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11th Kathak Nritya Sangeet Mahotsav
- Dr Sunil Kothari

March 11, 2013

Hot on the heels of Nritya Parva 2013 in memory of Anjali Merh by Anjali Memorial Committee, followed the 11th Kathak Nritya Sangeet Mahotsav organized by Kathak Darshan Trust on 16th and 17th February at the Abhivyakti Sanskritik Sthal, the open air theatre that late Maharaja Ranjitsingh Gaekwad established for the performing arts.

The renowned Kathak exponent from Baroda, Pt Jagdish Gangani, son of the legendary traditional Kathak dancer of Jaipur gharana, Sunderlal Gangani, has been organizing this festival for the last eleven years at the same venue, drawing record crowds. Last year Shovana Narayan, Pandit Birju Maharaj and Saswati Sen from Delhi were invited to perform. It was a huge success. I had attended the performances and was delighted to see Kathak being appreciated with such enthusiasm.

I have already mentioned in my review of Nritya Parva 2013, about my being a student of Maharaja Sayaji Rao University from where I earned my Ph. D in Dance. I had good fortune of meeting Sunderlal Gangani along with Prof. Mohan Khokar. I also had met Kundan Lal Gangani, elder brother of Sunderlal Gangani, who taught Kathak at the dance department. Sundarlal Gangani joined Music College in 1951 as a first dance guru and Kundan Lal Gangani joined in mid 1950's. During my researches for my book on Kathak for Raigarh gharana, I had received a lot of support and guidance from both Kundan Lal and Sunderlal. Trained by the scions of Jaipur gharana, these stalwarts had kept the flag of Jaipur gharana flying high.

Jagdish Gangani has studied Kathak under his father Sunderlal Gangani from childhood. Since he has been fortunate to learn directly from his father, today he is a repository of many rare compositions of the Jaipur gharana. He has been teaching at the Dance Dept as a Reader (he was promoted in 1993), these compositions to the young generation and is passing on the tradition in a meaningful manner. He has received Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi's Gaurav Purskar for his contribution to dance. Sunderlal had composed many kavits and recently Jagdish has released an audio CD of those compositions. This is a precious legacy of Jaipur gharana and its exponents.

Pt Jagdish Gangani

Durgesh Gangani

Pt Jagdish Gangani's troupe

Preeti Sathe

The festival was inaugurated by the great Vaishnav devotee Shri Mathureshwar Maharaj and graced by His Holiness Pinakin Guru. The Vaishnava sampradaya has close links with Kathak. Both the elders blessed Jagdish for preserving tradition. Like previous year, Jagdish performed several nritta pieces of Jaipur gharana with his gifted young son Durgesh, who has been receiving training from when he was 6 years old. Dance is in his genes. Accompanying them on tabla was Jagdish Gangani's younger brother Bhupesh Gangani, Pravin Acharya on pakhavaj, Moinuddin on sarangi and Hriday Desai on sarod. For vocal, renowned vocalist Jwala Prasad's son Madhav Prasad had arrived from Delhi. The musicians enthralled the audience with their excellent accompaniment.

In the beginning, the students of the Dance Dept. presented Padanyas, which was specially choreographed by Jagdish Gangani for the reunion of MS University of Baroda. The female dancers and two male dancers performed it gracefully, maintaining the taal and laya. Set to Bhatiyar raag it had symmetrical movements converging centrifugally and creating clusters aesthetically. The green colour costumes looked attractive. They were framed artistically with the backdrop of Kedareshwar temple and the trees. They also performed to the poem of Santosh Jha describing the morning glory, beauty of flowing river, height of the mountain, the gentle breeze etc. The dancers moved in a row with interesting choreography, showing the waves of water. The chain formation, shrinkhala, was noteworthy. Sanotsh Jha's collection of poems was released on this occasion by Prof R.C. Mehta, a Fellow of Central Sangeet Natak Akademi. He was the first Principal of the Dance Dept and is a renowned musicologist of great repute. Even at his advanced age of 93, he attended the event for some time.

Jagdish and Durgesh, father and son, danced in teen taal Thaat, Paran, Amad, Lamcchad Parans of Jaipur gharana. In the Thaat of Jaipur gharana, one watches the gliding and covering of the stage, almost like a gat. Jadish showed various andaaz of Thaats. The tihais with foot work na dhin dhin na was engagingly rendered. With breathless forceful padhant, recitation of Srota gati yati, Jadish explained how the bols are recited and movements take shape. Durgesh entered with breathtaking pirouettes in Amad. He has a handsome stage presence and a charming naiveté. Together Jagdish and Durgesh performed Chaupalli paran in a harmonious manner. Jagdish also demonstrated how meend glissando of music is interwoven in mnemonic syllables and gayaki ang. While taking various chakkars, he covered the stage and displayed his command over the technique. While doing tatkar, he created illusion of shower of rain. Mridangiya yati paran was another interesting piece.

Kavit relating to Raas describing child Krishna's pranks, Krishna leela in Sunderlal Gangani's composition using alphabets was quite unusual. The bols like 'Kansa ko maar pacchad', 'Naag naath liyo, and with 'Sundar binati karat', the name of the poet Naammudra was noteworthy. 'Rang de Bihari' had imagery for colour. 'Kaiso rang daryo Kanhai?' What sort of black colour you sprinkled, O Krishna? Neither can it be drenched, nor can it fly up in the air, nor can one wash it! It is another eye catching composition of Sunderlal Gangani. Durgesh also performed few gats gracefully. Jagdish concluded with tatkar and gave an impression of meditation, an experience he undergoes to communicate with the audience. Both father and son gave a heartwarming performance.

On this occasion, the other artistes who were invited were Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt, his group Deepak Pandit, Sanjay Jaipurwale and Hira Pandit. They performed till 2am in the morning, in spite of the cold. One must admire the dance and music loving Barodians to brave the cold and applaud the artistes.

On 17th, I could not attend the performances of Kathak exponent Prerana Shrimali from Delhi Kathak Kendra, the local artiste Preeti Sathe, Jeetu Shankar (Sa Re Ga Ma fame) and his sons Rishabh and Piyush, Kathak dancer Sandeep Mahavir from Mumbai, who was accompanied by the famous Ranjit Barot, son of legendary Sitara Devi, on drums, Santosh Mulhekar on keyboard, Manas on bass, Ravindra and Rajesh Rajbhatt on tabla and Dinesh Mahavir on vocal.

The only suggestion I would like to give is to start on time by 7pm and conclude the evenings by 11pm. Even if popular musicians attract crowds, late night presentations deprive artistes of their regular timings and the delay and waiting for other artistes' performances robs the event of its charm. Kathak Nritya Sangeet Mahotsav is an annual event which people look forward to attending.

Dr. Sunil Kothari
Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. He is honored by the President of India with Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Senior Critic Award from Dance Critics Association, NYC. He is a regular contributor to, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 12 years.

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