- GS Rajan, Delhi
January 13, 2011
Come December, classical musicians and dancers from across the world try their best to visit Chennai to participate in events related to the music-dance season, perform and to meet fellow artists, not to mention enjoy the food.
NRI dance teachers and their students from many parts of the world also take this opportunity to display their creativity. Veterans and the press notice a few lucky ones. Over the years the number of shows organized by various sabhas has only multiplied. Some sabhas also take money from dancers to give them a platform. The media, under pressure from various vested interests, makes sure to ignore some artists. Notwithstanding the ups and downs, however, the Mad-Ras music and dance season still attracts more and more rasikas to Chennai during the months of December and January. Another interesting factor is that organizers and festival directors from Europe and elsewhere also visit Chennai during the season to pick the best for their festivals abroad.
Chennai is no more Bharatanatyam-centric. Some of the dancers who were extremely good were Surupa Sen and Arushi Mudgal - Odissi; Neena Prasad and Gopika Varma - Mohiniattam; Malti Shyam - Kathak.
On the experimental side, Anita Ratnam was the best. Her production titled 'A million Sita-s' with superb music, costumes, lights and props stood out.
It is natural that musicians and dancers tend to get inspiration from their seniors. However, my humble suggestion to the second line Bharatanatyam dancers is that they may try to bring in their own individuality and not give the impression of a 'cocktail' of RAMP.
There was also talk and discussion about quality in presentation and the poor facilities being provided by sabhas. Along with renovating seats and technical equipment, sabhas should also engage professional technical people such as audio engineer, light designer, stage manager and so on to ensure professional presentation. Unfortunately for some senior gurus, the audio engineer is still the 'sound man' and the light designer is an 'electrician.' As artists, it would be better to set our own house in order before shouting against sabhas.
Senior gurus instead of running arangetram factories should advise their students to get into writing, research, lights and costume designing, stage management, organization, presentation and various other fields where artistic and arts-trained people are required. Everyone cannot become a performer. And to maintain a dance career means investment and expenditure and no return, except for those few lucky ones who reach a stage where they can demand adequate remuneration. Without hard work and quality, some have come up accumulating a good number of shows and awards with support from politicians and influential people or by making secret liaisons at the highest levels. At the end of the day, however it is the dedication and quality that will win. Luckily the second level promising dancers are all highly educated and know how to handle the 'mamas', which is a positive signal.
With all these ups and downs, Chennai's 'Mad-Ras' ('Mad-Ras' = Mad (the english word) and Ras (the Hindi word for Rasa) season will only grow and grow in the years to come.
GS Rajan is a top ranking music composer and classical flautist. He was also Deputy Secretary of Sangeet Natak Akademi. He has been writing on classical dance and music for the last 20 years.