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 The painstaking manner in which the genealogy tree tracing the lineage of each gharana has been tabled makes for good historical reference.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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