Lepakshi Kalakar Utsav 2016
- Sudha Sridhar
e-mail: sudhasridhar@hotmail.com
Photos:  S. Raguraam

Sahadharmachaarini award
for Pasumarthy Lakshminarasu

June 18, 2016

Heritage and culture is a heady mix, since both withstand the test and ravages of time and stand apart when it comes to showcasing the aesthetic side of a civilization. One such place in India is Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh near Anantapur. That Panchamavedam Foundation conceived, designed and coordinated a dance festival Lepakshi Kalakar Utsav at Anantapur speaks volume about their effort to bring together heritage, culture and tourism with a view to have economic sustainability to art and artists.

Lepakshi Kalakar Utsav 2016 organized by Sri Gurukripa Sangeetha Nrithya Kalaniketan, at Lalit Kala Parishad on May 29, 2016 saw Dr. Patnam Sivaprasad, a Kuchipudi guru of repute, become an organizer too. The Lepakshi Kalakar Utsav primarily a festival of dance and heritage to foster mutual respect and unity among kalakars saw all the kalakars come together to light the lamp along with the chief guest, a thoughtful gesture and a pleasant sight to see.

The inaugural Kalakar Utsav which was organized in 2014 at Bangalore saw the institution of a unique award ‘Sahadharmachaarni’ to be bestowed to the spouse of great artists for their behind the scene vital contribution to the dance journey of becoming legends. In 2014 the award was given to Swarajyalakshmi, wife of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. This year the award was conferred upon Pasumarthy Lakshminarasu, wife of the Kuchipudi legend Guru Pasumarthy Krishnamurthy from the traditional family of Kuchipudi who made a mark as a dance director in silver screen, a career spanning over four decades. The award function which preceded the performances was yet another thoughtful aspect of the evening, since there were no interruptions in-between the performances. There was a short audio video presentation on the life of Pasumarthy Krishnamurthy. The simplicity and the modesty of the family in graciously accepting the award was an eye opener and a trait to be emulated by one and all.  

Pasumarthy Krishnamurthy in cinema set

Pasumarthy Krishnamurthy & Lakshminarasu
Photos courtesy: Sunanda Prashanth

The evening’s performances started with a warm welcome extended to all the kalakars by the performance of the students of Kalaniketan and Sunanda Prashanth of Nartana Academy, Bangalore.                                  

The festival had representation of six classical dance forms and the first to showcase her talent was Mohiniattam artist Ahkila Gopinath. She presented her own choreographies, Ganapathi Stuti and Sityanam based on the composition of Guru T.P. Vasudevan Namboodri. Abhinaya in general and her portrayal of episodes from Sita’s life, particularly her swayamvar was good to the extent that even a commoner could understand and appreciate.

Ahkila Gopinath

Madhulita Mohapatra and group

The Odissi dance recital by Madhulita Mohapatra and her group (Ashwashana Biswal, Paridhi Joshi, Vivekini Das and Sonali Mohanty) was easily one of the most enjoyed performance by the audience that gathered on the hot and humid Sunday evening. Madhulita’s trademark perfection, group coordination and brisk Odissi right through the two choreographies of Guru Pankaj Charan Das (Slokha Shanta Karam Bhujaga Sayanam and Madhurastakam) and her own choreography (Janasammohini Pallavi) brought to the forefront their hard work as well as skill in easing the audience to easily correlate with their depiction.

Prabal Gupta, the Kathakali exponent’s female personification role in the padam of Urvashi from Nivatakavacha Kaikeya Vadhom choreographed by Guru Sadanam Balakrishnan was of a very high standard and showed his penchant for perfection. The anguish of the celestial beauty Urvashi upon the rejection of her advances to the warrior Arjuna culminating in her curse to Arjuna was brought out with mesmerizing facial expressions.

Students of Nupura
Sanjay Kumar Joshi’s tarana was a short but interesting and captivating exhibition of Kathak. The crescendo of the tarana saw the audience vociferously applaud the mature performance from a very seasoned artist.  Vedantam Venkatanagachalapathy, one of the leading luminaries of the present Kuchipudi stalwarts from the traditional families of the art form, with his flawless performance of Sadashiva Brahmendra’s kriti, ‘Gayathri Vanamalli’ took the stage by storm with the contagious energy in his performance.

The finale was a Bharatanatyam recital by the students of Nupura, Bangalore, Nikhila Balaji, Jayant Dwarakanath and Purvi Gowda. The perfection of the Mysuru baani to the excellent choreographies (Annamacharya kriti and tillana) of their Guru Lalitha Srinivasan was good and well appreciated. The eye catcher of the group was Jayant, the lone male artist of the group. The festival did have some easily avoidable hiccups like overwhelmed local dignitaries taking more time in their address and leaving the audience and the artist high and dry with IST - Indian Stretchable Time.

The Lepakshi Kalakar Utsav with a humble beginning to promote mutual respect and unity among artists, reverence for Guru Parampara, artists watching all the performances of the festival, showcasing the heritage and culture to the world at large should serve as cue for other places equally steeped in heritage and culture to have more such festivals transfixing the small towns to art and heritage tourism destination. There was good coverage in the print media as well as television driving home the point that there is a felt need to host similar festivals.

A festival in a not so popular heritage site of our country initially at national level and later the natural corollary of an international festival a la the famous Edinburgh Summer Festival of dance, music and art, would definitely enable the various lesser known heritage sites of the country gain a place in the international tourism map along with that of Konark Festival, Taj Mahotsav, etc.

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.