Saturday, 20 January 2018

Mellow breeze from Manipur - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee




Is Manipur - nestling among the seven hills - - the same ancient land where the celestial Gandharvas lived and practiced their sacred songs and dance, flying frequently to heavens to entertain the gods? The inhabitants do believe still that they are the original Gandharvas and Manipur's name indeed was 'Gandharvadesh' in days of yore. Whatever the myth is, the abiding love of visual and performing arts in all rites of passage and lifestyle activities bear eloquent testimony to Manipur's aesthetic forbearers.

One would love to believe that the Manipuri boy who came from the nearby Kachhar village in Assam - with dreams of dance in his eyes and a steely resolve to dance all his life despite setbacks - was perhaps a Gandharva in this birth. Groomed by stalwart gurus like Ojha Amudom Shatma, Ojha Amubi Singh and Ojha Atomba, he joined as choreographer in Madame Menaka's pioneering troupe in Mumbai in the 1930s and soon opened his own institution 'Manipuri Nartanalaya' in Mumbai, Kolkata and Imphal. His impressive repertoire of compositions was marked by the richness of taal, lyricism of music, intricacies of rhythmic patterns and fluidity of dynamic movements.

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Friday, 19 January 2018

Sringaram: Leitmotif for Bharatanatyam's dual anguish/ecstasy landscaping - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Given the uniformly large turnout for each of the five days of the 37th Natya Kala Conference mounted by Yagnaraman Centre for Performing Arts and Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, convenor and designer Dr. Srinidhi Chidambaram, would seem to have once again proved her mettle for immaculate planning and organisation. And as a rare case, realising that hers is not an easy act to emulate, the committee of the Sabha announced unanimously selecting her as the Convenor for next year's Conference too. 

Her theme of Sringaram -an immersion, with participants pertaining to different age groups and mindsets representing different dance traditions along with scholars and poets, brought together a wondrously varying landscape etched with myriad images on the subject of sringaram. Ironically dubbed the 'King of Rasas' despite its wide range of expressions spiritual/sexual and erotic/ physical/ metaphysical, largely articulated by female performers, Sringaram's greatest quality is that it is never monochromatic.

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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

NEW (in the) YEAR - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar


Trending all through the year - end and New Year beginning were New Year’s greeting cards of and from dancers with their own photos, of course! No promotion like self promotion. Our young, internet savvy dancers are very good with technology.  Since, no one else is likely to do so (promote them) in this age of FB and blogs, why not help yourself? After all, a bard said long ago: God helps those who help themselves! 

Helping themselves or how to help dance reach out, especially in an over- saturated form like BN (Bharatanatyam), was the focus of Music Academy's opening day seminar on 5th January, and easily the most important academic discussion in the New Year. On small stage in its mini hall, nicely refurbished, filled huge talents like the one and only Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, diva Alarmel Valli, activist-artiste Anita Ratnam and a rather reticent, yours truly. I was more shy than switched off, as I was being put on the same stage as two of BN current greats - Padukka and Vallima (as I fondly call them) - and I was also reluctant to add my two bit because I dreaded another drivel-filled  seminar on a Friday morning of mealy-mouthed pontifying but thanks to all of us and an excellent theatre talent called PCR (for Delhiites that only means Police Control Room) a husky-voiced, polished gentleman, who moderated such diverse talents very well, so the proceedings were fulsome and informative (as many shared later, privately).  

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

If it is December, it must be Madras/Chennai - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

In the early seventies in Mumbai at Empire cinema, I had seen a Hollywood film titled 'If it is Tuesday, it must be Belgium.' It fits in well for my footloose and fancy free wanderings. Hence the title of this article. 

Way back in 1970 December on my return from a year long travels and considerable long stay in London, I had gone with Chandralekha to the early morning session at The Music Academy to attend a lec-dem by Dr V.Raghavan explaining subtle nuances of abhinaya by the legendary Balasaraswati. At that time there was a shamiana and lec dems were held under a pandal. Listening to Bala's exquisite singing, one was under her spell. She was a big built woman and used to dress in a simple saree, no makeup and would perform abhinaya padam, which Dr. V. Raghavan would explain in advance, mentioning raga and tala and gist of the song. 

It was quite an experience. It indeed opened up for someone like me a new way of looking at dance. In Chennai with predominant Tamil speaking community and the rasikas and connoisseurs the songs were understood and therefore also the subtleties of abhinaya along with sanchari bhavas, spontaneous improvisations. But in case of Bala, her manodharma, imaginative interpretations were not what everyone could understand and relish. Therefore Dr. V.Raghavan's explanations in English helped non Tamil speaking rasikas a lot. 

After the lec-dems, many a times, Chandralekha would be asked by Bala to join her for morning breakfast and coffee. It was indeed a privilege to join them. Chandra was learning from Kanchipuram Elappa Pillai, who accompanied Bala for nattuvangam. Bala and Chandra were good friends. Chandra introduced me to Bala and since then one had become a devotee of Bala.

So December meant Chennai. The Margazhi month then offered excellent music by stalwarts like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iynegar, Mudikondan, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, DK Pattammal, M.S. Subbulakshmi and others. Chandra was at that time staying on Elliots Road, now Radhakrishnan Salai. Her neighbor was Vidya Shankar, a vastly gifted veena player. Behind her house was Dr. V. Raghavan's house. Since I stayed with Chandra and attended major classical music performances, I came to know Dr. Raghavan well. That was a blessing. Because when I undertook my researches in 1975 for dance drama traditions of Kuchipudi, Bhagavatamela Nataka and Kuravanji with special reference to Rasa Theory as expounded in Bharata's Natyashastra, his generous guidance was a boon. When he saw my industry and deep involvement, he gave me several books with English translations to study, in particular about Bhakti literature.

The die was cast. Since then except when I was away abroad, I never missed Margazhi celebrations in Chennai in December. Known as December 'season' many, like me, headed for Chennai planning well in advance to travel from Mumbai not to miss the major music and dance performances. It was a great learning for someone like me, who was exposed to dance conferences in Mumbai where at annual Sur Singar Samsad's Swami Haridas Sammelan I was exposed to Hindustani music and predominantly classical Kathak dance. There were also Bharatanatyam performances by Kamala Lakshman, Vyjayantimala, Balasaraswati. However the morning sessions at The Music Academy were very educative. There was vidvat, knowledge and technical discussions that threw lot of light on the musical forms. 

Over the years, now that we are in 2017 and 2018, the scene has changed a lot.

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Sunday, 7 January 2018

Good ideas of Natya Darshan needed more respect for the clock - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Titled assertively Now or Never - Pay and be Paid, Natya Darshan, the annual dance seminar / initiative of Kartik Fine Arts started in 2001, and curated this year by architect/designer/dancer Krithika Subrahmanian, had the objective of making Dance approachable, and the classical art form accessible to youth from other backgrounds...as a real option for intelligent entertainment....achieved by creating platforms for designers, writers, poets, technicians and students in allied areas (to enter) the fray in events and feel like stakeholders in the revival of interest... . An ambitious target indeed and while dancers must insist on being paid, ticketing even the morning seminar sessions resulted in a pitiful few attending the daytime proceedings. Students who would have benefited from these interactions arrived at the venue to reluctantly go back on finding the event priced out of their reach. Spreading any message should start by involving the young. 

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Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Yuletide Cadenza - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Kolkata’s Christmas spirit - extended easily up to the New Year night revelry - has long lost its sheen of being a mere religious affair. All the Masses conducted in the worthwhile churches - including the most colourful one in St. Paul’s Cathedral - spread only the noble message: “Goodwill to all and malice towards none.”  The nostalgia for having been a British capital - lost more than a century ago - is still palpable in the strong Anglo-Indian quarters of Boe Barracks and the royalty-tinged trinkets on sale at the Hogg Market. But the surging crowds could not give a damn and overflow into the most happening streets where any vehicular traffic is out of the question for quite a while, and the goodies like Flurry’s cakes and Trinka’s savouries continue to be mouth-salivating and delicious.  The only sad shadow that is looming large this year hangs from the Metro Cinema arcade -- the undisputed trysting spot for decades of lovers – which is now yielding to the hammers of the other Metro: the under-and over-ground Rail arteries of the burgeoning city. 

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Thursday, 4 January 2018

3rd edition of Shishir Chhanda Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Former Ambassador of Argentina and Director General of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Mr. Amarendranath Khatua in his opening remarks during the first day of Shishir Chhanda Dance Festival of Odissi exponent Sarita Mishra’s Adyasha Foundation, mentioned that more than 8 and half lakh population of Bangalore are from Odisha. Indeed it was a matter of great pride that they have during past fifteen years supported the Odissi dancers in the city, encouraging them to establish their dance institutions and train young dancers in Odissi. 

He also complimented the Kannadiga community for their catholic attitude to accept Odissi dance form, some of them learning it with devotion. It speaks volumes of their broadmindedness and genuine love for the performing arts.  Besides Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Yakshagana, Kathakali, the popularity of Odissi in Bangalore has been very heartening. Few years ago only one or two Odissi dancers had ventured to establish an institution to teach Odissi and perform it. Today, more than eight Odissi dance institutions are in Bangalore, including Adyasha. 

Like her other contemporaries, when Sarita Mishra settled in Bangalore and decided to start teaching Odissi, she found the response very encouraging. In particular, the established senior exponents and gurus, whomever she approached, encouraged her and she started an institution in Koramangala where she stays and also opened a branch in J P Nagar. When she organized the first edition presenting her students and also inviting senior Odissi exponents and Gurus from Odisha, she found the response overwhelming. Today, Odissi has become a popular dance form in Bangalore. 

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