Tuesday 30 October 2018

A post-Plassey phantasmagoria - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Tagore wrote perceptively: The weighing scales of the shopkeeper reappeared as the royal sceptre once the night was over... The poet's allusion was to the ignominious Battle of Plassey (Palashi, in Bengali), waged near the then capital Murshidabad in 1757 between the Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, and the British East India Company, and led by Colonel Robert Clive and Admiral Watson. The British, worried about being outnumbered, formed a conspiracy with Siraj-ud-Daulah's demoted army chief Mir Jafar, along with others such as Jagat Seths (Mahtab Chand and Swarup Chand), Umichand, Rai Ballav, Rai Durlabh and others. The conspirators assembled their troops near the battlefield but made no move to actually join the battle. Siraj-ud-Daulah's army with 50,000 soldiers, 40 cannons and 10 war elephants was defeated by 3,000 soldiers of Robert Clive, owing to the flight of the Nawab from the battlefield and the inactivity of the conspirators.

Judged to be one of the pivotal battles for the control of Indian subcontinent by the colonial powers, the battle - lasting only 11 hours on a hot June day -- paved the way for the British to wield enormous influence over the Nawab and consequently acquired significant compensations for previous losses and fresh revenue from trade. The British further used the money to increase their military might and push the other European colonial powers such as the Dutch and the French out of South Asia, thus leading to the eventual rise of the British Empire. 

Mir Jafar, presented on September 25 in Kolkata by Kalindi Bratyajon, recapitulated on a grand scale the turbulent time period ranging from four months after that historic battle in 1757 till the year 1764, just before the battle of Buxar, waged by Mir Kasim as one final effort to dislodge the usurping British traders, but to be decisively quashed by the latter. In the play, the murky annals of Bengal were played out almost like a fantasia: as a sequence of real or imaginary images quite often like that seen in a dream. 

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Seeking an institutional framework: #MeToo and the unorganized domain of dance and music - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

Was the last column clairvoyant? Just about fifteen days after I wrote the "Me too in Dance" column, formally tilted"#TimesUp", and It is Your Time Now: Why the dance world needs to think about #MeToo", inspired by the #MeToo exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum at Toronto, the #MeToo broke out in India, first with Tanushree Dutta's outing of Nana Patekar, icon of regional pride, and then the outing of Minister of State for External Affairs, M. J. Akbar's toxic abuse of his editorial power, through acts of sexual harassment, by no less than twenty women journalists. 

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Sunday 28 October 2018

Book Review - Dancing into eternity: Life and work of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Lalitha Venkat

Reams have been written about the legendary Odissi Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, who was one of the key figures in the Jayantika Movement of the 1950s, that was instrumental in getting classical dance status for Odissi, as a major classical dance style of India. His son Ratikant Mohapatra, Director, Srjan, who is diligently carrying forward his father’s legacy, pays his tribute in his own special way.  The pictorial tribute DANCING INTO ETERNITY - AN ENDEARING VIEW OF HIS MULTIFACETED LIFE AND WORK: GURU KELUCHARAN MOHAPATRA published by Ratikant Mohapatra, was formally released on September 9, 2018 at Bhubaneswar on the final day of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival.

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Friday 26 October 2018

Natarani theatre: A gift to the performing arts - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

By fortuitous circumstances and also because of serendipity, call it just luck, to be at the right place at the right time, I have been able to cherish so many moments of my career as a dance critic, researcher and a writer. Among them, one is of inauguration of Natarani open air theatre at Ahmedabad many years ago as a tribute to that legendary diva, Mrinalini Sarabhai. The performing arts scene since then in Ahmedabad has changed so much.

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Tuesday 23 October 2018

Creativity in classical orbs - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Is the spinning earth spinning out of control with its overload of human problems? Large segments of humanity, swathed and overwhelmed under depraved conditions -- without any fault of theirs -- are virtually beggars at the doors of the more fortunate and the affluent. At the other end, is the gap between the world of artistic expression and this horrific social reality of today's world becoming an over-widening chasm? Is our artistic reaction to our times aimed at all towards interpreting the ever-widening divisions created by hate and greed, through art's message of peace and harmony? Can Indian classical dance, in particular, play a role -- as was poignantly asked by the dance connoisseur Anita Ratnam, in one of her recent perceptive comments -- beyond depicting endlessly the images and icons to the tunes of the ethereal song, Krishna ni begane baro...?

Sangam presented on September 29 in Bhubaneswar by Art Vision, took up this challenge. ....

Artha Shringara directed by Sandhya Purecha, followed as another highly innovative item, derived from her research on theory and practice of Kalasa Karana and Sthanaka-Mandala Bheda.....

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Wednesday 17 October 2018

Article - #MeToo : Need of the hour - Establishing redressal mechanisms - Ananda Shankar Jayant

The #MeToo movement showing the darker side of many, from the worlds of cinema, arts, publishing etc., also brings to light the complete non-existence of a redressal machinery whatsoever, in these sectors.

The implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and the earlier 1997 Vishakha guidelines, has seen most of us bureaucrats, serve on these Committees, conduct detailed enquiries leading indicting many, and recommending to the administration various degrees of punishment, even as we also sifted through many false allegations. These Committees are taken very seriously and over the years, this robust system has emerged as a powerful deterrent factor, making the Government workplace much safer, as has a strong and empowered HR, for Corporate enterprises.

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Sunday 14 October 2018

Of interpretations, Indic thoughts and dance dilemmas: A tale of twin cities - Dr. Sujatha Maringanti

As a keen observer of the cultural scene for well over a decade, I attempt to make sense out of a cultural phase that my city is going through. Let me conjure up a magic carpet and take the readers along. 

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Saturday 13 October 2018

Performances at the 2nd Nartanam Conclave - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Along with the day-long discussions on Music for Dance, evening performances were organized for four evenings of the 2nd edition of the Nartanam Conclave from Oct 5-8, 2018 at Hyderabad. It was in fitness of the things, as the participants and audience got a better understanding and appreciation of music for dance.

On the opening night, Pune based Shama Bhate's four dancers presented traditional Kathak dance to recorded music of a very high order. Each of the four dancers displayed a thorough training in Kathak and sound understanding of music. Parampara Ke Pada Chinha, the impress of footprints of tradition, was revealed in Shama Bhate's group compositions. In Shiva Vandana, the use of Om Namah Shivaya was imaginative. The rarefied atmosphere was evoked. Isham Ganesham, Gunatita rupam, Bhasvaram bhasmanga bhushita - five aspects were explored artistically. It was followed by Tarana in Todi raga. The synchronization was perfect. The use of tatkar, footwork, in seven beats Rupak tala, amad, paran, uthan ke tukde, expressions of body line, upaj ki tatkar, in Natwari the dugun ki bandish, were highly enjoyable for technical excellence.

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Friday 12 October 2018

The spark and the sparkle - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Suddenly the stage was all ablaze. Fiery particles were thrown from the performing faces, limbs and torsos, scattering in all directions and lighting up the surroundings. Suddenly, the bemused spectators discovered that they were in for - no, not the traditional Kathak, but for unmitigated innovation, offered only by the likes of Akram Khan and Aditi Mangaldas that glitter and glisten in the dark. The relatively arid dance scenario of Kolkata offered, for a change, fruits of imagination that did not vitiate the rigorous canons of the hoary style one bit, but soared the sky on wings of sheer, scintillating joy, in the glow of creativity.  Nava Disha presented on September 10-11 as the annual festival of Upasana Centre of Dance steered by Ashimbandhu Bhattacharya, was devoted to a wave of unbridled creativity on the second evening, as witnessed by this critic. 

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Wednesday 10 October 2018

Experts discuss theatre today and cultural transformation - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

“I can think only with theatre, because theatre has its own word syllables to express itself,” said Ratan Thiyam - one of the greatest post independent theatre personalities of India - speaking under Art Matters series of the Raza Foundation. He thought of theatre as a contemporary conversation between performer and spectator. Taking Bhasa’s liberalism on the one hand and Bharata’s code and art prescriptions on the other as examples, Thiyam maintained that theatre could be very simple or very complicated.  Inclusive of all other art disciplines in its totality, Theatre, the speaker said is also a relationship with empty space and sound.

Calling it a courageous and bold art form, Ratan Thiyam maintained that Theatre is ultimately a language of protest and in the last 2500 years, he said that no work had hesitated to stir and attack the establishment. Indian theatre’s uniqueness while creating a dialogue with people lay in its regard for soundaryabodh or aesthetics according to him, with dance and music too as part of it.

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Saturday 6 October 2018

Mallika Sarabhai's Mother River is an unusual work - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Mother River, Mallika Sarabhai’s latest choreographic work directed by Yadavan Chandran for the world premiere of newly renovated Natarani theatre at Ahmedabad on Sept 21, 2018, was an unusual work. Breathtaking, innovative, using latest state-of-art technology, breaking notions that only men can play drums, she has eight to ten young female dancers striking drums with vigour, suggesting women power, drumming to a variety of musical genres, connecting few episodes not immediately comprehensible, but on reflection, making sense, connecting the non-narrative elements. Before the performance starts, in the plaza, we hear, as we do when in Kerala before the Kathakali performance, the sound of chenda drumming announcing the play to take place. 

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Friday 5 October 2018

Interview - The role of accompanying artists in dance - Shveta Arora

Just a few years back, musicians accompanying dancers live would be seen sitting on one side of the stage, facing the dancer. At the end of the performance, their names would be announced and that would be about all the credit that they got. But these musicians that we are going to talk about have been seen sitting either with their backs or their faces towards the audience, being very much a part of the performance, in the frame with the dancer. It is then that you come to realise that they are one of the building blocks that go into the formation of a production. 

Faraz Ahmed, Mohit Gangani and Ashish Gangani are all members of Aditi Mangaldas’ Drishtikon repertory. Faraz is the seventh generation of the respected Moradabad gharana, continuing the tradition in Hindustani classical vocals and sarangi. Mohit and Ashish are from the famous and widespread Gangani clan of the Jaipur gharana, known for Kathak and percussion. All three are now fixtures in every production and performance by Aditi and Drishtikon.

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Wednesday 3 October 2018

Fury, frustration and family heirloom - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

When the curtain opens, there is a splendid disarray of furniture, bedsteads, upholstery, almirahs and what not, lying in decrepitude for last thirty years or so, when the father died in relative penury.  In this milieu, gradually gathers a motley crowd, each with his or her own agenda. First to arrive is a police sergeant, approaching his fiftieth birthday and heading for retirement. Although a bright student, he had given up going to college to support his father and had often gone through very hard days to eke out an existence, often unable to eat two square meals a day. After 30 years, he has returned to sell his parents’ estate and looks forward to coming to examine the root causes as to why he had to put up with his life-long sacrifice. His wife, a fairly self-effacing house-maker, is still frustrated why her husband had to be so supportive of his self-willed father and would not mind seeing the end of their lowly standard of life. Then there is the elder brother, a successful doctor, who deserted the family quite early in life in quest of greener pastures and never bothered to support the parents thereafter -- to whom the younger sibling had not spoken in years. Finally, there is the wily antique dealer, an octogenarian, who has come to bid for the property in his own crafty terms. 

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Monday 1 October 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - October 2018

Anita says...October 2018

My castle, formed by bows of light
I led my armies to the field of existence
Melodic voices, my banners in the eternal war
Fine threads, my armour in the fluid body
- Greek designer Ionna Kourbella

You are all reading this as I am en route back home after a 5 week tour of two continents.

What does it mean to tour? To pack and unpack all the elements of costume, props, sets and SELF from one theatre to another? From one city to another? From hot and humid to dry and windy? What kind of toll does it take when you are not accompanied by a core team who understands and anticipates your needs? How do you communicate and coordinate the social, technical and artistic demands of the work, each time to a new set of people? 

It has been exhausting, rewarding, irritating, gratifying, uplifting, depressing but overall, FULFILLING!

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