There is an eerie unease in my home state. The events of the last few days of September have been so contrasting in timbre that we have been left holding our breath, afraid to exhale.
My Chief Minister has been incarcerated, violence erupted on the streets of Tamilnadu and Indian Americans thronged New York streets as my Prime Minister addressed the world from the United Nations, Central Park and Madison Square Garden. Against the tragedy of floods in Kashmir and Assam, the heroic rescue attempts by the Indian armed forces, the chest pumping pride of ISRO scientists sending the Mangalyaan orbiter to Mars was juxtaposed women wailing, beating their chests, men immolating themselves and rolling on the streets of Tamilnadu, weeping for their jailed “Amma”. Pure theatre in a 360 degree surround sound atmosphere.
So forget the auditoriums and theatres where the “real” stuff is supposed to happen. On street corners, apartment clusters, sports stadiums and playgrounds, hundreds upon thousands were either glued to their TV sets to watch the political drama being played out or congregated in hordes to clap hands, strike sticks, sing, cheer, swirl and twirl to the familiar sounds of music and rhythm. The streets were awash in Tamilnadu with a mixture of rage and rapture. Elsewhere there was a surge of colour and energy, the bylanes of Goddess temples throbbed with song and conch, estrogen surged and smiles stretched beyond shoulders to the Indian coastlines and beyond.
This is really a joyous time to be in India or anywhere close to the IDEA of India across this globe. New clothes, more jewellery, a visit to your guru for new beginnings of learning; endless bonhomie, entertaining, overeating, sugar highs, upset stomachs and happy hearts. Of course, performances of dance and music are amplified during this season, artistes concentrating on the devotional and traditional repertoire rather than experimentation.
I was in the midst of a giant wedding last month, where I was able to watch, up close, the many dancers and musicians who were invited to perform amidst the emerald chandeliers, French patisserie chefs and Korean gourmet concoctions. Russian ballet did a pas de deux with Carnatic music, chamber orchestras played toe to toe with beat boxing hip hop dancers and Bharatanatyam groups... it was delicious madness and a chance to see how the Indian classical performers matched up to the casual ease with which the “others” blended into glitzy hotel ballrooms and giant shamiana/pandals. Indian divas had mini and maxi tantrums, demanding attention from young harassed volunteers, photographers and wedding decorators threw their weight everywhere, demanding that senior relatives MOVE so they could get a better shot of the wedding couple. It was pure theatre at every moment and a signal that perhaps our classical arts are not meant for these mega weddings of today. Well known names were distinctly off key to a distracted crowd thronging towards the food pavilions. The Kalakshetra ensemble and the all woman veena group from Bangalore were listed to perform after one such high profile wedding. When I saw the VIPs rush towards the food pandals, there may have been a handful only to watch the scheduled performances. So why should renowned artistes accept these invitations? Money? Prestige? Gone are the days when the greats performed at wedding receptions and private events to an attentive and appreciative crowd of guests. MS Subbalakshmi, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and DK Pattammal among others were frequently heard at these family occasions. Dancer Padma Subrahmanyam premiered her iconic ‘Krishnaya Tubhyam Namaha’ at a wedding reception in 1974, while yours truly had her arangetram at a similar evening (My uncle’s reception at the now defunct Abbotsbury Hall, Chennai).
Astad Deboo in HAMLET_AVTAAR directed by Hyoung taek Limb
At Seoul’s Daehakro Art Theatre on Oct 23, 2014
Photos: Amit Kumar
Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra presented its 58th edition of Ram Lila
at the Kendra lawns from September 25 to October 21, 2014
Photos courtesy: Shoba Deepak Singh
Jai Govinda (Bharatanatyam): Nov 4
Jayarama Rao (Kuchipudi): Nov 4
Kishore Mosalikanti (Kuchipudi): Nov 5
Lata Pada (Bharatanatyam): Nov 7
Rajashree Shirke (Kathak): Nov 15
Nandini Ramani (Bharatanatyam): Nov 18
Uma Sharma (Kathak): Nov 20
Melattur S Natarajan (Bhagavatamela): Nov 30
"Art is nothing tangible. We cannot call a painting ‘art’ as the words ‘artifact’ and ‘artificial’ imply. The thing made is a work of art made by art, but not itself art. The art remains in the artist and is the knowledge by which things are made."
- Ananda Coomaraswamy
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