Enchanting evenings at Nitya Nritya 2015
- Sudha Sridhar
e-mail: sudhasridhar@hotmail.com
Photos courtesy: Nupura

October 24, 2015

Nitya Nritya 2015, a conference and dance festival presented by the Nupura School of Bharatanatyam, Bengaluru, which is in its 37th year of service under the directorship of Dr. Lalitha Srinivasan, left an indelible mark in the hearts of the artists and art lovers who were fortunate to be part of it. As declared officially by Dr. Lalitha Srinivasan during the course of the festival, this edition saw the mantle ship of organizing the festival shift to the capable shoulders of her daughter Manu Srinivasan and the way in which she carried it with aplomb one can say with assurance that the festival is not only in safe hands but also set for greater heights and glory in the years to come.

This edition’s morning conference was on ‘Ashtadipalakas’ inspired by the paintings by H.N. Suresh, Director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru. However, this report sticks to the evening session of the three day festival (October 2 to 4, 2015), which was held at the KEA Prabhat Rangamandira, Bengaluru.

One is tempted to add a word or two about KEA Rangamandira, the latest addition to the list of Bangalore auditoriums, an aesthetically well conceived space with a compact but loaded with state of the art facilities. It was easily an apt setting for the festival, impressively enabling mutual connect from very close quarters the proceedings of the stage much to the delight of both the artists and audience. During the course of the evening session one could see that primary importance was given to art by the organizers, as it was devoid of any long interruptions which are a very common feature in most of the festivals generally consuming prime time of the sessions. Nor were there the presence of loud disturbing banners as backdrop either on stage or at the venue. Probably this encouraged and assisted the elite audience to stay back till the end to savour the rich flavor of art that was dished out.

The festival was designed to showcase about an hour of Bharatanatyam performance (solo or duo) every evening followed by a group presentation. With a near perfect backdrop to the festival as enumerated hitherto, it was no surprise that it brought out the best from the artists. Starting the proceedings was one of the star performers of Nupura itself, Suma Krishnamurthy with her Guru Lalitha Srinivasan’s nattuvangam and her illustrious family being part of the accompaniments for her performance. Suma started with Pushpanjali and Panchadevatha stuthi in praise of five gods / goddesses - Ganesha, Saraswathi, Guru, Narayana and Shiva, interestingly composed in five ragas set to Talamalika. This was followed with a rendering of Saint Thyagaraja’s Pancharatna krithi, ‘Endaro Mahaanubhaavulu.’ Suma perfectly stuck to the pure traditions of Mysore style of Bharatanatyam and essayed neatly with mild expression all through including in the Javali of Swathi Thirunal.

Suma Krishnamurthy

Tanusree Shankar Dance Company

Tanusree Shankar, having a rich legacy of art and cultural lineage, presented contemporary dance, ‘Chirantan and other dance creations’ with her famous Tanusree Shankar Dance Company, Kolkata. When it comes to fusion or contemporary dance form, it is apt to recollect one of the famous quotes of Ananda Coomaraswamy, “Indian acting is a poetic art, an interpretation of life, while modern European acting, apart from any question of the words, is a prose, or imitation.”

Thus no wonder, that her presentation was basically structured like Indian classical dance forms. While using the mudras, classical hand gestures, she was able to make dance and music speak a different language. Tanushree’s team was successful in effectively communicating with no boundaries and free lucid movements while bringing on stage episodes on the daily life situations. They were impressive while depicting the hunting down of a deer in the forest, a day in a fisherman’s life and the much dwelled upon topic, ‘Peace.’

It was Subhashini Vasant’s turn to show classic Bharatanatyam, be it the perfect gestures, abhinaya, footwork, and her sticking to the nuances of the Pandanallur style was really amazing. Her performance included Pushpanjali with a slokha on Lord Narasimha, followed by a Devi kriti and a varnam. Her intense abhinaya particularly in the ashtapadi, ‘Kuru yadunandana’ was highly appreciated by an awestruck audience.

Subhashini Vasant

Rama Charitha Geetham

Bharatanjali, Chennai, under the directorship of Anita Guha, presented ‘Rama Charitha Geetham’ based on the famous kriti of Papanasam Sivan. The all important scenes related to the Ramayana in the entirety, viz., the Bala Kandam, Ayodhya Kandam, Aranya Kandam, Kishkinda Kandam, Sundara Kandam, Yudda Kandam and the culminating Maha Pattabhishekam was enacted wonderfully by the students of Bharatanjali, bringing alive the epic in a grand style for the benefit of the captivated audience.

It has almost come to stay that no festival is complete without a classical duo performance which adds to the visual element of an aesthetic presentation of the art form and the organizers scheduled the same for the last evening of the festival. The Bharatanatyam duo, Shruti and Parshwanath Upadhye mesmerized the audience with their performance particularly in Purandaradasa’s ‘Baro Krishnaiyya’ choreographed by Guru Kiran Subramanyan whose nattuvangam for the evening made the presentation more complete. It was good to listen to chaste Telugu lyrics in the Ganapathi Puranam essayed to perfection by the duo. In general one felt that the Bharatanatyam performance had increased speed, rhythm, more of sancharis and nrityam too probably suggesting the influence of other classical dance forms which also did earn more applause from the audience.

Shruti and Parshwanath Upadhye

Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry
Photos courtesy: Y Prashanth

The concluding performance of the festival was ‘Nartanashala’ by Kuchipudi exponent Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry and team. Nartanashala, written and performed fist at the Kuchipudi heritage village in 1996 by Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry, with Virata Parvam of Vysya Mahabharatham being the base, is well appreciated by art critics for the unique visualization of the state of mind of the Pandavas, in particular Draupadi when Keechaka makes advances to her culminating to his slaying at the hands of Bhima.

The versatility and the ability to live the character is one of the hallmarks of Kuchipudi Yakshaganam that was evident during the presentation through the nonchalant performance of Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry as Keechaka upon whom the entire dance drama revolved. The audience had a small glimpse of the glory of Kuchipudi Nrityarupakam.

The thoughtful photo display by Panchamavedam Foundation with the support of Nupura, of the three south based Yakshaganas, namely the Karnataka Yakshagana, Kuchipudi Yakshaganam and Melattur Bhagavathamelam with a view to gather support for the Yakshaganas was well received.

The last line of the invitation where the organizers had acknowledged the support extended had ‘students, parents and well wishers.’ Right through it was good and grand to see the students present and the past alumni come together whole heartedly in a humble manner to assist in all spheres for the success of the festival, probably offering Guru Dakshina in yet another manner, speaking volumes of their reverence for their Guru Dr. Lalitha Srinivasan. Kudos to the organizers, for the neat sophisticated approach, stringing together a festival soaked in art for the discerning art lovers of Bengaluru.

Sudha Sridhar, a double graduate in Law & Dance is a cultural activist working on advocacy efforts to preserve, promote and propagate art forms and for the cultural rights and welfare measures for artists. Currently her main focus is on Kuchipudi heritage village and promotion of all the three streams of South Indian Yakshagana - Karnataka Yakshagana, Kuchipudi Yakshaganam and Melattur Bhagavathamela.