Of Art, Life and Asceticism
- S D Desai
e-mail: sureshmrudula@gmail.com

October 5, 2015

Five decades ago in a film, Meenakumari as Chitralekha in a song taunts Ashokkumar’s Yogi Kumargiri - Samsaarse bhaage phirthe ho, bhagwan ko thum kya paaoge? Swami Adhyatmanand at Shivanand Ashram in Ahmedabad is a different kind of sansyasi.  In a saffron robe, looking more handsome than Ashokkumar (!), his forehead and clean-shaven head glowing, he can emulate a singing voice, an actor’s speech, a dancer’s mudra and fondly invite you to dinner mentioning irresistible sweet-balls!

My first exposure to him years ago was on TV when he used to give Yoga lessons. Yoga has the root word yuj, which means connect. Combining rasikathva and adhyaatma, he loves to go to and invite cultural events. For two years, he has been inviting Nrityabharati Academy to perform at the Ashram, insulated from the air - and noise - pollution on the road nearby. The Swamis and the other viewers sat together enjoying the performance of ‘Divine Rhythms of Bharatanatyam’ (26 September) with a gentle breeze turning a bit cool now, especially here in the natural environment, following perhaps one of the most sweltering dry spell in many years.

In Chandan Thakore’s choreography based on his own concept, the young dancers Nirali Thakore, Nirali Trivedi, Atman Twisha and others - on good recorded musical compositions with  Suparna Bannerjee as the lead singer - in all dainty pieces of choreography of familiar narratives from Jay Ganesh Deva...  to Shri Ramachandra krupalu bhajamana... , delighted a large audience no end. Not necessarily classical dance lovers, they liked the kaleidoscopically changing scenes as much as they savoured the bhakti rasa created.  Art and life are interconnected, too.

Chandan has a knack of visualizing and choreographing, with an unassuming expressive dancer Nirali’s able support, flowing devotional movement with lifelike images of interlinked characters freezing at the climactic moment.  The distinctive drishyankanas in Jaya Ganesh Deva and  Panchayatan Devata, Shiva's lasya tandava, of the playfulness of Bal Krishna (what identification!) and Yashoda’s affection in Govind Leela, the Shivashtakam, Nagadaman (on Narsinh Mehta’s Gujarati song) and a brief narrative of the Ramayana remain fresh in memory.

 Keep dancing all of you, a new batch of young dancers!  It brings a happy smile to the face of an octogenarian Elakshi Thakore, who founded the academy in 1960.

Dr. SD Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts Critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti,  Nartanam and Attendance. He guest-edited Attendance 2013 Special Issue. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer.