- Ashish Mohan Khokar, Bangalore
rhymes with rasam and it is as tasty! Each year, Murali Mohan Kalva and
partner Nandini Mehta mount two unique festivals: One, Kutti Nadam for
kids, as in young talents and the other, Patti Nadam for older, grown-ups.
This year, it offered a feast for the eyes of starved Bangaloreans. Look
at the line up: India's best male soloist Satyanarayana Raju in Bharatanatyam,
followed by Nadam ensemble of 7 and the day one evening concluded with
Seraikella Chhau by Shashadhar Acharya.
Day two had
Navia Natarajan of USA, followed by Padma Subrahmanyam junior, called Padmini
Ravi and day two concluded with Orissi by Aruna Mohanty's group.
Day three had Kathak by junior Durga Lal lookalike, Tushar Bhatt, followed
by a bout of games played better than the recently concluded Commonwealth
Games by ace and senior guru CV Chandrasekhar's group and the evening ending
on high note with Kathak by new star of the form, Arjun Mishra's son, Anuj.
the venue is a deathtrap as crossing the JC Road means a certain death
for the less deft, the hall was pretty full on all three days proving that
Bangaloreans are willing to die for good art. Nadam group has reasonably
good and even talents with Smita Srinivasan looking graceful and dancing
gracefully; she has the most charmingly benign personality for the stage.
Murali Mohan showed his good tayari and Nandini her good gait. While one
can discern the need for editing and doing an item less as Nadam also plays
host, Nadam trains well and its students and dancers acquit well. Samanvita
Sharma, Mita Vinay, Poorna Acharya, Chandana and Soumya show serious study.
Two items were good; two unnecessary! Dancers need to know what to show
and how much!
was originally part of Orissa but when the map of new India was redrawn,
this belt went to Bihar and thus while the people eat and speak Oriya,
their domicile now is Bihar. Chhau is a belt, not a form. Masks are used
in two, Purulia and Seraikella and Mayurbhanj has martial traits. In fact,
all have body kinetics akin to martial arts. Shashadhar Acharya benefitted
by being at Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi in the eighties and acquired
some choreographic skills but all items were a bit repetitive: same slow
beat start, manifesting in pace and concluding in crescendo. While that
is the form and its format, one has seen much variety and development of
themes...being repetitive in one evening, it leads to certain ennui. Masks
are also new looking, so the depth and old-world beauty is gone though
Shashadhar is trying his best to serve the form, earlier a preserve of
the royalty, now taken up by all and with much support from Sangeet Natak
funding. Shashi's offerings were loved by Bangalore audiences. Ratri or
night chasing moon, and swan etched well although jerky. Dancers
were reasonably good and the black costume could not hide Shashi's girth!
He is heavy set but graceful unlike many of our senior dancers, especially
of Bharatanatyam in Madras and Kathak in Delhi.
Day two had
a winsome, slim version of Prathibha Prahlad, yes, so much does Navia Natarajan
look like this Bangalorean now settled in Delhi, on stage. But there the
similarity ends; Navia is detailed with no sloppy unfinished movements
and each adavu and hasta is well enunciated. Her face is calm and stable
and not over busy. Her abhinaya is understated. Only her kinetics
are a bit jerky and half done. Guru A Lakshman suffers from the same Ramaiah
Pillai cinematic style that flourishes in this mould. Diagonal dancing,
half movements syndrome are good on camera. And while they sparkle, they
also look somewhat incomplete. I saw last month, the same situation in
some male dancers of Madras. But then with a guru like A Lakshman, whose
Jyotsna Jagannathan is a shining specimen, Navia's neat Bharatanatyam is
What was a
surprise was to see how dancers mature and gain confidence to even undertake
themes and items they never would have, when younger. Padmini Ravi, commonly
called "aunty" (she is only fifty plus), as she has trained nearly anyone
walking or crawling Bharatanatyam in Bangalore, took to stage next to showcase
her journey in dance. After a hiatus of over a decade, when she stopped
and asked herself why she was doing what she was doing (and she publicly
gives me credit for opening her eyes! It seems she danced at the IIC in
Delhi in the mid-nineties and I was then the dance critic of the Times
of India in Delhi. This is before the Hindu started in Delhi. I don't recall
the over 3000 reviews I would have done in 15 years of my dance writing
for the Times and Firstcity in Delhi and owing to 5 resident shifts, all
old articles and papers lie packed in some trunk!), this ace devotee of
Padma Subrahmanyam (she mentioned her 5 times in two items!) has returned
to stage this year and must be looking for new meaning in her dance.
Her varnam, a routine song was made joyous and enjoyable largely because
she vested it with naturalness and flamboyance. I've rarely enjoyed a varnam
more in recent years! Next, her contextualising her choice of dancing
to a film song "Mehndi" from Zubeida, (post Saroj Khan interactions, inputs
and inroads in core classical world through shops that work = workshops!)
only proved one thing: If only all film stars learnt some classical dance,
how beautiful their dancing would look! Foundation in any classical form
enhances film dance; look at Waheeda, Vyjayantimala, Padmini, Kamala, Hema
and Rekha. Add Sridevi, Sripriya, Srikala and all Sri sri sris. Padmini's
use of beautifully etched and sometimes languorous hastas, the flowery
delivery - all make it so wholesomely comely and beautiful. Mami-s may
have issues (photographer Shrivatsa, who gives running commentary and could
well turn critic(!) confided next day that Malleswaram audiences walked
out of a previous Seva Sadan show, when she last danced to film songs and
I said too bad!) with Padmini Ravi's dancing to film songs but my reservation
is why use Bharatanatyam? Scholars in search of meaning can always connect
anything to the Natyashastra but does it hold with the form? Change is
coming and Padmini Ravi maybe the catalyst. Padmini is a sincere and serious
artiste and all artistes have artistic license. Dance is dance.
next, all in purple haze, is a smart Orissi dancer. Her boys in the troupe
show promise with Pankaj Pradhan and Manoranjan looking and dancing splendid.
Ramesh Jena, Pravat Kumar Swain and Biswajit completed the male members
of the group. Costumes were the high point and so was the music. Orissi
dance has come of age in group compositions, especially if one sees works
like Ratikant Mohanpatra's 'Tantra' premiered recently. Aruna's group had
Rosalin, Janabhi, Nayana, and Sridutta.
On day 3, Tushar
Bhatt comes smiling despite a false start with the music cd stuck. Must
be afraid of Ravana! He was to do Shiva tandava stotram, an often done
ode by Ravana to Shiva. A powerful piece, Tushar does a literal rendition.
Tushar has a happy stage appearance though he needs to work on tala and
laya. Movements also need to be well etched. He seems in a hurry, unfinished.
Guru CV Chandrasekhar brought a leisurely production called Kreeda (not
raas krida but child kreeda-s as in games kids play or used to!) as it
was near Childrens Day or to share the innocent beauty of his childhood
games and our gilli-danda; sttapoo; lattoo, shatranaj; patang...all done
simply in the Bharatanatyam mode. The group had all shades, shapes and
size of dancers making it look natural and not artificially beautiful and
each member danced and acted well. The music was of high merit, live, no
less. CV Chandrasekhar has understood the inner core and substance of the
form and taken kernel truth out and shared with all. It need not be about
mythology, beauty, love, scorn, hate, just innocence itself. His
journey has been long but he has shown the way with such rigid tradition
like that of Bharatanatyam as taught in Kalakshetra, his alma mater.
The star of
the show, the king of this festival was wonder boy Anuj. As is customary
of Kathakaars to talk, he kept saying "my father, my father" and no one
knew who his father is as he did not name him until it struck me that he
must be Arjun Mishra's son! Arjun himself is hardly 50+ but then Kathak
folks sometimes marry early and have children soon! The point being
Arjun Mishra himself maybe young and yet has a young son, all grown up.
And what a son! Or sun. He is going to shine on the firmament of the national
dance scene and will be the next big thing. This boy has all of Saraswati's
gifts, hope it does not go to his head, hair on which needs gel. All that
style is good but while Kathakaars can be such masters of taal, why can't
they be masters of baal (hair!?). Unruly hair falling on a beautiful face
and on divine nashili eyes, mar the appearance and while Zakir Hussain
hairstyle may be an inspiration, it looks okay while playing the tabla,
not while dancing! Anuj means small or chhota, but there is nothing small
about his talent: Backed by a good physique, neither namby-pamby, nor muscular,
this wonder boy showed wonderful Kathak and his performance will remain
as the highlight of the year for this reviewer. Two weeks ago in Delhi,
at a dinner hosted by the DG of ICCR, I had asked maestro Birju bhai who
the next generation star was...I now have the answer! May Anuj's art grow
because it has an effortless flow. His grounding is rock solid. Bhaiya
khaandaani hai...this is gharana. Bangaloreans have rarely seen Kathak of
this ilk and standards. He danced while he bled (pic enclosed); he
danced wildly and the youngsters cheered him as only Bangaloreans can and
in the end he got a standing ovation. Amad, thaat, uthan, tatkar, gat-nikar,
chakras up to 36x3= - count for yourself! And all that while standing and
ending in one point. I felt bad I was not wearing a gold chain to take
off and gift him, he is so good. His dainty doll partner, his sister Smriti, with atrocious
dress sense, (Tushar, please help her!) acquitted admirably and is also
perfectly trained. Her petite form does nothing to diminish her fine tayari
and layakari and even abhinaya. For the last 6 decades, the Lucknow gharana
had moved to Delhi (Achchan, Shambhu, Birju Maharaj ji) but now Lucknow
gharana is back in Lucknow, courtesy Arjun and Anuj Misra. Jio mere lal,
kadamb for looking beyond their nose and getting several splendid dancing
feet to Bangalore. That many sponsors and others helped, including
the mai baap of cultural patronage, the Ministry in Delhi itself, shows
the festival has come of age and to stay. Hope next time we don't die crossing
the JC Road to the hall! That would be the final show. Amen!
Khokar travels all over India and brings to note dancers of merit, through
his writings, columns and yearbook, attendance. India's reputed and widely-read
dance critic, his words help dancers and audiences understand and appreciate
the art of dance and the actual performance, better.