Dashrath Patel: 1927-2010
December 23, 2010
REMEMBERING DASHRATH PATEL: 1927-2010
An hour-long documentary film, 'In the Realm of the Visual', by Iffat Fatima on the Retrospective exhibition of 50 years of Dashrath's work in painting, ceramics, photography and design, at the NGMA, Delhi in 1998, will be screened.
A founding member of the Arts Foundation, SPACES, Chennai, Dashrath was central to the setting up of the aesthetic performance and kalarippayattu venues at its campus on Elliot's Beach.
He was, of course, an integral part of Chennai from his student days, having graduated from the Government College of Fine Arts here in the early fifties. He was to stay on in Chennai intermittently over the next five decades, contributing to the life of the city in various ways, including assisting his teacher Devi Prasad Roy Choudhury in the making of two distinct landmark sculptures at either end of Marina Beach - the 'Triumph of Labour' and the Gandhi statues. In Chennai, he was also closely associated with dancer/choreographer Chandralekha in several projects including alternate communication workshops, various exhibitions and doing sets for her dance productions. Eventually, in 2005, he also did the 'Fire' sculpture at the Tidel Park junction on Rajeev Gandhi Salai.
Dashrath was the first director of design education at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, when it started in 1961 and trained a generation of designers and design educators in India. He also executed some of the most prestigious international projects that came the way of India. After he resigned from NID in 1980, on the heels of a first ever Padma Shri for Design, he set up the Rural Design School in Sewapuri, near Varanasi.
The Dashrath Patel Museum in Alibagh,
off Mumbai, now houses under one roof, the entire range of his work in
multiple disciplines and is open to public viewing on weekends.
The events are open to all.
5.30pm - 10.15pm
5.30pm - 6.30pm: Astha Tripathi (solo)
Concept & Choreography
SHARIRA - Fire/Desire
Surrounded by swirling waters
After Angika, Chandralekha's productions like Lilavati, Prana, Sri, Yantra, Mahakal, Raga, Sloka and Sharira are classic examples of how Indian dance can be modern on its own terms without borrowing from the West. Her work constitutes a deep interrogation of the Bharatanatyam form in a proscenium space as well as its mechanically interpreted mythological content. The cumulative direction of her search has been to return to the basics of the body and its energies within changing Time/Space dynamics.
The Chennai-based dancer/choreographer, who passed away in 2006, was also noted for her contributions as a creative writer and designer. She trained in the early 1950s with the famed Bharatanatyam teacher and nattuvanar Guru Kancheepuram Ellappa Pillai and soon achieved critical acclaim in the dance style known for its musicality and intensity of abhinaya in a lineage that had also spawned that extraordinary artist, Balasaraswati.
During a glittering decade-long career, Chandralekha was among the leading soloists of her time and performed at some of the most coveted venues in India and abroad, besides being a select member of the first ever Indian artists' delegation to the USSR and China in the 1950s. However, by the early 1960s, she moved away from the performing scene rejecting the sublimated content of the classical form as well as its commercial and market entertainment values.
In the twenty-five years interim till she returned to work full-time with dance and choreography, in Angika, while she did produce two critical dance productions like Devadasi (1960) and Navagraha (1972), her chief involvement remained with writing and designing, as well as with the human rights and the feminist movements, with acknowledged historic contributions in these areas. In 1986/87, Chandralekha was the chief choreographer for the opening events of the Inaugural functions of 'The Festival of India' in the USSR. She has also been chief conceptualiser and curator of two major exhibitions - 'The World is my Family', for the Gandhi Centenary Year, Delhi, 1969 and 'Stree - Women of India', Krimsky Hall, Moscow, 1988, for 'The Festival of India', USSR.
Chandralekha worked with integrating the structures and internal strengths of classical forms like Bharatanatyam, martial forms like Kalarippayattu, therapeutic forms like Yoga and symbolic ritual forms like 'hasta-mudras', in order to comprehend and interpret the body in a modern sense. Her work expresses a basic wonder at the complexity of the body, which is the repository of both, poetry and power. Chandralekha's legendary status in India is a result, on the one hand, of her having opened out space for 'contemporary dance' in the Indian context and, on the other, of her having been presented at some of the most prestigious venues in the world - including the Tokyo Summer Festival (thrice); the Hammoniale - Festival der Frauen, Hamburg (twice); the Avignon Festival, France; the Asian Dance Festival, Hong Kong; the Fine Arts Festival, Singapore; the International Sommerscene, Copenhagen; the International Festival of Scenic Arts, Sao Paulo; the Vivarta Festival, U.K.; Indonesia's 'Golden Jubilee' Celebrations, Jakarta; at a six-city presentation as part of Canada's Year of the Asia-Pacific and many such events.
Her last work Sharira was showcased
at the Novel Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2002 and toured Japan in 2003,
besides at several venues in India. It was also a special invitee for the
Frankfurt Book Fair, in October 2006, and was presented at the Mousonturm
Kunstlerhaus. The work was subsequently presented in 'tribute' dedications
at the Julidans Festival, Amsterdam and the International Sommerszene Festival,
Salzburg, in 2007, in Toronto 2009 and at the Southbank Centre's Alchemy
Festival, London, 2010.
In October 2004, a collective of women's groups in New Delhi, led by Jagori, paid a special tribute to Chandralekha for her inspirational contributions to the women's movement. Chandralekha is also known in the USA as being the first Indian artist, after a gap of 14 years, to be presented at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and the first ever to be presented at the St.Mark's Cathedral in 1994. Marking another first in the U.S., in 1998, her work Raga was presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's 'Next Wave Festival'. In September, 2001, her work Sharira had pride of place in an international symposium and festival in Chicago.
A major book on her and her work,
Chandralekha: Woman, Dance, Resistance by Rustom Bharucha,
was published in 1995 by Harper-Collins, India. In 2004, another important
book on her work was written by Ananya Chatterjea: Butting Out: Reading
Resistive Choreographies Through Works of Jawole Zollar and Chandralekha.
Her own poetic work Rainbow on the Roadside was published
by Earthworm Books, Chennai in 2001. Her other published visual books with
poetic text include, Fire-Counterfire and
Chandralekha was profiled on national and international TV on several occasions and also won numerous awards including the 'Legends of India - Lifetime Achievement Award' (2006), the Sangeet Natak Akademi 'Fellowship' award ('Akademi Ratna'-2005), Kalidas Samman (2004), the Sangeet Natak Akademi award (1992) as well as the International Time-Out/Dance Umbrella award in U.K. (1991) and the Gaia award for 'cultural ecology' in Italy (1990).
Chandralekha's aesthetic questions the reduction of the body to merely something pretty or ornamental or decorative. She celebrates the intense play between the subtle and the manifest body and its expression through purity of line and the extension and dilation of the energy field in principles like slowness, control, balance, lightness. Her last few productions focused on a complex idea of 'femininity'. Her central premise remained of the essential unity of the body and, within it, the indivisibility of sexuality, sensuality and spirituality.
UMAKANT & RAMAKANT GUNDECHA
- Musicians (Vocal)
The Gundecha brothers perform from a vast repertoire of classical Hindi poetry and devotional songs like Kabir, Tulsidas and Padmakar, besides their own compositions. They have been broadcast on national radio and TV, as well as on the BBC and German and French radio. They also have to their credit numerous cassettes and CDs by HMV, Music Today, Rhythm House, IPPNW Concerts, Berlin and Audio Rec, London. They have composed music for several international music documentaries.
The Gundecha brothers are recipients of several national fellowships and awards, the most distinguished of them being the 1998 Kumar Gandharva Award for highest achievement in music. They have travelled and performed extensively in Europe and the USA on musical concert tours. They have recently established a 'Dhrupad Sansthan' in the city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, where they live and work. They have been providing live musical support for Chandralekha's performances since 1999.
AKHILESH GUNDECHA - Musician (Percussion)
SHAJI K JOHN - Dancer
Since 1986 (aged 15), he has been extensively travelling and performing with Chandralekha in several of her productions and workshops. He has conducted workshops and given Kalari performances on an individual basis too in India and abroad. Presently, he conducts popular Kalari and Yoga classes and works as a therapist from three different venues in Chennai.
TISHANI DOSHI - Dancer
SADANAND MENON - Light Designer
He has curated a major retrospective of the art of Dashrath Patel for the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi  and in Mumbai . Besides being a frequent columnist in leading publications, he is currently on the Apex Advisory Committee of the National Museum, Delhi, the Executive Committee of the Central Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi, and is Managing Trustee, SPACES, an arts foundation, Chennai.
From DHRUPAD SANSTHAN:
AMITA SINHA MAHAPATRA