Sunday, 23 October 2016

Akademi awardees prove mettle - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

With such cataclysmic changes in the entire Sangeet Natak Akademi hierarchy, one did not know what to expect of the annual awards festival, after the conferring of the awards at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by the President of India. But I guess certain things do not change, and so it was this year too. For what has become, over the years, an increasingly in-house event, attracting a small interested niche audience, the intimate spaces of the Meghdoot I and II and III theatres provide just the right venue.
To start on a favourable note, SNA’s fellowship awarded to Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar was a laudable choice and a decision the Akademi can be proud of. And this 81 year old gave a performance that will not be easily forgotten. To choose a varnam like Papanasam Sivan’s Nattakuranji composition “Saami naan undan adimai enru ulagamellam ariyume” and present it without compromising on the araimandi stance or on the daunting double speed in the charanam part, is a very demanding proposition for even a young dancer – and in the case of an artist so senior, clich├ęd words of praise describing the performance seem inadequate. Starting with the famous hymn in praise of Nataraja, every aspect like the twinkling arudi-s executed to perfection, the excellent jati-s with ‘sarukkai’ movements done with such finish, and the image of the dancing Lord with the devotee’s thirst for a glimpse of the same and ecstasy at being able to feast his eyes on Him in the garbhagriha, were all brought out with Sudha Raghuraman providing deeply felt, tuneful vocal support, adding up to a never to be forgotten experience. The seasoned accompanists Jaya Chandrasekhar (nattuvangam), G. Raghuraman (flute) and M.V. Chandrasekhar (mridangam) added to the totality.

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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Mothers by Daughters & Others - Oh, how I miss you! - Ananda Shankar Jayant

My mother Subhashini Shankar bequeathed to us three sisters, great wealth – of searing honesty, a commitment to fight for justice, positive attitude, and a bouquet of charming stories, sayings and anecdotes for every occasion and event! Born into a large family, she grew up in Chennai learning music and later violin from TN Krishnan, and also Sanskrit. With marriage bringing her to Secunderabad, she adapted to Telugu, and Urdu, even as she nearly bought – heaven forbid! - prawns from the roadside vendor, thinking it sounded like Vendakkai (Okhra) in Tamil! Blasphemy or what to a vegetarianTam Brahm!
Contrary to popular choice and wishes for a male heir, during pregnancy, she prayed for a daughter, who she would train to be an artiste – maybe to fulfil her own dreams. And so, her first child was introduced to dance at the age of 4. Yes, that was me - as she found my first Guru Sharada Keshava Rao, at the Subrahmanyaswami temple. A gold medal at a national competition, followed by a summer holiday in hot Chennai, a visit to Kalakshetra, a blessing from the great Rukmini Devi Arundale herself,  saw a teary eyed 11 year old daughter bid farewell at the hostel gates of Kalakshetra to an equally teary eyed mother, as I was enrolled as a full time dance student

Friday, 21 October 2016

Nitya Nritya Dance Festival 2016 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Dr. Lalitha Srinivasan has been holding annually under the aegis of Nupura, her dance institution in Bangalore, Nitya Nritya dance festival for the past 30 years. There was a break for few years, but for past 7 years she has resumed the annual dance festival with seminars.

I have attended in early 80s and participated in seminars. With Aloka Kanungo I had given an illustrated talk with slides of Odisha temple sculptures to which Aloka had performed various poses as created by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. In earlier years I was fortunate to witness abhinaya by legendary Venkatalakshamma from Mysore. Ah, what a treat it was! As a matter of fact it all started with Lalitha’s wish to visit temples in Odisha, Tanjore, see Rasalila in Imphal, Manipur. Late BVK Sastry, a friend of Lalitha and Srinivasan suggested why not organize a conference in Bangalore and invite great gurus and dancers, hold seminars and performances, so that dance lovers of Bangalore also can witness their great art.

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Vienna Diary: Natya Mandir and Radha Anjali - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Vienna University (Universitat Wien) confirmed my lecture and screenings of the excerpts of films on Uday Shankar, Ram Gopal and Mrinalini Sarabhai on June 16, 2016, well in advance, therefore the last leg of my Europe tour was finalized and I had a glorious week in Vienna, the beautiful capital of Austria. The lecture was held at the seminar room of The Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies. By a happy coincidence, celebrated Kathak exponent Shovana Narayan with her husband Herbert Traxl, former Ambassador to India, was also in town. After retirement, Traxl also gives lectures in the same university.
Radha Anjali, a disciple of Kamadev, Adyar K. Lakshman and Kalanidhi Narayanan runs her institution Natya Mandir in Vienna for past 30 years. Thanks to Kamadev, we had met many   years ago when I had visited Vienna with Kamadev. They were to perform Seraikella Chhau dances in Vienna. I was instrumental in introducing Kamadev to Seraikella Chhau in 1968 when we met In London. I had taken with me few copies of special issue of Marg edited by me on Chhau Dances of India (Dec1968).

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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Book Review - The liberating dance - Natya Tantra- S.V. Indu

‘The liberating dance - Natya Tantra’ is an erudite exposition on the subject of Natyam as a meticulously designed tool that enables its practitioner to be truly spiritual. Appropriate illustrations and a rich bibliography at the end make this profound subject a comfortable read and conducive even for non-dancers. The author Dr. Padmaja Suresh (Director, Aatmalaya Academy, Bangalore), places an overview of Tantra and Natya in the beginning chapter. It explores the fundamental principle of Tantra Sastra through the works of Dattatreya and the essence of other Tantric treaties like Anukaranasabdasastram, Chitrakarma, Sivaswarodayam etc. apart from also understanding the significance of Natya as a consecration process.  

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

Reviving Kuchipudi Yakshagana demands more than showcasing - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

To bring back the glory of Kuchipudi Yakshagana is what every lover of dance would welcome. And this would seem to be the aim of the new effort which has been named International Dance Research and Training Centre at Kuchipudi, the village where the entire story of this dance began centuries ago.  Abu Hassan Tanisha, the Nawab of Golkonda (1672-1687 A.D), on a visit to Machilipatnam where he was treated to an impressive performance by a Nataka group (harnessing music, dance and the spoken word in a total theatre form) gifted land in appreciation to the actors, for establishing a dance village. But today’s sleepy Kuchipudi village, with hardly any survivors from the halcyon past of the Yakshagana tradition, lives largely on memories.  

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

2nd edition of ‘Nrityabritti Batayan’ festival at Durgapur - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Durgapur is ‘a steel city,’ by road three hours away from Kolkata. It does not boast of any major cultural events except as happens in Bengal, the biggest event is Durga Puja. Therefore when I received the invitation from Nrityabritti Batayan’s director Kalamandalam Swarnadeepa, a Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam dancer, I was quite surprised. The line up of dancers for the two day festival was quite varied, consisting of several dance forms including Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Kathak, Yakshagana and Bharatanatyam jugalbandi. The music component consisted of renowned Bengali musician Sourendra Malik and Soumyajit Das from Kolkata, Sutanu Sarkar from Santinketan and Inamee Chakravarty and Saurabh Gangauly.

The celebrated senior dancers were Sujata Mohapatra (Odissi) from Bhubaneswar, 
Vyjayanthi Kashi and her daughter Prateeksha Kashi (Kuchipudi) from Bangalore. The child prodigy Shreenika with her mother Sonalka (Odissi) from Bangalore, Sandip Malik (Kathak) and his troupe from Kolkata, Swaranadeepa and her troupe from Durgapur, Surojit Deb Barman from Agartala and S. Yogandan Singh (Manipuri) from Imphal, both trained at Shantiniketan, Dipjyoti and Dipankar, Sattriya dancers from Guwahati, Ullal brothers from Mangalore (Yakshagana and Bharatanatyam jugalbandi) and dancers of Saurabh group (Bharatanatyam) from Kolkata. Kalamandalam Gautam from Kolkata was to perform Kathakali but since he was involved with back stage assistance, he dropped the idea of performing traditional Kathakali with elaborate make up and aharya.

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