with a view that not only her students but also the Bangaloreans get an opportunity to witness senior dancers. This year was an artistic coup on Madhulita's part to invite three celebrated dancers in solo performances on the second day - Sharmila Biswas from Kolkata, Aruna Mohanty from Bhubaneswar and Surupa Sen of Nrityagram from Bangalore. Therefore there was a buzz about their participation when their names were announced. And they gave their best to the Bangalore audience with their creative works.

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Monday 4 September 2017

A pedigree ensemble's classical filigree - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

If Chennai city has the distinguished sabha tradition of holding dance and music soirees throughout the holy month of Margazhi each year, the metropolis of Kolkata has grown and sustained a six-decade-old tradition of annual whole-night music concerts, terminating with the glorious Republic Day sunrise. What began in 1952 with sundry music lovers getting together to enjoy January evening's touch of cold with crystal clear classical melodies, soon gathered momentum with Narendra Singh Singhi's offer of his palatial residence precincts at Singhi Park on Dover Lane as the earmarked venue. Before long, the enthusiastic listeners made it four consecutive whole night functions every January with overwhelming demand for tickets, laced the ragas with classical dance cadenza as per audience request and shifted the location to the more commodious Nazrul Mancha. The rest, as they say, is history.

A Festival of Indian Classical Dance presented by the Dover Lane Music Conference and the Dover Lane Music Academy - both still functioning from the haloed original precincts - is now a separate and more manageable 3-day offering of four dance styles daily, barring three forms on the last evening in order to close with a celebrity dancer, allotted unlimited time. While last year the final dancer was the youthful Kathak prodigy Vishal Krishna from Banaras, this year it was Sujata Mohapatra, whose dance style was honed over 18 long years by the legendary guru Kelucharan Mohapatra after Orissa's temple friezes of engraved danseuses.

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Sunday 3 September 2017

Ratikant Mohapatra: Good art will always triumph - Lalitha Venkat

September 3 is the founding day of Srjan. As Srjan gears up to conduct the 23rd edition of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival from September 5 to 9, 2016 at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar, its director Guru Ratikant Mohapatra shares his thoughts as an organizer and choreographer. 

In a place that has dance programs and festivals through the year, what do you think makes GKMA Festival special / stand out from the rest?
The popularity of our festival can be gauged by the near riot conditions outside the hall among those who do not have invitation cards. Over the years the audience has had a taste of the meticulous preparations made for every minute of this five day festival. The audience keeps coming back, in overflowing numbers, because they have experienced the “perfectionist” attitude of our organization.

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Friday 1 September 2017

Anita says...September 2017

"We are our choices.
Build yourself a great story."
- Jeff Bezos, Founder of AMAZON 

"I am the me I choose to be."
- Actor Sidney Poitier 

The month of August brought 31 days of nonstop activity for my home town. Officially founded 379 years ago, the MADRAS WEEK celebrations have expanded to fill the entire month! Alongside India's 70th Independence Day celebrations, August turned out to be overflowing with social and cultural activity.

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Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - September 2017...