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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Thursday, 18 February 2021

Nrityaparva 2021 dedicated to lately departed stalwarts - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Travails of Covid 19 apart, this year of the pandemic has seen the dance community lose some of its most coveted contributors in different fields of art scholarship and practice. Substituting the customary performance glitz and dedicating Nrityaparva 2021to the much-mourned departed souls of Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Phillip Zarrilli, Astad Deboo and Dr. Sunil Kothari, was a fitting, sensitive gesture. Conceived, coordinated and executed by Anjali Memorial Committee, the three day virtual event was supported by the Alumni Affairs and Donors Relation of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and the ICCR Gujarat.

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Monday, 15 February 2021

Chiaroscuro of classical cadenza - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


The pall of gloom seems to be lifting from this metropolis - as indeed from many other sites in India - at long last in the New Year and "the normal" is thankfully set to regain its hold from the "new normal". Such seems to be the case in the three prosceniums that find favors by the dancers here: the three auditoria of ICCR, EZCC and Gyan Manch in the descending order of their capacity. And the crowd seems to be flocking back to them, bringing such sighs of relief to the performing community, weary of the past deadening of pace!

Ananta (the Infinite) presented on January 9 by 'Darpani' as their silver jubilee offering, directed by the noted Odissi and Bharatanatyam dancer Arnab Bandyopadhyay (and very professionally anchored by Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee), was quite an eye-catching affair with a few luminaries from the dance world. 

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Thursday, 11 February 2021

Prism - Chidaakaasham: Myriad Expressions of Art (Day 2) - A.M.Hari Shankar


The second day’s session started with another super set of artistes and scholars.

The organizers Prof. Deepti Omchery Bhalla and Dr. Padmaja Suresh expressed their vote of thanks to all the participants and scholars as the session concluded. The two day brain storming webinar found its purpose with quite a large number of participants actively involved in 3 to 4 hours per day of these sessions. Seminars of this repute serve as the milestones especially for the young upcoming generation to pursue art with utmost importance and responsibility.

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Obit/Tribute - Veteran critic Satish Mehta no more - Vijay Shanker

Veteran dance critic, Mumbai based Satish Mehta, left for his heavenly abode, on the afternoon on 9th February 2021, after a heart attack. He was 86 and a bachelor, who lived in Virar, one of the western suburbs of Mumbai, during his later years in a rented flat. He was a Gujarati, was connected with several cultural organizations and would regularly attend dance festivals around India and abroad, in spite of his physical handicap of polio in one of his legs.

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Obit/Tribute - Modernity to Bansi Kaul was to reinvent - Dr. S D Desai

Theatre offers a modest space. Working within it, a genius of a theatre person sees vistas illumined in front of him, at times limitless. Bansi Kaul (23 Aug 1949 - 6 Feb 2021) was one such genius. Born in Srinagar, he studied at the National School of Drama, became director of its Repertory Company and later joined its faculty. Then came the time when the work he did gave him identity - he formed 'Rang Vidushak' (1986) in Bhopal that remained rooted in traditions not yet integrated into the mainstream theatre. As art director for Khajuraho and prestigious national festivals abroad and at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, he projected the theme of Indigenous Indian Culture putting aside a mere entertaining spectacle.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Prism - Chidaakaasham: Myriad Expressions of Art (Day 1) - Hari Shankar

Last year had been a tough time for the entire mankind, especially, when it comes to the fraternity of artists and art lovers, it was annus horribilis. But nothing could stop the art enthusiasts and practitioners from getting themselves involved during this challenging time with some contribution to the field of their expertise. To everyone's surprise, there evolved a new idea of conducting online festivals and webinars. Even though the performing artists would not be able to do a complete justice to their presentations, leaving both the performers and the connoisseurs dissatisfied due to the unavoidable technical constraints at both the ends, webinars turned out to be a well-accepted and well-participated cultural affair.

In 2018, a remarkable national seminar on Mohiniattam titled 'Kaisiki Vritti', after 60 glorious years of the All India Dance Seminar (1958), where Mohiniattam had its first time national level exposure was organized by Trikalaa Gurukulam, a pioneer organization in Delhi under the aegis of Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi. This time, Trikalaa Gurukulam in collaboration with Aatmalaya Academy, Bangalore, organized Chidaakaasham, a two-day International Webinar (Dec 26 & 27, 2020) featuring eminent artistes, scholars, academicians from Indian universities, institutions abroad who enlightened the audience with their talks and performances on a wide array of topics that focused on rare metric patterns, rhythmic combinations in various genres of music and dance, both classical and folk, pan Indian, western music, Indian philosophy and rituals.

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Monday, 8 February 2021

Dancers' sojourn in distressed days - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Mahagami Gurukul, the unique performing arts institution of its kind, has now grown into a branch of MAHAGAMI University, having completed 20 years of a flourishing existence in 2017. Since then every year, past and present students converged from faraway places to be part of this celebration. Past students from USA, Brazil, Austria, Argentina, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, Pune, etc. travelled to Mahagami to be part of the dance offering, VAYAM (I, we) that aimed at celebrating their attachment with the Gurukul.

In 2021, due to the long months of lockdown, the Mahagami team led by their gifted director Parwati Dutta, came up with an online version of the VAYAM festival with an aim to encouraging talented dancers and celebrating the spirit of dance even in the existing restrictions. She had been artistically active since the beginning of lockdown in mid-March 2020 and had designed, curated and initiated a variety of projects and immersions in the past 9 months. Dance immersions were aimed at re-igniting the learners' minds towards form making abilities of dance movements, creating dance motifs and metaphors, and internalising multiple facades of dance. She immersed herself in the sudden silence around in the Gurukul and came up with a range of new compositions - from a Sanskrit ditty glorifying a blossom, to re-looking at taal Rupak from the perspective of the sound-form dialogue, a pada by Nanda Das describing spring time love frolics, to a highly imaginative Krishna Tandava (pure dance in Odissi) in which the divine dance of Krishna was imagined as if he wandered in the silent pathways of Mahagami! Indeed, the sculpted gardens and decorative motifs on all the buildings of the Gurukul provided a fascinatingly varied and picturesque backdrop of the 2021 virtual programme of VAYAM.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Two titans and their travelogues - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda have been two illustrious icons of our land, who were born only two years apart (1861 and 1863) and both within the perimeters of north Kolkata, but they seldom met. With their ideas and ideologies, they went their own eventful sojourns through life, remaining far away from each other. While Tagore lived a long and fruitful span of eight decades, Vivekananda blazed his trail over just thirty-six years, before coming to rest his mortal remains in Kolkata, not too far from where Tagore would breathe his last. It is interesting to look at what, very broadly, they held in common in their upbringing as well as in their future world views....

Rabi Kare Bibek Jyoti (Vivekananda Illumined with Tagore's Aura) presented on January 16 by 'Srijan Chhanda' under the noted Odissi dancer Rajiv Bhattacharjee - incidentally as their first venture on proscenium stage coming out of the thralldom of covid virus- attempted to place Tagore and Vivekananda side by side.

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Monday, 1 February 2021

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - February 2021


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Anita says...February 2021

 Are we in February already?

The days continue to whirl by and the blur of the hours passing seem almost like a monotonous hum. How long can we continue to pretend that dance and the breathing, dancing body can find a hybrid space via the digital platform?

Meanwhile, there has been quite a ferment in politics and art.
As the Capitol building was stormed in Washington DC by white supremacists, India's national flag was dishonoured by a group of protesting farmers on Republic Day.

Rumbles in Andhra land as Kuchipudi dancers resist attempts to prevent their paid recordings from being used for online performances.

Collaborations across communities in 20th century Tamilnadu occurred even during the seismic events of the independence struggle. An occasional series begins this month.

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Saturday, 23 January 2021

Obit/Tribute - Tribute to Dr. Sunil Kothari - VP Dhananjayan

Our long and lasting association with Sunilji goes back to 1956-57 when Kalakshetra troupe used to perform regularly in Bombay (now Mumbai) in Shanmukhananda Sangeetha Sabha and Chembur Fine Arts. As a young boy doing his Chartered Accountancy, he showed great interest in performing arts and used to nag us to teach him nuances of Bharatanaatyam.  Especially, I remember him spending a lot of time with us in the dormitory accommodation at Tamizh Sangam building in Mumbai and learning the Abhinaya Darpana theoretical slokas and their practical applications from us. Later, he frequently visited Kalakshetra for every art festival and imbibed a great deal. 

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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Book Review - Male impersonating female persona - Dr. Utpal K Banerjee

 Streevesham in Kathakali

By Prabal Gupta

Shubhi Publications
Gurugram, India
Rs.1495, 2021
ISBN 9788182903340

The book under review is an impressive piece of research work, quite comprehensive in its coverage, normally unusual for a "coffee table" book. It is all the more creditable for the publisher to have brought out a lavishly illustrated - both in color and black and white - volume of an investigative book of this nature. Both the author and the publisher are deserving of the readers' encomium.

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Sunday, 17 January 2021

Article - 1984 - Redux - Bharat Sharma

(Reflections on the 13th death anniversary of renowned choreographer Narendra Sharma)

How to take India’s dance forward…this question has been troubling dancers, choreographers, critics, connoisseurs, pundits, bureaucrats and art funders for long in India and international sphere. One way is to contrast developments in 20th century by making reference to the colonial question, East-West relations, civilizational discourse, dialectics of tradition and modern, unity and diversity, philosophical dispositions of ‘self’ and ‘other’, identity politics, gender relations, sexuality and of course the mind-body conundrum. Nevertheless, new ways of taking dance forward have come to stay, whether we like or not, and become integral part of performing arts in India – a distinct possibility, process, practice, theoretical reasoning and production of performance. Body in Performance was never culturally neutral.

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Saturday, 16 January 2021

Prism - ANDAL'S GARDEN: The Love Letter


Specially curated and presented by Dr. Anita Ratnam and on YouTube Instagram and Facebook, the morning presentations of Margazhi month starting from Dec 16, 2020 titled ANDAL'S GARDEN featured verses from Andal's Thiruppavai, while the evening presentations titled 'ANDAL'S GARDEN: The Love Letter' were devoted to verses from Nachiyar Thirumozhi, a lesser read masterpiece by the 9th century female saint Andal.

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Prism - ANDAL'S GARDEN: Part 2

Anita Ratnam and presented ANDAL'S GARDEN, Andal's TIRUPPAVAI 30, a series of curated performances celebrating the spirit and poetry of the only female Azhwar, Godai, for 30 days from December 16, 2020. These 30 poems or Pasurams, are brimming with imagery, imagination, and innovative metaphors influenced by the naturescapes of the Sangam era and Andal's own knowledge of the Bhagavatham.

Art by KESHAV - ©krishnafortoday & Keshav
Translations by PRIYA SARUKKAI CHABRIA - 'Andal: Autobiography of a Goddess'

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Friday, 15 January 2021

Article - Stage to Classroom, Importance of dance education in schools - Dr. Parul Purohit Vats

A powerful entry of the dancer on stage, amidst bright lights. Opening with speed but also restraint. Followed by Vandana to connect, the dancer and the audience, with the divine. Then one after the other the audience marvels at numerous technical pieces introduced with padhant and filled with intriguing footwork, flawless pirouettes and complex rhythmic patterns. The sound of ghunghroos, high energy level and the crescendo builds up in drut laya. A round of applause every time the dancer executes lightning fast footwork, numerous chakkars or any piece executing the evolved technique of Kathak. The performance is concluded with a splendid abhinaya (expressional) piece leaving the audience in complete awe of the dancer and the dance style.

This was a regular scene from my life as a performer on stage. Venues and concepts changed but the thrill remained the same year after year. But there comes a time in every dancer’s life, a time to reflect inwards and reckon, what next from here. Not that I was tired of performing, I still perform quite a lot but yes, I was yearning for more.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Book Review - From amour to worship - Dr. Utpal K Banerjee

Shringara: in Classical Indian Dance

Ed. By Sharon Lowen
Shubhi Publications
Gurugram, India
E mail:
Rs. 2405, 2021
ISBN: 9788182903 647

At the outset, one would compliment the editor and the publishers for a beautifully produced book in 'coffee table' format,with an elegant design and ample color photographs of India's well-known dancers, most of whom have generously contributed to the theme that appears to be dear to their heart. The result has been a satisfying work one would love to cherish!

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Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Obit/Tribute - Remembering Sunilji - Jai Govinda

Right from the moment I heard the sad news of his passing away I started to miss dear Sunilji. He was an institution into himself, an intimate witness of 60 years of the history, development and evolution of the many Indian classical dance forms. There will never be another one like him. With his legacy of at least 20 books on dance, his contribution to the performing arts of India is unsurpassed. His book 'Bharatanatyam,' a Marg publication, remains the go to book for an overall look at the dance form. A beautiful coffee table book with pictures of the dancers and masters of then and now, it covers all the many facets and components of the dance form. It is a precious jewel in any Bharatanatyam dancer's library. I remember when the second edition came out. I met Sunil in Delhi with the book in hand at a homage to Uday Shankar. Uday Shankar's daughter Mamata's troupe was performing. He said to me, "It has made a few people unhappy, but I am laughing all the way to the bank." This was a typical Sunil statement. Remember that his first job was as a chartered accountant....

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Monday, 11 January 2021

Obit/Tribute - Enviable magnanimity - V. Kaladharan

It is common wisdom that those who are destined to comment on the Indian performing arts shall inevitably watch live performances time and again even if they are not well-conversant with the craft and content of an art form concerned. The recently deceased Dr. Sunil Kothari was one who travelled the length and breadth of the country defying his age to watch avidly the recitals of the elder and younger generation of dancers. I saw him last at the Madras Music Academy during the dance festival after which we, although briefly, communicated through FB till he was diagnosed with Covid.

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Sunday, 10 January 2021

Profile - Dr. Sunanda Nair - S.K. Venugopal

I continue with the series I have been writing about some of the fine gems in the world of Mohiniattam practitioners who made their mark with their profound contributions to elevate the status of the dance form, from that of a so called 'poor cousin of Bharatanatyam' to one of the most sought after dance forms globally today. In my earlier articles I covered the profiles of 3 very senior artistes who represent three distinct styles of Mohiniattam - Kalamandalam Sugandhi, Kala Vijayan and Nirmala Paniker. I now move on to an artiste who by age is much younger than these great gurus, but my intention is to cover yet another beautiful style or bani as they call it.

Her story is that of hard work and dedication with which she grew in stature much faster than anyone could imagine and stand quite tall among the top artistes in the Mohiniattam fraternity today. She follows another style in Mohiniattam which is popularly known as 'Nalanda Bani'. She is celebrated as a global ambassador of Mohiniattam by many in the media, for her contributions in taking the dance form across the globe. I am talking of Dr. Sunanda Nair, disciple of Dr. Kanak Rele. 

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Saturday, 9 January 2021

The Sunil I knew and will miss - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

With the passing away on the morning of December 27, 2020 of Dr. Sunil Kothari, World Dance lost one who was unarguably its most visible and passionately friendly supporter, who, over a long career spread over sixty years, seemed to overwhelm the dance scene like a 'sarva vyapi' registering his presence in every dance event in any part of the country and even abroad. 87 years old (December 1933-2020) when post Covid complications snatched him away, leaving many desolate, Sunil Kothari's hectic life comprised peripatetic travelling, jet setting across the world experiencing dance events - the unabated wanderlust even during his last few years, based in Delhi, seeing him travelling 27 to 28 days of every month - with the winter months, with advancing years, spent mostly in the south! "If I am in the same place for over a week, the soles of my feet start itching badly, with impatience," he always maintained. A bachelor whose place of stay never saw a permanently run kitchen ("footloose and fancy-free with no permanent ties to chain me to any place") he remained all his life eating out or the guest dropping in for a meal. As a world traveller, the laptop, perennial phone (an everlasting addiction, misplaced, lost and replaced countless times), a carry-on with some'jubbas' and his excellently tailored black achkan sported on all formal occasions, were the hallmark of Sunil - the ever ready, eternally roving critic.

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Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Interview - Arunima Ghosh: Odissi dance jewellery is intricate and fine, like Odissi abhinaya - Shveta Arora

In this article, I’m choosing to write about the ornamentation in Odissi. Their head ornamentation has always fascinated me because of the intricate work that you see on it. Also, the ornamentation in Odissi stands out because it is in silver, unlike that in Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam, which favour gold if the dancer is not experimenting. I spoke to young Odissi dancer Arunima Ghosh, who is based in Delhi, and sholapith artist Netrananda Moharana of Puri, Odisha.

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Monday, 4 January 2021

Surreally virtual! - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Occupying the major part of the year 2020 and throwing the prevailing normalcy "out of joint", civilized life was interrupted over the entire globe and amidst the incomprehensible pandemic, the question facing the artist community (among others) has been, how the challenge was to be overcome? Should it be a face-off, withdrawing oneself to an off-stage seclusion and new images and metaphors could be imagined not too far from one's learned grammar and cannons? Arguably, this seems to be the overall response for the classically groomed dance community. Alternatively, can it be a "bang-on" process, a confrontational mindset, where the vicious catastrophe is looked at in the face and invited for a dual, as it were? Again arguably, this appears to be the world view of the contemporary dancers: free from the canonized hasta mudras and vachik and sattvik abhinaya, they were out on a fantasy battle with the invading demon - little understood as it has been.

The monthly editions of 'Sapphire Creations' spearheaded by Sudarshan Chakravorty, seems to spur on the team's dancers on a direct encounter with the unwelcome visitor and let loose the youthful band to confront the visiting scourge. This is what Sudarshan has to say, "Circumstances have changed but dance hasn't. We have danced on stage, danced on the streets, danced in cafes, bookstores, galleries, boardrooms. Now we will dance online. You will view us in a box. But in your mind's imagination, our energy and spirit will create a new world of movement, beauty, creativity and meaning for you. We will pervade borders with dance, be it physical or digital. We will Dance VividVivid is vivacious, alive and pulsating. This is the new now."

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