Sunday, 20 September 2020

Roses and Thorns - In response to TM Krishna's article - Ramaa Venugopalan

('The guru-shishya structure is inherently prone to abuse. It needs to be demolished'

T.M. Krishna writes: The guru-shishya relationship in Indian music is grounded not just in a power imbalance, but in a celebration of inequality, which makes it vulnerable to abuse, which is then romanticised.

My response to T.M. Krishna's article in the Indian Express dated Sept 19, 2020
On this 'one' account I agree with his thoughts. At least he has the guts to consistently call out and speak about this issue. What is pertinent is the last line in this article (because enough has been said about the other aspects he addresses).

"In the guru-shishya parampara of Indian "classical" music and dance, rarely can a shishya stand up against her or his guru and hope to survive another day."

First off, to call a teacher imparting arts a Guru is problematic for me. As he says let's just address it as domain experts. The power play comes mostly in teachers who are performers themselves. When one is a popular performer, the adulation is beyond comprehension. Calling them deities, Gods and Goddesses of the art form... whatever else, is the problem. By practicing a performing art form, one cannot by default become divine. Two, a student who ventures or seeks to learn from such a star without doubt wants to imbibe those qualities to make them the next God or Goddess and also garner the popularity and opportunities that catapult them into that position. This is the truth! It's transactional in that sense.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

"Obit/Tribute - My tribute to my Guru - Navina Jafa

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, once called the Czarina of Indian Culture, was a legendary scholar on Indian culture. An administrator, institution builder, scholar, and dancer all packed in one. Her comprehension of the journey in understanding the seeds lying in the internal soils of India and Asia to the ephemeral fragrance was unmatched. My journey with her started at the age of 10 and a half when she was our neighbor in Satya Marg. We often shared time over dinners, shopping, and walks. She became my affiliated guide for my Ph.D. along with Dr. Narayani Gupta at the Jamia Milia Islamic. Here are some excerpts from my diary:

"How can you go to the fragrance of a flower? Well, you need to understand the soil in which the seed is nurtured, then the journey of the plant, and then the flower. But most times, the journey begins and ends with the fragrance, something that dissolves as soon as it is released."

Friday, 18 September 2020

Obit/Tribute - Tribute to Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan - V.P. Dhananjayan

The passing away of Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan creates a vacuum in the arts and cultural field of Bhaaratam. An erudite scholar and cultural activist par excellence she drew high reverence from all quarters of our society, for her steadfast nature and contributions she made to keep our cultural ethos flying aloft in the international arena.

Read more in the site

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

UPAJ - Improvisation in Kathak: Column by Janaki Patrik

Classical north Indian Kathak dance has been my life's work. Having studied since 1967 during extended periods with India's pre-eminent Kathak dancer and guru Pt. Birju Maharaj, I have witnessed many of his solo performances, given many performances of my own and seen many performances by other Kathak artistes. Over the more than 50-year period of my life as a Kathak artiste, I've also had a chance to analyze the components of this great classical dance tradition.

Improvisation is one of those components which has fascinated me since I first saw Pt. Birju Maharaj perform in 1963 and was mesmerized. His performance did not appear to be composed. It appeared to be effortlessly improvised. When I decided in that moment to become a Kathak dancer, I wanted to learn everything, and especially improvisation.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Interview - Reading 'The Poetic Saree' - Rashika Ojha

 While meditating, the mind takes a plunge inwards from the laughter of the outside to the silence of the inside. Treading this journey is like going through a catharsis of emotions but what happens when the inner self is constantly talking to you... then there is just dialogue. When Jaya Mehta talks with her inner self, she 'spills' over 'melody' of poetry and gives birth to a new idea or genre of poetry, 'Dance Poetry' as beautifully described by the renowned poet, playwright and philosopher Dr. H.S. Shivaprakash in praise of the book 'The Poetic Saree.'

Read more in the site

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Stree vesham and a stree without parallel - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Exalted evening of Shakespearean classics inspired Kathakali stree vesham

The inspiration behind the elegantly organised Kathakali event by the Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, was a book on Stree Vesham in Kathakali (Shubhi Publication) by exponent Prabal Gupta, dedicated to two famous people in the world of dance who changed his career - the most important being his Guru Sadanam P. V Balakrishnan, groomed under stalwarts like Kalluvazhi Ittirarissa Menon Asan, Pattikamtodi Ravunni Menon and the eminent teacher, innovator whom the guru regards as his role model for life namely, Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair Asan. The second person is Mohiniattam dancer/guru Bharati Shivaji who as Prabal's first dance mentor was instrumental in steering his aptitude for lasya oriented dance towards stree vesham in Kathakali for which she deemed he was a more suitable candidate.....

Remembering the dance legend Shanta Rao
A 'formidable lady' in more senses than one, Shanta Rao was one of those rare dancers, who will never have a second to equal her. And yet, but for the book Dances of the Golden Hall authored by Ashoke Chatterjee and a clutch of extraordinary photographs of her by Sunil Janah, images of this dancer, who lived in her own private world and whose magnetic almost masculine energy in dancing became a byword in the lasya immersed Mohiniattam world, would have been totally unknown. Great minds were arrested by the electric quality of her dance. 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Article - The quest of a yearning heart - Sudha Sridhar

 The incredibly intriguing journey in the realm of art world keeps one on the edge of emotions ranging from that of the pleasant to the most painful while a mystical quest keeps guiding all through.

As a student in pursuit of learning the art form, the heart yearns for a Guru to take one through the rough and tough and reach the acme of the art world knowledge wise. This yearning gets transformed when the same heart reaches the stage of a teacher or Guru yearning for or crying out for transferring the knowledge to discerning students. It is in this context, that one can see how pivotal and paramount the role of the Guru in the art world is. It is akin to how a spiritual aspirant needs to be kept on course on the river of life - Samaskara Sagaram - under the watchful eyes and guidance of the Guru to reach the ultimate goal of life. Any diversion or distraction from the main goal makes the aspirant settle on the banks of the river under the influence of their samaskaras be it good or bad, both unequivocally altering the course of the journey.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

A piece based on several questions about dance - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

As the title suggests, this piece is about questions. Questions are important. Not because they get us the answers, but they get us understanding. The right question at the right time can enrich a learning experience, or embed it more permanently in memory. A question creates a needle-point of light which in a jiffy can grow into a glowing orb, even as it suggests darkness. It jabs and fingers at the mind, then burrows in like a drill. These little fragments of curiosity, that get at the marrow of important issues, resonate, throb, linger and finally open up vast spaces of understanding. The great Greek philosopher Socrates subscribed very strongly to the importance of questions in enhancing knowledge. These disciplined questions Socrates believed, would enable the examination of ideas, determine the validity of those ideas, and pursue the thought in many directions and for many purposes. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that the former is systematic, disciplined, deep and usually focused on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.

Read more in the site

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Kathak and Dhrupad: Hand in hand - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Both Kathak dance and Dhrupad music are steeped in hoary history of this subcontinent.

Kathak having been danced in the Mughal courts is well documented, with the Agra Fort (and perhaps Delhi's Purana Qila) having resonated to the ghungrus of the petite dancers. While Emperor Akbar was known to have been privy to this dance, Jehangir was reputed to have conceived the costume of Kathak as is known today. On the other side, Srimad Bhagavat mentions Dhruvapad and Krishnapad in synonymous terms, sung devoutly in Vrindavan from the 15th century onwards. While Akbar had Govind temple built in his time, Shri Chaitanya sent Jeev Goswamy and Roop Goswamy all the way from Bengal to restore the Vaishnava temples in Vrindavan. These ace disciples of Mahaprabhu were instrumental in building the Radharaman temple in the 16th century, still redolent with Ras Leela in Kathak form alongside Bhagavat music.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Article - Phoenix: Rising from ashes of modernity - Priyakshi Agarwal

I should begin expressing my motivation for joining the Course by saying that I was born and went to ‘Government’ ‘Girls’ Higher Secondary School with instructions in Hindi for 16 initial years of my life in the village of Banera in the South-East of Rajasthan in India. This is not to begin from the original location in chronological order and claim any indigeneity but rather to mark this point of departure as a constitutive condition of my journey with dance and my practice. I participated in complex dances in my village such as Ghoomar, Terah Tali in innumerable festivals in the village, marriage celebrations, state celebrations of Independence Day and Republic Day at the school. I navigated them through a sense of movement and formations, community and space before I came to recognize them as ‘folk dances of Rajasthan’. It was also quite later on that I came to see being raised in a middle-class joint family of 16 people - the obstructions to my requests to dance, creation of hostile conditions towards my desire of expression through my movements, constant demand of duty and care, making it clear to me in no fuzzy terms my role in society - the iron curtain of ‘Girls don’t go out’ as continued violence of a paternalist society.

Read more in the site

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Anita says...September 2020

 In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.

In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the mist of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy.
For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me,
Within me, there's something stronger -
Something better, pushing right back

- Albert Camus, Nobel Laureate, philosopher, author, journalist

We are in month #6 in India's state of the pandemic. There is still much uncertainty and fear. However, August brought its fair share of drama, theatre, great dialogue, high emotions, tears, chest beating, wailing, public confessions and pompous posturing. A truly gripping reality show of dance-theatre!

Friday, 28 August 2020

Profile - Guru Gopinath and Kerala Natanam - G. Venu

Guru Gopinath and his wife Thankamani are dazzling artistes who shone upon the 20th century history of Kathakali, Mohiniyattam and Contemporary Dance. I had joined as a student under Guru Gopinath after he opened Viswa Kala Kendra at Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram in 1963. At that time he was the most well known dancer of Kerala. The newspapers and other journals of the day gave a lot of coverage to his performances both in India and abroad. I had become an ardent devotee of Guru Gopinath after seeing the photographs of his Navarasa-s that was published in a magazine. The expressions that unfolded upon his perfect dancer's face always held a unique charisma and radiance.

Born into the rich heritage of Kathakali in Kuttanad, a treasure house of performing art forms in southern Kerala, Gopinathan had received training in Kathakali under stalwarts like Chambakulam Paramu Pillai, Mathoor Kunjupillai Paniker, Guru Kunchu Kurup and Chengannur Raman Pillai for seven or eight years before joining Kerala Kalamandalam. He belonged to the first batch of students at Kalamandalam which was opened by the great poet Vallathol Narayana Menon in 1930. His class mates included Krishnan Nair (later, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair), Sivaraman (Ananda Sivaram), Madhavan (Kalamandalam Madhavan) and Kelu Nair. Great artistes like Guru Kunchu Kurup, Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon and Vellinezhi Nanu Nair were among the teachers at Kalamandalam then. Gopinathan, however, joined the American dancer Ragini Devi to form a new dance troupe, with the permission of Vallathol. Ragini Devi had visited Kalamandalam at that time. It later proved to be a great turning point in the history of Kerala's dance forms.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Article - Complexion Complexities - Kasi Aysola


Makeup is transformative. Whether it be performance makeup or just a lipstick - we become.

What entails are best practices I have developed over the years of working as a makeup artist. I started doing my makeup myself at the age of twelve. I remember looking at myself and wondering why I looked so angry, only to realize my eyebrows were drawn too aggressively! You live and you learn. My most favorite make overs are the ones that hit home - Indians.

New normal: Dancing behind doors - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

 Since the most trying times are beating this sub-continent down from March last, the performing arts have, among several other domains, perhaps taken the hardest knock. Deprived of its usual soirees with appreciative clientele, all the performances have disappeared from the responsive public gaze and hearing, vanishing with the consequent patronage and succor. These arts are now busy devising their own trysts with technology, to ensure “virtual” space for practice and performance, replacing their physical, audio-visual space they have been used to so long.

Amidst the prevailing conditions and concerns, since each such artiste has to fall back on his or her own resources, this critic felt it was important to take a quick stock of the efforts being made and outcomes being expected, so that there is some mutual sharing of knowledge and taking note of each other's experience and corrective actions. A survey was, therefore, attempted among several major gurus who run large dance institutions in the eastern metropolis, asking them to briefly introduce their dance bodies and respond to the following four questions:

1 - How are you conducting online your teaching / learning classes and exercises?

2 - How do you propose to hold online evaluation / test of the students, after their learning process is over?

3 - How are you planning to produce online performances / hold online seminars / conduct online workshops?

4 - How will you be recruiting online fresh students and assessing their suitability?

The replies received are summarized -- alphabetically arranged under the gurus' names.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

U..... = You: The reader - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

 U. Last of the vowels before I throw in the towel (I'm just rhyming.... Though towels and tissues are very relevant these days of being extra sanitised and sensitised to personal hygiene)...

U= You, the reader. The audience. The recipient of all that is done in the arts, say, our dance field specifically. Are you a rasika? Are you a patron? Are you a viewer or reviewer willing to surrender to art more than the artiste? Are you willing to support the arts? Are you willing to buy a ticketed show? Are you really interested (enough to leave 10% in your will, to cause of art and artistes)? Are you ready to suffer "bad" shows? Are there any bad shows or philosophically speaking, nothing is good or bad, it just is?

Monday, 24 August 2020

Book Review - Celluloid Classicism by Hari Krishnan, Wesleyan University Press - Joël Riou

This review of a book is an invitation to the Bharatanatyam dance fraternity to engage seriously with the history of this dance form. Doing so requires nuance, care and awareness of its complexity as it is woven with many different layers. On the one hand, some discourses place the origin of Bharatanatyam into an idealised ancient past of sacred dance, but on the other hand, almost all the repertoire that is eulogised as traditional originates in court practices, especially from the Thanjavur Maratha Kingdom. Yet, shortly after a social “reform” jeopardised the way of life of hereditary practitioners, an élite initiated a so-called aesthetic “revival” in the 1930s. These categories were wonderfully examined in an article published by Amrit Srinivasan in 1985, Reform and Revival - The Devadasi and Her Dance. Nowadays, some people are still using the trope of “degeneration” in order to legitimize a cultural appropriation.

Read more in the site

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Article - Empowerment through Bharatanatyam - Tejsree Beharee

 Throughout the world, there are male dancers who excel in fields such as modern dance like hip hop and popping and locking.We are all accustomed to watching talent dance shows where the male dancers, in all their muscular cast present those modern dance styles, under the enthralled gaze and cheers of the audience as well as the jury members. But what about the place of Indian classical dance in empowering men? Traditionally, most performers of Bharatanatyam are female; not to say that there are no male Bharatanatyam masters around - far from it. This begs the question: "Can Bharatanatyam be a means to empower men?"

'Empowerment' is a word widely used, but often hard to define. It seems like every individual or party has defined the word by taking inspiration from their personal experiences. To shed light on the matter, the Division for Social Policy and Development (DPSD) of UNDESA (United Nations) created an online survey to ask people all around the world about the definition of empowerment (Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Social Policy and Development, 2012). Sandra Lincoln, a Province Leadership Team Member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, quotes: "Empowerment is to give a person the confidence and education and where-with-all to be all that they can be." Kenneth Schadt, a History and Literature tutor defines the word as, "Power to achieve political, social, and economic equality...", and Donal Horowitz from the Federation of Jewish Men's clubs explains that, "Empowerment means that people, individuals have a voice in making decisions for themselves and for society." To summarize, it can be said that empowerment is the ability that enables an individual or a community to exercise control and power to attain a certain target, and in the process, they are helping themselves and other people (Adams, 2008).

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Some refreshing moments on Internet - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

With tastes tailored to watching live programmes, it is only lately, thanks to the pandemic that one has been forced to take in virtual discussions and exchanges, and while one must admit to still finding it difficult to watch traditional dance performances online, one must admit to some totally unexpected, interesting moments – in some of the interactions.

One such episode sponsored by Jaywant Naidu from Hyderabad on ‘Remembering Ram Gopal’ with two main participants, namely critic and dance historian Sunil Kothari and veteran Kathak guru and performer Kumudini Lakhia provided some unintended moments of fun. After Jaywant’s introduction, Sunil Kothari, as is his wont, was voluble with his diarising and volley of information on Ram Gopal, stressing on the fact that what Ram Gopal danced was vintage ‘classical’ – and that he was one of the earliest known dancers responsible for popularising Indian classical dances to western audiences. Following this strong reference to Ram Gopal’s classical credentials, Kumudini Lakhia in her forthright fashion butted commenting that since she had to fulfil another commitment, she would like to have her say before leaving.

Monday, 17 August 2020

The theatre colossus I knew - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The demise of Ebrahim Alkazi, the titan of Indian theatre, seems to have occurred, for many, much too soon, even when he was just turning into 95. His contribution to the histrionic arts, have been immense. And, after one counts his oeuvre in paintings, photography, art collection and his lifelong art-curating work, one is left speechless. His disciplined approach, meticulous attention to details, synoptic view of the arts and concomitant aesthetics has been the stuff legends are made of.

Read more in the site

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Remembering Ebrahim Alkazi - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

It was during the year 1954 that my late dear painter friend Bhupen Khakhar and I were attending a series of lectures by Ebrahim Alkazi at Bhulabhai Memorial Institute on Warden Road (later on it was renamed as Bhulabhai Desai Road). It was a cultural hub, a meeting place for painters, musicians, photographers, theatre directors, actors, and dancers. Soli Batliwala was the trustee of the Institute along with Madhuri Desai, widow of Bhulabhai Desai.

Alkazi saab was speaking on the Blue and Rose period of world renowned painter Picasso. In front row was seated Vanaraj Bhatia, the celebrated musician whose knowledge of Western classical music was the talk of the town. Many years later he composed music for our painter, poet friend Gulam Mohammad Sheikh on his poems on Jaisalmer. It was fascinating to see the colour slides which Alkazi saab was screening for his lectures. His love for painting made the lectures most enlightening. He had studied painting and also drew sketches in ink and also few oil paintings.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 22

Compartments in a train

Relationships - They are like compartments we attach on a train, based on feelings and needs. Depending on the length of the journey and based on the opportunities encountered, they may latch on to different engines from time to time, changing track or direction. And they will motor on. If the need to be connected ceases to exist, they may even be detached and left behind. Some relationships satisfy the need for money, some the need for praise, yet others are just mostly burdensome. Each situation brings with it a different need. The need or compulsion for a relationship depends on those who are in it. Time, sometimes, compels you to maintain some relationships that are undesirable in nature. It sometimes forcefully detaches you from others that are desirable in nature. And they will move away. Death is a way in which relationships are severed, though the feelings may still linger on in the heart. Recently, I was bitterly surprised to learn even praising someone may damage your relationship with them. I shall recover from it.

The date for my arangetram was set to be the Ninth day of June, Nineteen Ninety Three. That was the day I, who had been a student in the world of natyam, was to be acknowledged as an artiste. Though I was apprehensive with fear that this was the first time the outside world would judge and evaluate me - who had lived a sheltered and cocooned life thus far pretending that the altar was in my kitchen and the paradise was at my front step - based on my talent, I could also see my dreams starting to cast dancing shadows that were real. The light that had shone on many a dancing star would now start illuminating me as well.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 21

A benefit in time

Sadness – It furtively propels living beings to find new ways for survival. Living beings that were ambulatory started sharpening their senses to aid them in avoiding and escaping the fury and adversity that nature unleashed on them. The suffering of the body is common to everyone. The human race’s evolved capacity to reason also brought with it suffering of the mind. Medicines and luxuries were invented to alleviate the mind and body of these sufferings. Intoxication, though it hurts the body, can be medicine to the mind. There is another medicine that excites the body and mind alike. It is bhakti – piety. It is a great medicine that alleviates the mind of all its sufferings without harming the body. The fact it later led to abusive power and many other ailments that afflicted the human race is indeed ironic and tragic. The human mind that was seeking relief from pain was made to suffer much more. To correct this, many texts were written on justness. Collectively they came to be known as Dharma. Even that changed according to periods and people. In the end, the human race got trapped like fish in a web of sufferings and started swimming in it with the hope of achieving redemption someday. No one has yet overcome these sufferings.

“Zakir! Did you know that the Central government’s cultural department is giving financial aid to students learning natyam?”
“I didn’t know, Aunty.”
“I got two applications by mail from Delhi. It’s for you as well.”
“Thank you very much, Aunty.”

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - August 2020

Anita says...August 2020

Writing the history of the Devadasi with “white ink” is problematic.
When the word DEVADASI was substituted with ISAI VELLALAR, the women stepped back and the men stepped forward.
The English language is a privilege and a burden.
We need a new glossary of terms with which to discuss the dance history of South India.
Pass the mic but don’t stop speaking.
- Quotes from Prof. Avanthi Meduri’s Facebook conversation with Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh on DEVADASI- HISTORY, IDENTITY, POLITICS, PRIVILEGE, July 30, 2020


There is a beautiful image as imagined by PATANJALI, the originator of Yoga.

STHIRAM and SUKHAM - - Stability and Ease

It stems from the pose of Vishnu reclined upon the serpent Adisesha while floating on the milky ocean. How adeptly the serpent has to adjust the coils so that the Lord can continue to sleep. For Mahavishnu to experience SUKHAM (ease), Adisesha has to practice STHIRAM (stability-balance).

How does one flow in the YOGA OF DAILY LIVING using these two images?
How does one live life with these two words as metaphors or gateways to harmony?

We now know that these past 4 months are going to last for at least another 8.
That this year should now be referred to as #DELETE2020.
That we are now locked in a DIGITAL EMBRACE into the first quarter of 2021.

So how do we even begin to consider the ideas of STHIRAM and SUKHAM?
How can we even fathom these qualities when everything around us is being thrown into disarray?
We are off balance more than ever.
There is less and less inspiration and motivation to continue to feel optimistic and positive about life and art.
So how can we even begin to understand SUKHAM?
The cheerleading squad who proclaim that "Dance can surmount anything" now sound weak and unconvincing.
We see depression, melancholia and listlessness all around and even the best and strongest among us are feeling vaguely unsettled.

Read more in the site

Friday, 31 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 20

Vanishing bloom, Fading music

Friendship, ‘natpu’ – It is the invisible force that moves the earth. Friendship is the abundance of love. Love is the abundance of friendship. Love and friendship are like seeds and sprouts. A friendship may form between any two people on this wide earth. A friendship rooted in love transcends parsing and practices. Those who form a friendship are called friends. This is common for plants and animals as well. However, it is hard to provide apt meaning to the Tamil word ‘natpu’. Valluvar has written an entire chapter on ‘natpu’ in an attempt to define it. According to him, friendships are hard to form. In a world that has turned materialistic, the characteristics of ‘a friend’ have also changed. In this day and age no one is going to sit facing north and fast unto death like Pisiranthaiyar did for king Koperuncholan. The kings today know this as well. Therefore, no one reserves a seat next to them on their deathbed. As the humorous adage says, when the king’s dog died the entire country mourned. When the king himself died, no dog mourned it. Those who find good friends in life are blessed like the Devas of the heavens.

Article - Freedom Diaries: At the stroke of midnight

August is the month of marking India's 73rd Independence Day. We spoke to several dance seniors and asked them to share a memory of what that day was like!

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 19

Learn, even by begging

Education and experience both sharpen one's mind. Of these, education is when you study and understand the thoughts of others starting at a young age. Experience is when you put to practice in your own life what you have studied. That is why in Tamil, it is said, study even if it means begging for it. Those who were able to record their thoughts by putting pen to paper were called 'creators'. Those who learned it were considered 'educated'. The ideas exchanged through words formed the relationship between the creator and the educated. The educated were not compelled to accept the ideas written and the creator was not compelled only to write down ideas that were acceptable. God does not care to check if anyone is worshiping him. And the devotee does not pause to verify if god accepted his prayers. If these two thought processes meet each other at a single point, that becomes the moment of bliss. This will also apply to a leader and a follower both of whom have accepted a common vision. The purpose of pious devotion is to reach this state. Until then, one must continue to learn. A society that encourages learning should also confirm that those who learn establish themselves among the learned. Only then can the education of a society be accepted as a reflection of its collective experiences. If not, it will lead to a state where the learner spoiled the text he was learning and the singer spoiled the song he was singing.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

New York based Arts from India presented Navarasa online - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

In present Corona virus times, there are few enterprisers who have been active assisting dancers to perform choosing a thematic content. Among them Ajayveer with help of Kathakali exponent Prabal Gupta and New York based celebrated dancer, curator, organizer, commentator, choreographer and well known for her Sutradhari Natyam, Rajika Puri as an anchor presented live concert of Navarasa recently. The timings were for USA - New York 9am till 11am and for India from 9pm till 11pm. However, with Q and A with Rajika Puri and dancers, the program extended by another 45 minutes and it ended at 11.45pm! There was admission fee and the audience had to buy tickets for viewing.

Read more in the site

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 18

Gather the clouds to soothe the face

Travels are the educators that teach you of life. They are the keys to opening sublime secrets that no others can comprehend. An individual's travels are the continuous gathering of experiences seen through innumerous perspectives. Some travels may bring unwanted and unsavory experiences. When you reminisce over them, they make you wonder if that really did happen. Those who are blessed with the experiences of travelling without their life being anchored in one place, are the romantics who are enamored with this earth. No matter how many angles you can shoot a photograph from, it will never match the excitement of experiencing it in person. The modes of transportation may vary as in by foot, by car, by bus, by train, or by flight. But the experiences do not diminish. I can produce an entire book if I were to gather in writing my experiences of travelling to Europe and North America by myself. Those experiences had so many surprises and twists. Though some of them scared me and others bored me at the time, they still make me long for them today. Some spend the entire journey sleeping or playing on their cell phone. Instead, look intently at those around you. A deep trove of experiences will be awaiting you.

"Zakir, we're going to North India for programs. You do know, don't you?" Chitra akka asked me. I nodded.
"You're coming along this time."

Read more in the site

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 17

Challenge! Surmount!

It is because they faced challenges did living beings develop superior adaptation skills. Singular lives proliferated and became groups of lives because they were able to adapt and overcome changes to their environments and to themselves. The cactus in the dessert is able to conserve the scarcely available water in its leaves and protect them with thorns. Plants that face severe winters sprout, branch out, bloom, and bear fruits in a short summer, then shed leaves and are ready to face the winter again. When the immobile plants are able to adapt in so many ways, there is no limit to the number of ways in which animals and humans have adapted themselves. The houses we build are reflections of our adaptation. A coward becoming a hero, a modest man achieving greatness, and every luxury we enjoy today are the epitomes of that adaptation. But in this continuing change, humans, who evolved from nature destroying that very nature is akin to pouring boiling water on your own roots.

"Napoleon! Quiet. Come inside"
When Mrs. Gomathy Viswanathan called for it in English, the three feet tall, silky orange maned, foreign bred dog stopped its barking and wagged its tail. Half my life that had escaped me was regained with the water given to me by Gomathy amma. 

Read more in the site

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Early memories of encounters with Birju Maharaj - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

No memories of Birju Maharaj can be recalled without the period of fifties when after Independence, by 1953 the Government established three Akademis in Delhi - Sahitya Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA). The role assigned to SNA was to preserve, perpetuate and revive classical dance forms, archive them, along with folk, tribal, ritual dances and classical music in its multiple forms, and similarly for theatre, regional and traditional, traditional which were alive and regularly performed all over India; to honour the greatest artistes in all these fields and maintain an archive.

Read more in the site

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 16

Darkening clouds, impending rain

'Rain' - It is nature's gift to earth and is non-discriminating in its nature. It may gain or diminish in status once it falls on the earth. Its nature may change depending on its use. But rain itself does not have those disquiets or urgencies. As far as Tamil language is concerned, rain is always the 'good rain' - nalla mazhai. If it pours indiscriminately, it is 'heavy rain' - adai mazhai. There is no such term as 'bad rain' - ketta mazhai - in Tamil. Even though it is the ocean that gathers in the clouds, it has to fall back on earth for life to flourish. 'Silappathikaram' invokes the rain as god by singing, 'maamazhai potruthum' - praise the great rain. Andal sings 'maamuththa nidhi soriyum maamugilkaal' comparing rain drops to great pearls and praising them as the earth's greatest wealth. Therefore, the rain falls for everyone. And it is equivalent to wealth. Poet Vairamuthu asks in a song not to shut the door and wave the black flag in protest when the rain comes. The rain is for everyone....

Four to five days must have passed since I started learning dance. My attendance at Bilal Hotel went from bad to worse. They asked me politely to stay at home.

Read more in the site

Monday, 20 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 15

A blossom yet to bloom

Dance - It is created by stringing many movements together. It does not discriminate between living beings and non-living things. If the movements are synchronized it becomes enjoyable. If synchronization is lost, enjoyment becomes difficult. The beauty of the dance depends on the beholder's environs and emotions. Of the many dances, the classical dance has transformed itself to adapt to many environments and ages, and has been influenced and conformed by the many masters who lived through those times. It reinvents and renews itself constantly to hold true the famous saying 'change alone is unchanging'. Those who lived fifty years ago did not dance like those who lived a hundred years ago. The dance that was prevalent fifty years ago is not around today. How will dance be tomorrow? Those who taught dance and those who learned dance - the two were from two different generations and each had their own stresses. It was the same way in other fields of art.

Read more in the site

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 14

She smiled, the statuesque beauty!

Names - For some people, their given names seem perfectly apt. For many, it's the opposite. Some people's names make you wonder if they were named because of their achieved fame in a certain field or if they achieved fame in that field because of their name. Some names inspire respect even as you read them. When one reads the names of Gandhi, Theresa, Periyar and Ambedkar, one is reminded of their contributions and service to society. The names of some others make you feel exasperated with the thought, 'Why would anyone give this person this name?' Such will be the level of disparity between their name and their personality. 

Read more in the site

Profile - Infusing intellect and intent into dance: Moving Stories and Touching Tales - Dr. Sujatha Maringanti

As the entire humanity is marching to the tune of a microbe, with life being the only negotiation to make, songs and stories are all humans can turn to. And the stories abound - of prayers and preaching, of fear and fate. Here is a story about unassuming individuals, who use their art and intent to usher in a positive, powerful, sustained and silent revolution in a world torn apart by hatred and conflict. A major axis around which the story revolves is the staggering 45-year dance career of Jonathan Hollander, the artistic director of Battery Dance Company with its mission - 'artistic excellence and social relevance.'

Read more in the site

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 13

To see a peacock sway

Music - It moves and guides every living being, not just the human beings. Music is the exhibition of emotions. The spur for music is many like love, valour, anger, joy. Science tells us that music is the resonance of waves in the air. And this resonance is different for every being. Even among the human race, each and every group of people has a different resonance. Music evolved when humans diverged and formed different races among themselves. Music cannot be categorized into 'good music' and 'bad music'. What we enjoy as soothing music may seem irritating to someone else. The reason for this is the difference in resonance.

Madras Music Season is the exposition of a unique culture on the world stage. It is an endeavor of a community that understands classical music and wants to demonstrate that knowledge. The event is a confluence of music as well as poets and artistes who speak many tongues. Though there are many disparities along the caste and religious lines, this festival binds people together with the concept of 'art', and propels the audience to a different magical universe at least for the two-hour period a concert lasts. Together with one's appreciation for music, it's an agent that gently strokes tender feelings within. Here too is a working class that labours like the cinema industry where many struggle to overcome class boundaries and inequalities. Madras Music Season is the fruit of the combined effort of everyone - from those who sweep the floors of the theatres to those who fill it with their music.

Read more in the site

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 12

The skies sing lullaby

Fine arts are the reflection of an advanced, well established, and cultured society. After gaining self-sufficiency in the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, communities all over the world have expressed their yearning for artistry through music, paintings, sculptures, dance, and literature and recorded it in history as their culture. This is the reason why during periods of instability brought on by war and other emergencies, persons who practice fine arts are greatly affected.

A woman emerged asking, "Who is it? What is it that you want?" She must have been a maid in the house.
"Is this not Chitra madam's house?"
"I have come from Salem. I need to see madam."

Read more in the site

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 11

A new world! A new dawn!

Cities that are home to a majority of the world’s population, are miniature nations in themselves. Its inhabitants adopt a multifaceted culture without the need for a unique identity. Cities are entities that are in constant restless motion forming hierarchies not based on caste and creed, but based solely on wealth and lack thereof. Anyone can succeed here if only they possessed perseverance of effort and innovation in thought. The ability to determine ‘this person can accomplish this task by this means’ and to implement it is an important and unique feature of any city.

In the predawn hour, the ‘Yercaud Express’ expelled me – who did not have an address for it to note down - from its long stiff body with a jerk and a yawn. I was the last one to get off – with a quivering heart. The noise of trolleys being pulled on uneven paths screamed like broken loudspeakers making passengers run asunder. Porters in red uniforms hurried with heavy loads won in barter. The owners of the loads followed them – intently observing and pretending to chat – like cats following their kitten. The stench from the fish and shrimps in large sacks engulfed the area and lingered in the nostrils even after exiting the railway station – as if it had become embedded on the brain. Though this city rush was new to me, a sense of calm came over me knowing that I had left my village behind.

Read more in the site

Monday, 13 July 2020

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 10

Can a leaf burden a tree?

Every fork in the road leads to a new path. The human race that originated in one place and lived as one community was only able to inhabit the globe and establish distinct ways of life and multiplicity of unique cultures by separating from each other. The reason we see generalities in human nature and culture is because their origins are one and the same. Even though the differences are many – in such aspects as the tone of skin, language, dress, diet, and social construct – the entire human race has followed the same evolutionary trajectory. Communities that separated many eons ago in search of food, settled down close to sources of water.

Communities that depended on hunting for food, now learned to cultivate the land and were able to find permanence in one place. We continue to propagate and record ideas developed by studying, observing, and extrapolating facts we learned of these communities that thrived or perished on the shores of seas and rivers.

Read more in the site

Sunday, 12 July 2020

My early association with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

I owe my introduction to Kelubabu to Babulal Doshi.

It was in 1958 All India Dance Seminar held by Sangeet Natak Akademi at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi from 31st March till 7th April, where a galaxy of pioneers of Indian classical dance had got together, taking stock of the dance in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Read more in the site

Zakir Diary - Thadhiginathom: Part 9

Smooth sailing on calm waters

‘Time’ does not wait for anyone. Those who board the right ship at the right time are the ones who completed their journey successfully and returned to the shore. The journey may face many adversities. Storms may even change the course and direction. Regardless, some are guided by faith in themselves and others by faith in a higher power to achieve their goal. Notwithstanding whom they place their faith in, it is their diligence that is essential for success. Even if one attains success by a stroke of luck, if they do not persevere, they will be trampled on by the march of time and left behind destroyed and forgotten. I suppose this was what was referred to as fate by those who understood the importance of hard work.

Read more in the site