Saturday, 19 June 2021

Article - How can dance teachers continually provide a success path for their students? - Ramaa Venugopalan

 The journey of a teacher in art is a long, arduous unique path with each student. When the performative phase begins, the challenges are far more complicated. In today's art world where mostly every dancer is a performer / teacher, I do wonder how much can each of us pave the path for our students? How much can we push them towards a successful performative journey, with top notch performance experiences, exposure and ensure alongside that we are also growing?

This becomes exceedingly challenging especially when both the teacher and the taught are both actively performing. Earlier, teachers would only teach, conduct and plan performances of their disciples. The lines were clear. A capable and knowledgeable teacher could churn out many successful students, and students would either stay the course or find their own journey ahead. The scene now has changed immensely. It is not enough to just impart art, but also constantly find performance opportunities for the students.

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Thursday, 17 June 2021

Article - Sringara and Bhakti in Naatya - V. P. Dhananjayan

(Text of lecture demonstration given by V.P. Dhananjayan first appeared as article in 'The Journal of The Madras Music Academy Vol. LIV')

Art and culture are the two inseparable aspects of human life. Art in its innumerable forms is the reflection of the creative ability of man and serves and preserves the cultural heritage of any nation. From time immemorial the different art forms have been the media for worship and a pathway to salvation or 'moksha.'

Whatever we may say or do, the ultimate goal of human life is salvation. Therefore, religious institutions fostered these art forms to a high degree of perfection and thereby inculcated the spirit of righteousness through devotion to the supreme architect of this diversified universe. Amongst these beautiful creations of art, 'natya' or dance is considered to be the finest and most

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Wednesday, 16 June 2021

New Muse for new normal - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

In ancient Greece, Muses were the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. Considered as the source of knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths -- related orally for centuries in the Greek culture -- the nine Muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, figuring as personifications of knowledge and the arts. Out of them, Enterpe was the specific Muse for music, song and lyrical poetry, with a flute-like musical instrument as her symbol. Along with the Satyrs, she was supposed to have toured all Asia and Europe, teaching the arts wherever she went.

Apparently, Aditi Mangaldas, the renowned Kathak dancer with an international footprint and the trained performers from her Drishtikon Dance Foundation, did not quite accept the ugly visage of the rampaging monster of corona today at its face value. They set about the changing seasons experienced by each Drishtikon artist from the confines of their homes and yearned to interpret the seasons in the flight of their imagination to elucidate their feelings. They shot a film themselves -- with the help of their friends and family -- working within the limitations of the space they had and with whatever recording facilities they owned.

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Thursday, 10 June 2021


How does an institution survive if the onslaught of indifference and negligence continue to shadow it? For 85 years, Kalakshetra has survived the various vagaries of politics and changing Government priorities. Now a national institution of eminence, this Chennai based Bharatanatyam academy is welcoming a new governing board WITH NO BHARATANATYAM DANCER ON THE LIST. How does such a blunder happen? What is the excuse for this glaring oversight?

How does the government’s culture wing make these ad hoc decisions about a national institution of eminence known predominantly for BHARATANATYAM without including a name that is either from the Alumni or another eminent artiste from the same discipline? How many of the newly appointed members even know how to read a government document? How many actually know the historic relevance of KALAKSHETRA and its enormous impact on the cultural personality of modern India? How can they contribute and guide the director to implement her vision? Why this blatant indifference to such a historic institution with a global influence in standards and style?

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Saturday, 5 June 2021

Anita says...June 2021


The silence, was broken by a sob
In the darkness, a shadow trembled
The air was damp, with unshed tears...
...and had a strange smell of sorrow
The melancholic gloom..of a broken spirit, a bruised heart..
dying a slow deafening desolation!

- Romi Mittal

As the list of beloved and admired artistes being felled by the virulent India-B 16:17 variant increases almost daily, all of India is in intense lockdown mode. The rest of the world seems to be slowly unfurling into a quieter and more cautious movement towards "normalcy". The gates of homes are open, sidewalks are spilling over with friends finally meeting over coffee and endless chatter, and yes, artistes are prepping for some outdoor events this summer.
But not in India, as we seem to be facing a never ending stretch of dreary monotony.

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - June 2021


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Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Anvesana's Reflections in Solitude stir creative energies to fresh leaps of hope - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Like a ray of sunshine amidst darkness was Anvesana - Reflections in Solitude, brainchild of Lata Pada, organised by her dance centre Sampradaya Dance Creations of Montreal in Canada. This unique initiative, premiering a digital dance festival of commissions, featuring an excellent choice of four dancers pertaining to different Indian classical disciplines, in solo performances, revealed how the quiet of non- performance, aside from not draining the performer's physical energies, does not reflect aridity in art. Creativity needs solitude and quiet for deep reflection and for new ideas to sprout, throwing up unexplored terrain leading to new directions, while being rooted in the ethos of the dance form.

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Sunday, 30 May 2021

Obit/Tribute - Pasumarthy Keshava Prasad: Tribute to a traditional master-performer - Vijay Shanker

Veteran Kuchipudi exponent, performer ,mentor, promoter and organiser Pasumarthy Keshava Prasad left for his heavenly abode on 7th May 2021 at his hometown in Kuchipudi village, Andhra Pradesh. He leaves behind his family, sons and a daughter. He was 69.

Born on 1st August1952, Keshava belonged to a traditional family of dancers and musicians, following the Bhagavata Mela tradition. His grandfather Vedantam Ramakrishna Sastry was particularly acclaimed for his role of Raja Harishchandra and his father Subramanya Sastry specialised in the portrayal of feminine characters. The legacy moves forward with his children; one of them plays the mridangam too.

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Friday, 28 May 2021

Back to the roots in Nupur Zankar’s marathon Sanskriti Mahotsav on Kathak Gharanas - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Watching the nine day virtual Sanskriti Mahotsav curated by Shila Mehta for her organisation Nupur Zankar on Kathak Gharanas, could well have made many wonder ‘why again get stuck in the gharana zone, instead of moving ahead to something of relevance today?’ But dedicated to Birju Maharaj, the reigning czar of Kathak, and his shishya the Late Guru Pandit Vijay Shankar (who the Maharaj affectionately called his Gopi) and to the recently departed   scholar/critic Sunil Kothari, this entire enterprise, as explained by the curator, was to make use of this period stripped of the performance fever, to go back, ponder and have a quiet relook at one’s roots, for as Shila very pertinently remarked, “Deeper the roots, taller the shoots.” Tradition survives by accommodating the present and hence while accepting the constancy of change, the need to reassure oneself of being deeply rooted.

In what was a painstakingly ambitious enterprise involving gurus of all gharanas, performers pertaining to three generations, providing space for what went as interactions, the flawless organisational finesse had to be lauded. Neatly put together, this set of video material would make an excellent Kathak information tool for the dancer seeking answers to several queries in the mind. The painstaking manner in which the genealogy tree tracing the lineage of each gharana has been tabled makes for good historical reference. The best part of the entire effort was its non-judgemental approach, allowing performances to speak for themselves.

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Obit/Tribute - B Bhanumati: Her art reflected her beauty - Jyothi Raghuram

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, beautiful old people are works of art"; in no aspect of her art or personality was Guru B. Bhanumati old. Sparkling with childlike enthusiasm, reflected enchantingly in her eyes, lively and spirited, she pioneered many firsts in classical dance. From the Eighties onwards, she quietly and unknowingly created a revolution in the dance field, bringing down the artificial walls around dancers and dance institutions.

Perhaps even the dance world has not comprehended this, so unobtrusive was her world, so low profile was she. Her Bharatanatyam dance school, Nrityakalamandiram, was not out of the ordinary at the surface level. Students milled her class as much for her warmth as for her ability to bring out the best in them. At Nrityakalamandiram, there was no pause, leave alone a full stop. Each ward of Bhanumati took back something precious with them. Even if dance is not for all, either to perform or teach, she groomed every student to be a dancer worthy of her dance school - a reputation that withstood the tectonic shifts in digital technology, taste, and the re-configurations of the very purpose of dance.

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Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Obit/Tribute - Lover of arts K.D. Chandran is no more - Vijay Shanker


One of the leading social and cultural personalities of Mumbai, K. Doraiswamy Chandran, left for his heavenly abode on 16th May 2021, due to cardiac arrest. Chandran was admitted at the Criti Care Hospital in Juhu, Mumbai, on 12 May due to kidney ailments, which further led to his cardiac arrest. He was 84 and his survived by his daughter, Bharatanatyam dancer and actress Sudha Chandran and son-in-law Ravi.

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Obit/Tribute - Bharat Dave carved a niche for himself in theatre - Dr. S.D. Desai

Veteran theatre director Bharat Dave (1948-2021) was a multi-talented person, so unassumingly close to all of us that we never realized he had these talents. Even when in ICU, he did not let us think he was on his death bed. He picked up the smart phone lying by his side the other day and texted in the group his daughter Devaki had thoughtfully formed for his friends and on having briefly described his condition, he mentioned "many shows yet to be held and many books in the pipeline."

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Friday, 21 May 2021

Chakshu - Dance from the perspective of the camera - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Looked at from any perspective, the three day virtual festival Chakshu jointly organised by Kalpataru Arts and Kri Foundation, featuring dance viewed from the perspective of the camera lens, was a clear winner not only in terms of the varied range of viewership it attracted from various parts of the world, but also for its animated, highly informative and educative post-film screening discussions involving the best of film makers, scholars, performers and above all, young enthusiasts making a foray into this hitherto unexplored territory. This event conceived by Sangita Chatterjee (whose organisation Kalpataru Arts since its inception in 2013, has promoted various events mostly connected with Kathak, her medium), a lately committed convert to this field of Dance through the Camera, in collaborating with Kri Foundation, had the advantage of a person like Arshiya Sethi, Founder Managing Trustee of the Foundation to moderate the discussions. Arshiya's Danzlenz vertical events over the last two decades have made her an acknowledged world promoter of dance viewed through the camera lens.

The handsome Indian participation in this festival was particularly heartening, for it threw up a people who till now, held captive by traditionally oriented live performances, have been compelled by the widespread negativity stemming from Covid restrictions, to look at other opportunities the virtual world throws up. Rather than being judgemental, I admire the young minds in particular for not losing themselves in despondency.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Remapping routes in a warped world - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Indian classical, folk and contemporary dances - in all their variegated forms - have always been seen live, offered to spectators physically present to enjoy in all their nuances and respond enthusiastically to their context and content, with both stories and gestures, in a 3-D perspective - on temple or court precincts or proscenium stages -- and in real time. If we could call these 'concert dances', there have, of course been occasions when the concert dances have been adjuncts to theatre shows and the celluloid, adding often fresh dimensions to their narrative structure and presentation style.

The current global pandemic has systematically proceeded not merely to endanger human life but completely disrupt and fracture the living communications and threatened all forms of human congregation as expression of culture, threaten the very essence of human civilization. The first thing that this catastrophe has done to Indian concert dance is to nearly rule out live performances with live viewers in attendance, and making dance's existence palpably dependent on analog/digital camera, offering 2-D viewing and usually without instant viewer response.

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Saturday, 15 May 2021

Obit/Tribute - Jacques d'Amboise: Ballet Master Extraordinaire - V.P. Dhananjayan

Jacques d'Amboise, esteemed New York Ballet choreographer, passed away on May 2, 2021.

Jacques d'Amboise was an iconic Ballet dancer, acclaimed choreographer par excellence, a Ballet master with relentless energy who at the ripe age of 85-86 left a legacy by saying adieu to the world of classical dance. Jacques's life was an open book for the male dancers of the entire world starting with obscure beginnings and reaching Himalayan heights. Jacques reaching the top position in the Ballet world is providential. He was one of the sons of a lift operator residing in the Harlem area of New York (then considered as the slums of NY). His father, while attending to his duties, admitted his sons in a nearby Ballet class to while away their time, like a play school. His father would not have dreamt that one of his sons would become a celebrity in the performing art field, and that too in New York City - the cultural capital of the world. Destiny has its own course!!

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Monday, 10 May 2021

Article - All roads lead to dance - Samyukta Ninan


"Many people have said many things. I can only say I did not consciously go after dance. It found me."
- Rukmini Devi Arundale

There are not many moments in life when opportunities knock at your door. This I have discovered. But when they do, I should say embrace them and not let them go. About three years back, as an educator teaching history for nearly 11 years in a private school in Delhi, I believed that my relationship with my students was merely based on content transaction. Today I have completely changed this view, and that happened when dance found me.

Being a student of history, I attach a huge importance to the origin of everything. The past appeals to me much more than the present. And this has helped me immensely in understanding dance. 

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Friday, 7 May 2021

Obit/Tribute - Critic Bhanu Kumar is no more - Vijay Shanker

Mumbai based dance and music critic Bhanu Kumar left for her heavenly abode, early morning on 20th April 2021 leaving behind her retired engineer husband C.S. Kumar, son Kartik, daughter-in-law Purnima, dancer daughter Sukanya Kumar and grandchildren. She was 68 and was on a ventilator for a few days at the non-covid Jupiter Hospital in Thane. Bhanu was diabetic and was suffering from pneumonia as well.

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Wednesday, 5 May 2021

A triptych of femininity - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Sharmila Biswas, the acclaimed Odissi dancer of the eastern metropolis, has produced an engrossing study of the woman's psyche in her latest dance production. This is a portraiture of the feminine mood reimagining three stock approaches from Indian literature. The first is from a social viewpoint of a mother, who lets loose her offspring into the future, by gradually cutting the apron strings binding them together. The second one is a royal model where the Patta Mahishi (the reigning empress) has to fall back on her baffling situation with her trusted husband foisting a new consort on the royal household, unannounced and unsolicited. The third one is a mythic woman who has been a quintessential lover all her life and is simply unable to come to terms with the permanent separation of her mon amour.

Antaranga Festival, the online show organized on April 23 by Sangeet Natak Akademi, featured the three highly innovative items of Sharmila over around 46 minutes. Another fascinating aspect was their being placed in three time horizons; future, present and past, in the reverse order.

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Saturday, 1 May 2021

Anita says...May 2021

 I cannot write

Of death tolls and fires
Of slow tsunamis
Of puzzlement and pandemic
Of street side funeral pyres

I can only paint
The riot of white hibiscus blooms
On the stoop
How you strain towards the sun
How you droop
Without water, how you wither
How you fall
How then you're on your own
How we'll all
Be the same in the end

DENIAL by Akhila Ramnarayan

India has descended into COVID HELL.

"I CANNOT BREATHE" has become the chant as gasping citizens collapse as our health care system is overwhelmed by the crisis.

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Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2021


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Thursday, 29 April 2021

Pt Rajan Mishra's exit - a bolt from the blue - Dr S D Desai


Pt Sajan Mishra, Pt Rajan Mishra

I may be excused this personal reference at the outset. For two full days following the unbelievable news of Pt Rajan Mishra having passed away, with only a nodding acquaintance with classical music I continually kept listening to vocal recitals by Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishra. Such has been the enduring quality of their voice seeking to be one with the Nada Brahma. In an interview, Rajanji once observed, "At a time when our heart centre is drying, it's music that enriches it."

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Friday, 16 April 2021

Navarasa Sadhana - Breath control for emoting in art - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Deep research into the technique of evoking the nine aesthetic sentiments or 'rasas' through the control of breath, by three generations of scholars in Kerala belonging to Kodungallur royal family, starting with Vidwan IlayaThampuran to Bhagavatar Kunjunni Thampuran, is what led to the discipline of Navarasa Sadhanam. The Kutiyattam master, late Mani Madhav Chakyar was one who constantly brought to bear on his extraordinary performances, this technique discovered by the Kodungallur family. Kutiyattam specialist G.Venu of Natana Kairali of Irinjalakuda, through years of deep inquiry into Kunjunni Thampuran's mind- boggling technique, became more and more convinced that this traditional knowledge system had to be made more accessible to enrich the contemporary performing artiste's technique.

Egged on by Sasitharan Tirunalan of the intercultural Theatre Institute, and actor Kalyani Balaji from Maharashtra, in 2005 G.Venu, with some trepidation, embarking on a Navarasa Sadhana workshop for performers of various art disciplines, met with thundering response. And this attempt became a forerunner to yearly efforts, in which over a thousand actors over the years have participated. This year, the 50th Navarasa Sadhana workshop, held under the auspices of Natana Kairali, as every year, attracted dancers and actors from different areas, with Kapila Venu, the Kutiyattam performer moderating with very brief introductions.

Tom Kingdon, Professor Emeritus, Emerson College Boston, well known theatre person who was with the Royal Shakespeare Company for twenty years, began his inaugural address for Navarasa Sadhana, lauding the immaculately trained bodies of Kerala's Kalaripayattu and Kutiyattam performers - able in a trice, of evoking all shades of emotion - this purely physical enterprise being without any personal emotional involvement on the part of the actor.

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Sunday, 11 April 2021


MANDALA X / CREATION: A DANCE ORATORIO was inspired by "The Hymn of Creation", a 3,000-year-old Sanskrit hymn from the Rig Veda. One of the first known speculations on the origins of the universe - considered the oldest statement of philosophic doubt in world literature - "The Hymn of Creation" reverberates with eternal questions which have intrigued humankind.

In 1976, my father's friend Dr. Mary Blade gave me the book Hymns from the Rig-Veda, translated by Jean Le Mee, published by A.Knopf in 1975, with photographs by Ingbert Gruttner. This gift started me on a choreographic journey, culminating twenty years later in the production MANDALA X - CREATION - A Dance Oratorio, which premiered on the Vernal Equinox, 20 March 1997.

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Saturday, 10 April 2021

Obit/Tribute - Shanmukha Ratna V.S. Amarnath Sury - Vijay Shanker

V.S. Amarnath Sury, hon Secretary of Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, left for his heavenly abode on 2nd April 2021, after a long battle of ill health; he was regularly going through dialysis. He was 79 and leaves behind his wife, daughter and son.

Amarnath Sury was born on November 3,1941 and is the grandson of Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagawathar, the direct disciple of saint Tygaraja. In a career spanning four decades in Gem and Jewelry trade, he was associated with the Gem and Jewelry Council of India (1979 -2003) as its executive director; after retirement he continued as the advisor. From 2006-2017 he was General manager of Diamond India Ltd.

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Thursday, 8 April 2021

Interview - Poornima Ashok: A lot is there to be done - Vijay Shanker

One of the foremost Bharatanatyam exponents, teacher and choreographer, Bangalore based Poornima Ashok talks about her experiences that has spanned more than four decades, her recent performance at the Khajuraho Festival and much more.

How was your experience performing for Khajuraho festival along with your disciple?

I was invited to perform there in 2011. Unfortunately my father passed away and I had to cancel the program. But now in 2021, we were overwhelmed, indeed it was a dream come true. The joy we experienced is something that cannot be described in words. Since the festival was conducted inside the premises for the first time, with the temple as backdrop, the ambience was heavenly and we felt like apsaras.

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Sunday, 4 April 2021

The plain speaking puppets - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Chi Chi Land, a puppet play mounted on March 21 (incidentally, also the World Puppetry Day) by Kolkata’s well-known Dolls Theatre, was a most eloquent case in point to illustrate the master puppeteer’s observation. Written by Debiprasad Sengupta, its story had three pivotal points of a perfectly funny children’s story, namely, two innocent brothers’ indulging in child like quarrels on being left-handed or right-handed in habits; their falling apart (under external provocation) into dividing their parental land between themselves with a wall erected in between; and their eventual (again being provoked) resolve to seriously fight against each other starting with stones and slings, and ending with guns, canons and missiles. All these sad events leave their growing children utterly bewildered as to why they can no longer play among themselves, because of the divisive wall and the frightening uproar made around them by the swishing weapons of the adults!

Conceived by the gifted young puppeteer Sudip Gupta, an awardee of Sangeet Natak Akademi, the play presented very eloquent string-puppets comprising the two playful brothers and their grown-up counterparts and one real life theatre actor Tom Tom (played well by Utsav Rauth with a stylish make-up) as the arch villain – with crafty interventions and making thereby his own pots of money! – made the perfect staple for enjoyment of children and adults alike. This was clearly evident among the surging viewers on a post-endemic Sunday proscenium audience. Mingling skillful traditional puppetry with real action human characters is a recent trend that has emerged among contemporary puppeteers and Sudip made full use of the trend to make his boisterous children’s tale to make its points!

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Thursday, 1 April 2021

Anita says...April 2021

 The virus licks my torn soul, guilt tripping me

I sing a love song to it, tempting the faint thump,
Causing my heart to fissure its fatty lumps; pretend
I live on a moon of my own landing, turn my flesh
Inside out, listen to the chirping of birds, amazed

That so much beauty could still exist, amid club-like
Spikes that crush the breathing soul...
A pestilence that asks for enormous surcharges, lethal
As the protean cry of daggers, stabbing me yet again.

Quietly slithering out, a warlike stratagem, as
Birds orchestrate their cheerful songs to one another...

Gone, I struggle with myself, umpteen times more

By Nishi Chawla
From the anthology SINGING IN THE DARK
Global poetry under lockdown
Publisher Penguin Vintage

Well... have you?
Have you become bored with watching online dance?
Are you ready to SCREAM with frustration as another lockdown looms large?
Are you ready to vote for your next State Chief Minister? (this for those citizens of certain Indian states)

I am saying YES to all the above.

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Saturday, 27 March 2021

Monsoon melody from corona crescent - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Sparsh, a film released on March 26, under the baton of the ever-innovative Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas, she literally pulled off all stops for her Drishtikon Dance Foundation to assemble a bevy of professionally groomed youthful male and female dancers to respond -- across continents -- to the vibes and cadenza of a wonderfully sung Mian Ki Malhar by Faraz Ahmed, complete with its soulful Alaap, Bol taans and Sargams, moving mellifluously from Purbang to Uttarang, then from Mandra Saptak to Taar Saptak, accompanied by two sonorous playing pakhawaj and tabla duo, Mohit Gangani and Asish Gangani respectively, adding their own mnemonics almost at will. The entire musical mosaic, composed by Ashish Gangani and Faraz Ahmed, seemed to be tailor made for an inspired occasion!

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Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Obit/Tribute - Laxmipriya Mohapatra, the first Odissi dancer on stage - Ileana Citaristi

In the early Forties at the time when female acting or dancing was considered taboo in the society and an occupation akin to prostitution, Laxmipriya became part of the first batch of female dancers to be associated with the Annapurna 'A' group at Puri. Although born at Khurda, she had come to live in Puri with her mother Tulasi Devi at a very early age. She was the youngest one among the first batch of female dancers along with Heera, daughter of a devadasi of Puri, and Nirmala who had left behind the rest of the family in Calcutta, and at the age of seven, had settled down at Puri with her mother. Among the elder ones who were already married at the time of joining the Theatre, were Radharani, Haramani, Balamani, Sara, Ratna and Buddhi. Some had already had a kind of stage experience by having participated either in folk dramas in their respective villages or having been cast by Mohan Sunder Dev Goswami in his film Sita Bibaho. After joining the Theatre, they were left completely under the care of the manager Bauribandhu Mohanty, who would treat all of them like adopted daughters. Slowly, besides dancing, they started to replace the male actors in the female roles and to grow as full fledged artists.

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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Excellent exotica - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Chetana, the celebrated theatre group from the eastern metropolis under the baton of the thespian Arun Mukhopadhyay, would earn its golden jubilee laurels by next year and has been known in India and abroad for several of its landmark productions over the half century of its existence. Indeed, one of its early productions Jagannath mounted in1977 with Arun himself in the eponymous role, made a performance history for group theatre and ran for a spectacular number of nearly 1000 shows, as was proudly announced in the international press conference by the director of Bharat Rang Mahotsav in the capital sometime in the early 2000s. Here is a quick word on the play's overarching excellence.

Jagannath was an adaptation of Lu Xun's Chinese novella, The True Story of Ah-Q, and was indubitably a legendary production of Bengali theatre. Re-worked and Indianised, Arun's character Jagannath was a poor, uneducated villager. All the villagers disregarded him and people of higher ranks did not even consider him to be a human being. No matter what wrongful or unjust treatment he was subjected to, there was no inclination in him to protest or to resist. At the end of the story, when Jagannath was charged with sedition by the then regime and sent to the gallows (on a false charge of being a "revolutionary"), the protagonist made an eloquently defiant gesture against the conspiring world and voluntarily got the noose round his neck! In fact, that defiant laughter of his still rings out in the face of all the oppressive powers on earth, who level such wrong charges of sedition against their innocent victims, just as Nora's slamming the door on her husband's face - at the end of Ibsen's The Doll's House echoes and re-echoes against the global patriarchal society through the centuries, as trenchantly noted by George Bernard Shaw.

Kusum Kusum and Girgiti presented on proscenium stage on February 28 by Chetana were equally eloquent productions, especially after the pandemic times! While the first play was an adaptation from Girish Karnad's Flowers, a grim tragedy with deep folk roots, the second one was a heady comedy - again an adaptation from Safdar Hashmi's Gurgit and rooted, in turn, in Anton Chekov's Chameleon - and a boisterous take on the quirky ruling class!

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Saturday, 20 March 2021

Tribute - Churned energies of absolute ecstasy - Astad Deboo - Navina Jafa


Linking the ethos of the Parsi religion to dance is both quixotic and interesting. The approaching Parsi New Year Navroz (on March 20) provides an occasion to do so. The lone figure whirled atop in the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts. The churning of the dancer lit up like a 'Bindu.' The figure moved it, giving way to concentric circles of emanating energies, slow and continuous. Yet, magically, the figure itself in the centre like a 'Bindu' communicated a potential seed's stillness. The dancing figure was none other than the iconic contemporary Indian dancer Astad Deboo who passed away in December 2020.

Astad began his journeys in dance with Kathak. In this form, the 'chakkars' (pirouettes) operate as a tool for completing a ritual in the larger frame of a spiritual aesthetical pilgrimage. He later delved into Kathakali, the ancient theatrical form honing the expressional art of communicating emotions. His immersion in dances and dancers from various traditions from India and worldwide gave him the multilingual vocabulary of organizing communicative movements to project contemporary themes. On a parallel level, he was a warrior on a mission, a humanist who explored and advocated social change through dance.

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Monday, 15 March 2021

Cloud messenger from beyond borders - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Meghadootam, christened as Viraha Gatha (Elegy of Separation) and presented on February 17 on proscenium stage by 'Chidakash Kalalay' with munificence from Ministry of Culture, came actually as an overture for a 3-day long Gatha Utsav: Festival of Dance, Music and Theatre: with Padmanka Gatha (play) and Balai (a theatrical monologue on February 18; and a varied fare of Paanch Kaan (another theatre monologue), Dashavidha Rupam (duet-dance) by Akash Mallick and Pinki Mondal, solo music by Debjit Mahalanobis and the final duet music by Debjit and Subhendu Ghosh, all on February 19.

But Meghadootam, which only is reviewed here, had its special charm in being primarily an Urdu version (with a smattering of Multani, Sanskrit and Hindi), composed in 1987 by Raja Pratap Singh Gannari, a poet from West Pakistan, who had migrated to India. [Surprising though it may seem, just as Sanskrit poetry has its superbly nuanced meters, alliterations and other decorative features, Urdu sher-shairi (poetic recitations) - especially across the frontiers, as was this critic's experience once in the early 1990s -- has its highly developed Nafasat and Nazakat (beauty and delicacy), guttural utterance of nukhtas (accents), prolonged pronunciation of compound words, and nasalisation of n-sounds at the word's end (like gulistan, Guldastan, et al.) that make its poetry utterly bewitching!]

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Sunday, 14 March 2021

Khajuraho Festival - A mishmash of varying levels of proficiency - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


The week long (Feb 20-26) Khajuraho Festival 2021, experienced virtually by this critic, seemed to attract moderate to larger audiences braving Covid 19. A rich, holistic cultural event, with many other attractions planned round the main performances, the marathon festival was however a bit of a let -down in terms of artiste selection. It left one wondering about the criteria prompting the choice of dancers - projecting the established with the less good, sometimes bordering on still evolving raw talent.

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Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Interview - Avijit Das: Kuchipudi is graceful and elegant - Vijay Shanker


Avijit Das was initiated into Bharatanatyam at the age of five under the guidance of Sanaka Biswas of Shanti Niketan, and obtained his Diploma in Bharatanatyam from Kalakshetra, Chennai, on a meritorious scholarship in 2011. Developing a keen interest in Kuchipudi, he had his initial training in Kuchipudi Art Academy under Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam and Manju Bharggavee. He is currently training under Jaikishore Mosalikanti. Avijit also has a Diploma in Carnatic music.

Is this the first time you are performing at the Khajuraho Festival?

Yes. This has been one of the best experiences of my dancing career. I consider it an honor to perform at one of the most well-known/respected dance venues in the country for classical dances. Every aspect of the performance has been handled extremely well and with remarkable professionalism. The organization, audio, video resources, travel, accommodations were quite impeccable.

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Monday, 8 March 2021

Article - One Year Frame - Lockdown Technology for dance or Dance for Technology? - Navina Jafa

 "Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading desk - that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh - a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs." (E.M. Foster, 'The Stop Machine.')

The small, short story written by E.M. Foster in 1909 rings true for the human community today, as it did one century ago. Compelled to adjust to an alternate, framed world, 'Lockdown' for almost a year, human beings struggle to survive. Foster has several farsighted notions, including mechanisms for prompt instant communication message systems and even the idea of 'cinematophoes' that convey visual images.

Technology in the virtual space remains the single most powerful modality for the human community to assert their social and economic existence. "We are in an unprecedented situation, and the normal rules no longer apply. We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis...," says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

COVID-19 has highlighted the equation between the physical activity of dance and technology. For the entire Indian dance community and linked tradition bearers comprising performers, teachers, choreographers, musicians, and even those engaged in technical support of light, stagecraft, sound, literary pursuits, and patronage repositioned themselves to engage in the new frame - 'Lockdown' through technology. The operational reality remains re-inventing journeys to survive in a predominantly recent performance and transmission space from the stage to the small screen 'stage' of a laptop or a mobile screen.

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Saturday, 6 March 2021

Re-imagining the pastoral god - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Ritachhanda Festival presented on the proscenium stage on February 14 by SNB Foundation, offered a bouquet of five dances, Pancha Varna, built around the Krishna theme as visualized by acharya Ashimbandhu Bhattacharya. Performed by seven senior dancers of the city, the contents did assume different hues thematically and were executed in five major classical styles.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Animated discussion on to be or not to be of Guru-Shishya - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The relevance of the Guru/shishya tradition in the contemporary ethos became the focus of animated webinar discussion in an event hosted by Sanjay Kumar Joshi’s Parampara Dance and Music Forum.  With Meenakshi Ravi as moderator, the panel interaction, involving senior dancers Swapnasundari, Pushkala Gopal, Prathibha Prahlad, Prerana Shrimali and  Alekhya Punjala, voiced a blend of attitudes – with irreverence, at times, hitting a peak.   

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Monday, 1 March 2021

Anita says...March 2021

 Health is not a debt we can cancel

The body collects..
Memories, events, heartbreak, loss
and reacts
- Actor Patricia Clarkson in SHARP OBJECTS, a HBO miniseries
Our bodies HAVE collected. Almost a full year of drastic change. A brutal turn around-stopped in our tracks - bodies in collision with nature - minds at war within - hearts torn asunder with confusion and fear..

Yet here we are. Among the ruins (and some shards of rapture) of past 11 months. Surveying how we have somehow found the means to survive while millions have dropped off and fallen through the cracks of Fate and Time. This past year has been called a time of "Global Weirdness" by the New York Times. It seems to fit. We have fallen down the rabbit hole of every dark and dismal sensorial experience and one emotion is echoed through our lives and the voice of the media. FATIGUE.

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Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - March 2021


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Friday, 26 February 2021

Colors of classical choreography - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Purnaya, the young dancers' festival, organized on February 7, 2021 by Manipuri Nartanalaya, admirably supported by Manipur government and conducted by Bimbavati Devi, the talented daughter of Guru Bipin Singh - in a brand new, pocket-size auditorium dedicated to the memory of the recently departed, celebrated dance and theatre person, Usha Ganguly-presented four well-trained youthful artistes. 

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Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Profile - Kalamandalam Sankara Warrier: An exceptional genius - V Kaladharan

Last century witnessed the immaculate artistry of immensely talented Maddalam players in the aforesaid genres. Of them, Kalamandalam Sankara Warrier is an exceptional genius. He redrew the contours of Maddalam in Kathakali by means of his remarkable faculties - an acute musical sensibility, an intimate understanding of the visual dynamics, virtuosity, internalization of the textual and the contextual emotions and an irrepressible urge to transcend the traditional frontiers of this indigenous percussion instrument.

Warrier, on completion of his training at Kalamandalam, secured the post of an instructor there. He toured, as member of the Kathakali troupe, cultural hubs in India and abroad, in the 1970's. Following a sterling performance in Mumbai/London, the then British PM, Margaret Thatcher, a VVIP invitee, went on stage and generously complimented Warrier's wizardry. (Margaret Thatcher and Maddalam. What an oxymoron!).

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Monday, 22 February 2021

Article - Emerging cultural economics in dance - Navina Jafa

 (The theme was earlier commissioned by The Hindu, and the article repositions the wider frame of argument presented in the version earlier published. The main issue being initiatives by dancers to envision sustainability for performing communities and individuals beyond their own selves and their individual 'company' in the present challenging circumstances.)

The dancers in India have endured economic and sociological existential challenges during the Covid pandemic. Classical/ folk in urban and rural geographies have adopted imaginative journeys to revise, reconstruct, reinvent, re-educate, and reposition to align with emerging modernity. A new dynamic is the fast emerging parallel existence of a vibrant online with a limited and shrinking space of presenting dance and performing arts offline. The other issue is the manner cultural leaders in dance engaged in the performing arts are going beyond themselves and their organization. The matter is on the manner these cultural leaders are creating new dance networks to build and reposition in the changing times by providing hope, sustainability and second how these same leaders in performing arts are stretching to contribute to the performing arts to other performance communities.

Crucial in the discourse is bringing models that present hope towards sustainability of performing arts and artists. There has to be cognition of creating realistic frameworks that reflect strategies to reconnect with markets and are mindful of new audiences (consumers) in the dual existence of off and online performative spaces.

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Sunday, 21 February 2021

Tribute - Remembering Rukmini Devi - A Woman of Substance on her 117th birth anniversary - VP Dhananjayan

An orator with amazing English vocabulary and attractive personality, Rukmini Devi Arundale is a wonder woman of the century. A school dropout with academic excellence, who almost made it to the highest office of the country Bhaarat... A leap year baby (1904 to 1986), she was an exemplary woman of substance.

This old saying in Samskritam varies with positive and negative interpretations. Actually the essence of the connotation and its deeper meaning is very positive to say that women at any time should be protected by society. Yes, our epics, mythology and history have abundant stories with evidence to prove that Bhaarata naari were well respected and protected, yet there are incidents of humiliation they suffered on account of male chauvinism. After our independence from our invaders, a drastic attitude change became visible within our own society. Until then the question of atrocities on women did not arise and they did survive equally with their counterparts. One such example was Rukmini Devi Arundale - a beacon of light guiding a nation's cultural ethos for generations to come.

She did not believe in formal academic education but education in the real sense of refining oneself with discipline, devotion and dedication. She often quoted, "Academic degree or education without character is body without head." Art and culture are the inseparable aspects of human life and art fosters and nurtures the 'samskaara' (culture) of men and women for a happy life of beauty without vulgarity in thoughts and actions. Rukmini Devi did not believe in feminist liberation theory or such movements; she had no problem of independence, a free woman of individuality and freedom of thoughts. She achieved what many men could not.

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