A TRAVESTY OF THIS ART FORM
by Srikant Subramaniam, Mumbai
e-mail: subbuvenki@hotmail.com
May 2002

This is a sincere statement from a sincere student of Bharatanatyam. What is given importance today is not “Bharatanatyam” but the amount of nehaigal or ornaments. I have been to so many dance recitals in Mumbai but most of the performances are insipid and disorienting. The amount of ornaments and floodlights that focus on those ornaments is quite unbelievable.

Can a doctor start practicing unless he has mastered his knowledge of medicine, can a singer give concerts unless he has trained his voice completely, can an architect start on his project unless he has mastered his plans and laid his foundation for it? How is it then that a student of dance starts giving programmes without mastering even the basics of dance technique, which are not polished and sharpened?

Sometimes, the very next day such dancers are reviewed in the newspapers and encomiums are showered upon them in abundance. Is this Bharatanatyam? Is it an art form meant only for the rich and not poor, is it only a show of rich pattu sarees (silk sarees with heavy brocade work)?

It surprises me that well known music and dance Sabhas (organizations) give opportunities to such dancers and the ones who have given their sweat and energy in polishing the art form stand no chance as they do not have any donations to give to such Sabhas.

Bharatanatyam is an excellent art form with its own highly finished technique, where every limb and the mind are attuned in a kind of yoga.

YATHO HASTAS STATHO DRISHTIR
YATHO DRISHTIS STATHO MANAH
YATHO MANAS STATHO BHAVO,
YATHO BHAVAS STATHO RASAH

How many dance practitioners and teachers understand the depth of these lines? If they do so, why aren't their students following it? Why is the art form degenerating? Why is the art form so money oriented? Why is it only a privilege for the rich? Good, talented hardworking students of dance from middle class families are scared to take up dance as their career. Well! This depends upon the attitude of ordinary theatergoers who are carried away by this growing tendency of exhibitionism. The attitude has definitely degenerated - ornamentation and dress should be governed by consideration of modesty and decency. Dancers today must have faith in their artistic perfection and not depend upon success due to accidental accessories like costumes and lighting.

Maybe the art which was considered to be sacred and offered at the feet of Lord Nataraja may go into oblivion and in its place, a hybrid travesty of art may masquerade as the art of Bharatanatyam.
“Heaven save us from such a calamity”.
Srikant Subramaniam is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Bharatanatyam from Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, which is affiliated, to the university of Mumbai. He has won many accolades in Mumbai and plays leading roles in various dance ballets.