Sunday 25 February 2018

Collage of cadences - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Traditional Odissi 
In an unbroken tradition of scholarly tomes on Indian performing arts that began from before the Christian millennium and continued till Sarangadeva’s Sangeet Ratnakara in the 13th century, marked a water-shed treatise from which point, many experts believe, the Hindustani and Carnatic music went their own way. Meanwhile, new texts and manuals started appearing that covered the regional forms of the performative arts.  

Our classical dances, having evolved over the last seven decades since Independence, have now lived cheek by jowl with each other among their ardent practitioners. It is perhaps as good a time as any other to look at some of their proximate issues and examine prospects and possibilities. One may begin, for instance, from their Margams and examine how their basic exercises, abhinaya and nritta – to take only three aspects – would feature at a confluence of two nearby styles. A second angle may be the rhythms of two nearby styles’ percussion support and allow for a scrutiny as to how their sound would resonate and reverberate. Yet a third point of view may be to inject a dose of theatricality and contemporaneity, and try then to see how the classical forms innovate. In fact, such ideas can be galore, but one has to start somewhere!

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Saturday 24 February 2018

Nritya Parva 2018 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The three day Nritya Parva 2018 was held at CC Mehta Hall, Baroda with performances by young dancers. The two day morning seminar was on Literature and Dance on first morning and on other topics the next morning. Parul Shah, disciple of late Anjali Merh and former Professor at Faculty of Performing Arts at MS University, has been arranging this festival at Baroda in Anjali Merh’s memory. The whole Nritya Parva 2018 is organised by Anjali Memorial Committee, Baroda, every year since 1981. The name to the festival was coined about 10 years before. 

This year the festival was dedicated to the memory of late Shanta Serbjeet Singh, senior cultural commentator and former Vice Chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi. In the formal invitation there is an interesting quote of Shanta: “Slowly but inexorably, I believe, the wheel will come full circle. And it will move in that direction, because of two factors: one, the open-mindedness of our youth, almost 60% of the population, their hunger for discovering their roots. Look at the hordes of young people in the metros pursuing courses in even mediocre dance and music schools, lining up for auditioning for reality TV shows. You can see that, whatever their motivation at the start of their journey, they are going in the right direction. A new uninhibited relationship with dance is being forged by ordinary folk and they are returning to it in hundreds of ways as a mental, physical and spiritual anchor. Secondly, our culture is just too strong and too universally true to be put down.”

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Wednesday 21 February 2018

From the foothills of Dhauli a bouquet of arts for peace and cooperation - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Started in 2003 as a Martial Arts Festival held in the open space within the verandah of the Peace Pagoda on the Dhauli hilltop in Odisha, the Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav's enlarged version now with its venue at the foothills, embracing dance and other performance traditions, has its greatest asset in bringing together several art disciplines like poetry, music, dance incorporating rural and classical traditions, martial arts, and above all for an animated active audience of over two thousand eagerly watching the proceedings on each of the three days (Feb 9-11, 2018). And this in an isolated place far from the capital of Bhubaneswar! With special buses arranged (courtesy Orissa Dance Academy under Aruna Mohanty, now organising the festival for Odisha Tourism, taking over from Ileana Citaristi, the original organiser of the martial arts festival at the hilltop) to ply to and from Bhubaneswar during the festival days, it is the young students from various colleges and training centres who form the audience - a very heartening trend and one not seen in other cities for dance events.

Dance comes as the final expression incorporating many disciplines, like poetry, music, rhythm, along with the consciousness of body lines depicted in sculpture and drawing - and in the Guru Gangadhar Pradhan Smruti Samman (in memory of late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan), the selection of awardees highlights this approach of recognising all inputs contributing to the dance. This year's selection had Dr. S.K. Tamotia (Dean, Director General and Vice Chairman of Bhavan's Centre for Communication and Management), Atulya Mahakud (lyricist, actor, script writer for Odiya cinema), Doordarshan and for dance, Dhaneswar Swain, the brilliant mardal expert whose contribution to dance is immeasurable, and Bhagiratha Das Odissi Bastra Karigara (designer and maker of costumes).

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Tuesday 20 February 2018

The making of Mahagami - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

How does a performing arts institution in India germinate, grow and gather momentum? What are its birth pangs like? How does it overcome the initial hurdles and hardships? What kind of planning process is called for at its multiple stages of progress, with a sampling of its products? And, can there be a final cheer alongside a cherished dream? Here is the connected story - from absolute nothing to a near pinnacle of sweet success of Mahagami Gurukul in Aurangabad, the heritage city of India, providing the gateway to Ajanta and Ellora.

At its core has to be a seed of demand-supply matching, even for performative arts which need to create its own environment. As a wit observed, "Culture is man-made environment." Within the 70-acre arid campus of Mahatma Gandhi Mission, its spirited Chairman had an early vision of a centre of technology, medicine, fine arts, dance, music and a lot besides. Einstein said once, "Visions are only hallucinations, until experimented." MGM Chairman and his Secretary - both staunch Gandhians and devout art-lovers - believed that education in its different forms could change the face of society and took on the daunting task to transform a barren land into a universally accepted learning centre where students from different shores would gather to get groomed in sundry disciplines.

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First edition of Kalaashish Dance Festival: Nritya Ganga - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Asavari Pawar, daughter of London based celebrated Kathak exponent Pratap Pawar, the first gandabandh shishya of Pandit Birju Maharaj, organized under the aegis of Kalaashish, a dance festival at Delhi's ICCR Azad Bhavan auditorium featuring late Kathak exponent Arjun Mishra's son Anuj Mishra and his troupe, Belgium based Odissi, Bharatanatyam and contemporary dancer Sooraj Subramaniam and Polish modern dancer Andre Kamienski, and leading Seraikella Chhau dancer Shashadhar Acharya and his troupe in a two day festival. 

On the first day, it was Asavari's father Pratap Pawar who performed traditional Kathak. He has turned 70 and in his honour Asavari began this new institution with a series of performances. On second day, she began with Shiva stuti displaying the technique she has mastered under guidance of her father. She has a charming and endearing personality, free from any attitude and displays a certain range of innocence. In Bhairavi Tillana choreographed by Pratap Pawar, her troupe excelled in performing energetic Kathak with aplomb. 

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Thursday 15 February 2018

G. M. Sarma (1936-2017): A tribute - Madhavi Puranam

We condole the sad demise of our founder publisher, Garikapati Muralidhar Sarma (April 2, 1936-Dec 18, 2017), the brain and the prime mover of Nartanam. I do not quote the great bard when I say that G.M.Sarma garu, as he was popularly known, was a man who was "born great" and also "achieved greatness"; Sarma was such. He was born with a suave and sensitive persona, which possessed an innate love for arts. He attained greatness with a finer sensibility of a connoisseur who served as an altruistic patron of Kuchipudi and dance at large. But his was an unsung greatness. 

You cannot find him on google and there is nothing written about him anywhere. He was a man not connected with dance in any way other than being an interested spectator. 

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Rediscovering a scholarly legacy - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Indian performing arts traditions are remarkably rich in scholarly treaties. Placed around the onset of Christian era, Bharata’s Naṭya Shastra is probably the earliest known arts compendium in the world and notable as an ancient encyclopedic treatise that influenced dance, music and literary traditions in India. Its text comprised 36 chapters with a cumulative total of 6,000 poetic verses describing performing arts and inspired secondary literature of Sanskrit Bhashyas(reviews and commentaries), as compiled by Abhinava Gupta in the 10th century and by Nandideva in the 10-11th century. Nandikeshvara, regarded by many as a rival of Bharata, was the author of Abhinaya Darpana (The Mirror of Gestures) in the 2nd century, used often as a reference text for both Bharatanatyam and Kathak today. Matanga’s Brihaddeshi, pertaining to Indian classical music and written in 6th-8th centuries, was the first treatise that spoke directly of the raga and distinguished the classical (margi) and the folk (desi). It also introduced Sargam notation, discussing musical scales and micro-tonal intervals, as clarifications of Natya Shastra on which its author had based his work.

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Tuesday 13 February 2018

National seminar on Music and Dance and Kathak Museum - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Bhatkhande Deemed University, Lucknow, organized a two day national seminar (Jan 28 & 29, 2018) on training and presentation of classical Indian music and dance arranged on their premises. Shruti Sadolikar Katkar, the celebrated Hindustani vocalist of Jaipur -Atrauli gharana is the present Vice Chancellor. Under her dynamic leadership, the University has undertaken several projects and once again placed the Bhatkhande Deemed University on the cultural map of India. Established by Shri Bhatkhande in1920, it has been an important centre of classical Hindustani music. Bhatkhande used to say that even if we cannot produce many Tansens, we can produce hundreds of Kansens, the connoisseurs of classical music. His epoch making work is well known. 

Lucknow with its cultural history is a major centre for training and promoting classical Indian Hindustani music and also dance. At the University besides Kathak, training is also given in Bharatanatyam and Manipuri. Lucknow has been the main centre for Lucknow gharana of Kathak with a long history.

The seminar had a specific focus on the training and performance of classical music and dance. Shruti Sadolikar in her keynote address placed forth main conceptual norms for training of classical music. Right from the riyaz - practice of music - how it has to be dealt with.

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Monday 12 February 2018

Adiyal Vinnappam (A Devadasi’s Appeal)

The mid January furor in Tamilnadu over the comments of film lyricist Vairamuthu against the mystic saint poet ANDAL brought several voices to the fore. Amidst the cacophony of death threats and menacing comments about the revered Andal’s poetic genius and inspiration, came the realisation that she was one historical figure who had ignited the spark of Tamizh pride, Beyond, caste and gender, ANDAL was claimed by some as MOTHER and others as SISTER. 

Musicologist, Dance afficionado, guardian of important Carnatic traditions and a keen observer of the performing arts, Sujata Vijayaraghavan has written these lines in Tamizh with an accompanying English translation.

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Friday 9 February 2018

Interview - Sandhya Raman: More dancers should get serious about costumes - Shveta Arora

When we watch a dance performance, the first impression which lasts through the performance and stays with us afterwards too, is the costume of the dancer. The costume can also make or mar a performance —the colours, the pattern and the extent of mobility it allows, its comfort etc. Sandhya Raman is one of the leading dance stylists, designing for some top dancers in India and abroad. In a conversation with her at her Desmania Studio in Delhi, we try to understand her work. 

How did you get into designing? 
My training is from NID (the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad). Before NID, I was doing textiles in an export house for a year-and-a-half. My boss there wanted me to do fashion, and I knew nothing about fashion. He said it’s not so difficult, draw fashion figures, you can do fashion designing. I would be very frustrated, because I would do some 200 sketches and only 4 or 5 would get picked up. Then I worked with this French designer who came to the export house. I would keep looking at how she drew - this is way back in 1987-88, when fashion was nothing great here. India was just a produce-and-send place. When I saw this woman do so much of it, I thought I should learn fashion. My boss never understood that textiles and fashion are two different areas and he can’t get the same thing from one person. But today, I think differently, after being trained in both areas. 

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Wednesday 7 February 2018

Classical and contemporary conundrums - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

India has a treasure trove of scintillating myths that have endured for centuries. Laden with layers of meanings and interpretations, these myths have provided continuing sustenance to the intellectual and spiritual ethos of its simple folks as well as discerning individuals. Culled from the epics and puranas, and myriad folklores, they have been a fountainhead of inspiration for all the classical dances of the land. Contemporary dances too, though less frequently, have derived inspiration from these perpetual sources.

It has been a favourite thesis with this critic that in our exhilarating modern times when the role of fate in the human affairs has lost some of its sheen, science and its cohorts have unravelled much of the secrets of life, and technology has made severe inroads into all lifestyle activities - - our dances must try to re-imagine the myths and re-map them in their visualisatiion in the light of modern sensibilities. A good paradigm can be seen in the celluloid world where the simplistic storytelling, the life-size archetypal chacterisation and the narratives leading to easily surmised ends have yielded to far more nuanced treatments of theme and subtle depiction of psyche of the dramatis personae has become the order of the day. Could our dances follow suit? 

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Tuesday 6 February 2018

Delectable Kathak recitals in Delhi - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Aditi Mangaldas's two choreographic works
Celebrated Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas, disciple of Kumudini Lakhia and Pt Birju Maharaj, has charted her own path in Kathak dance. Trained in classical Kathak she has had distinct advantage of traditional Kathak under Birju Maharaj and looking at classical Kathak from contemporary angle under Kumudini Lakhia. Her work 'Within' presented at Delhi's Kamani Hall on Jan 18, 2018 by Natya Ballet Centre was divided into two parts: 'Knotted' which is choreographed as contemporary Kathak and 'Unwrapped' choreographed in classical Kathak. 

Divya Goswami's delectable Kathak recital

Disciple of Pune based Yogini Gandhi in Kathak for fifteen years and currently studying under Lucknow gharana's Munna Shukla, Divya Goswami has imbibed the best of Kathak. In her exposition there is no razzle dazzle, though one sees speed but also restraint. What they say in Urdu/Hindi, the word shukun, which stands for pleasurable quietude, is seen in Divya's dance.

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Obit/Tribute - Vempati Ravi Shankar: A complete artist - Shantala Shivalingappa

It was a sad day indeed when Kuchipudi has lost one of its greatest artists much too soon: Vempati Ravi Shankar. He was the perfect embodiment of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam's style, rendering the very demanding form with a flawless technique and an utterly graceful and powerful body language, conveying the deep emotion and energy of Kuchipudi in a most compelling way. A supremely elegant, refined and devoted dancer, he was a mesmerizing performer. He understood all the intricacies and complexities of Kuchipudi, mastering the entire gamut of components in detail, from the deeper meaning behind the wording of the compositions, the mythological sources, the subtleties of the musical compositions, the principles and details of rhythmic patterns as adapted to dance, the vocabulary of Kuchipudi as designed by his father....he was a complete artist.

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Thursday 1 February 2018

Anita says...February 2018

February 1, 2018

The arts of Asia are blessed with the syncretic traditions of interior monologues and societal change. Not so the European models of performance that relegated myth and the human spirit in the care of the Church and performance to only reflect secular themes. This dismissal of stylization and a relaxation into naturalism has caused so much of Western performance traditions to be lost.
- Joseph Campbell
The Ecstasy of Being

It was a month of tumultuous words and events that left many of us heart sick and exhausted. The volume and velocity of hate against women who are no longer with us to defend themselves or have their stories heard - vicious and unrelenting attacks against female performers and poets -  in my home state of Tamilnadu has seen the ugly head of MISOGYNY and HYPOCRISY surface in the very first month of the year.

2018 is the Chinese year of the DOG - an animal that is considered intelligent, faithful and intuitive. It is also a synonym for CUR - a pejorative for a dumb, idiotic, addlebrained MAN who devours and demolishes creative women as “immoral”. The D word continued to haunt the cultural and political space all through December and January. D for Devadasi. D for Devouring. D for Destruction. D for Desecration.

Between the headline grabbing comments of musician TM Krishna about Carnatic musician MS SUBBULAKSHMI and film lyricist Vairamuthu against mystic poet-goddess ANDAL, the Tamil community around the world was up in arms and social media was afire with the most foul and vitriolic stream of diatribe.

Women today who dance, sing, sculpt, act, paint and write have all been inspired by those incredible women who held their own in a man’s world conscripted by Kings, Nobles and  Zamindars. To use these creative women as a deck of cards to be dealt and gathered up at will is both cruel and dangerous. To use caste again and again to either demean or insult other communities only reveals how little India has progressed in its 70th year of independence. What is even worse is to use the D for DASI word to slander not only the women featured in the speeches but also to tarnish an entire community of hereditary women as foul and tainted. How terrible and troubling this is! 

It was also a month of revelations. That mystic poet/goddess ANDAL has power and commands collective devotion amongst ALL TAMILS who gathered in many cities and towns in protest of Vairamuthu’s comments came as a surprise to many. For a week ANDAL became among the top ten searches on Google! The protest against TM Krishna’s comment about MSS was contained to the dance and music community and relatively more niche in comparison.

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Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - February 2018