Two versions of Bharatanatyam in one evening
- Usha RK
Photos: Srivatsa Shandilya

December 23, 2013

The newly formed International Arts & Cultural Foundation, Bengaluru, is a not-for-profit organisation (NPO) currently involved in enabling remote viewing of live performances of traditional dance, drama and music recitals, using webcast technology. To enable the various live performances to reach a global audience in real time is a first step and is envisioned to be an ongoing activity towards the larger goals of the organisation.

A professional photographer, Srivatsa Shandilya's interest in the arts led him to start this organisation. The recently held Nartana Avartana was an evening dedicated to Bharatanatyam dishing out to the discerning audiences of Bangalore one version that was an amalgamation of Bharatanatyam and Nrityam a la Padma Subrahmanyam style and another version that strongly bore the standardized Kalakshetra style.

Lakshmi Khanna returns to dance with this performance. Pretty Lakshmi, who has a fantastic sense of tala and has her basics perfectly in place, probably needs some time on stamina and fine tuning her stances and completion of adavus and the like. Lakshmi performed the ever so popular varnam composed by the legendary Dandayudhapani Pillai “Samiye vara solladi.” While the construct or format of the traditional varnam was chosen for exposition, the choreography kept moving in and out of the traditional grid. The nritta patterns - jathis were a combination of karanas, charis, expressions with a sprinkling of a few adavus. The abhinaya aspect retained a large portion of the traditional manner though bringing in a casual approach reminding one of the philosophy that has been prevalent in cinema like the stylised versus the art or realistic style. In an endeavour to create something that is different and that can relate to today's audience and youth, one must not forget to retain and treat the classical form with the dignity and decorum it is meant to have. Some of the movements that resembled the ‘filmi’ or cinematic style performed were for the ‘suggestive’ concept of Bharatanatyam probably a tad bit embarrassing to many in the audience. It would be prudent to keep the two in their own realms without corrupting them respectively. Lakshmi presented just the varnam, so a couple more items would have been welcome.

Lakshmi Khanna

Ajith Bhaskaran Dass
The second artist Ajith Bhaskaran Dass of Malaysia presented the conventional style of Bharatanatyam. His training from various gurus and teachers has resulted in including many techniques from different banis yet one could not miss the presence of the Kalakshetra style. It is the standardisation of technique in the Kalakshetra training that has helped maintain a standard of sorts in most of the students or performers of this bani. Ajith’s performance began after delay caused by the late entry of the vocalist. He began with a composition of Lalgudi Jayaraman on mother goddess Sri Jagadeshwari in Ahir Bhairavi. Serving the purpose of the invocatory item, the composition described the various forms of the goddess giving ample scope for poses and tableaux.

It was in Charukesi varnam that Ajith ran through like someone in a marathon. The performance lacked the languorous pace that enhances the first half of any varnam. In the anxiety to reach the completion of every jathi, Ajith compromised on the finishing. Also with regard to the length of the jathis, they left the audience wondering if they would end at all. The newly coined term for long unending jathis is ‘a mile long jathi’ and Ajith's varnam was inundated with them. Coming to the abhinaya and sanchari bhavas, Ajith is certainly adept and manages to weave a web around the audiences but optimal inclusion of stories that don't elongate the item too much is something he needs to recognise. “Innum yenn manam” is one of the most popular of varnams amongst dancers and Ajith’s speedy rendition matched with the melodic singing of Nandakumar and Kiran Subramanyam’s scintillating nattuvangam entertained the audiences amply.

Usha RK is a writer and Arts consultant.