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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Friday 1 January 2021

Anita says...January 2021

 2020 has given more to the authors of history textbooks than it has to the writers of diaries.

For all its eventfulness, 2020 has, for most of us, been a lost year. In several senses of the word. On top of the enormous loss of human lives, the pandemic paused many people's progress on long-plotted family and career goals. It forced countless celebrations, festivals and family gatherings either onto Zoom or out of existence. And it warped many people's sense of time, causing months-long stretches to seem interminable in the moment but like they passed in a blip in retrospect.

We have crossed over into a New Year. Like war time citizens, we too have yearned for a return to "normal." But, like the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, this pandemic may have far reaching repercussions for some time to come. That volcanic catastrophe caused major climate upheavals all across the Northern hemisphere including the USA. Water froze in the heat of summer, agriculture was wiped out, and snowfall was seen on July 4.

What has this "lostness" caused the artistic community? For the first time, each of us in the creative industries was in the very same boat. Out of work, performances cancelled, tours postponed, livelihoods threatened. Prima donnas, divas and devas, emerging dancers, fledgling actors, novice singers, newbie musicians - all faced a bleak scenario.

The delayed timelines, evacuation of public life, the absence of human bodies physically present for the live arts - these characteristics have made this lost year that we have lived through as a unique time, never experienced before in our lifetime.

And TECH swooped in - calling out to the nimble, adaptable, flexible, malleable bodies and minds. Nuance was out. Flash was in. Minimalism was pushed out by the grand gesture.

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