Rasanubhuti at Rasasvada
- Ashish Mohan Khokar
e-mail: khokar1960@gmail.com

October 7, 2016   

What happens when true rasanubhuti happens in a festival pompously called Rasasvada?
Manotrupti. That’s what. Purnata. Fulfilment. An evening well spent and worth coming to.  

Madhulita Mohapatra came from small-town Odisha and settled in Bangalore some 8/9 years ago. She was a “leg-diver” as some cheeky locals called her initially (that means “touching every one’s feet”, which by the way is culture and etiquette of the art world in Odisha but in uber metro Bangalore, one does it selectively and reserves that only for real gurus and guides) and today, well settled and well established, she is a leg-puller in a positive way! She musters or helps get audiences to hall (“pull in many legs”) that walk into her well mounted, well-run shows. In 8 short years from being a nobody, a struggling dancer in the group of stable of Aruna Mohanty and late guru Gangadhar Pradhan, she has become an active dancer-teacher and now impresario and presents many local dancers, as she did in a 2 day festival Rasasvada, shows her spunk and hard work.  As guru and guest of honour Veena Murthy said: Today we felt fulfillment or true Rasasavda (seeing many worthy talents on stage).

For long some of us in dance field in various cities (Ratikant Mohapatra in Bhubaneswar, Prema Reddy in Madras, Parul Shah in Baroda, late Bireshwar in Bombay and we in Bangalore), pushing the concept of Purush anga (or male solo dancer) through countless seminars, festivals, tours abroad and at home our own Purush One and Two Ensemble as outcome to our Dance DIScourse led to more such platforming. It was thus more happy making to see Madhulita taking the idea forward by presenting only male solo dancers on day two of the two-day event.

Earlier in the week, Anil Iyer had showcased his progress in dance art of Bharatanatyam at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Vidwan G Gurumurthy's mridangam was fetching, Poornima Gururaj's nattuvangam was aggressive and Chitra Arvind’s conducting of the show, efficient. Anil Iyer has grown to be a mature dancer with neat and clean lines. He has tried hard to maintain form and at this young age has miles to look forward to. The javali in English was funny! A novelty at best. The BVB hall and stage are most incompatible for dance, entry points being cluttered and disturbing and the stage too from audience eye level high and ceiling too low. Once Vani Ganapathy couldn’t even jump fully because being tall, she would have literally hit the ceiling!  Watching dance at BVB it is like watching dance on TV: Flat, lifeless, compact, without atmosphere or feel.

Anil Iyer

Kohal Das

Dance festivals of late are now like return gifts at baby’s birthdays! You-perform-in-mine-and-I-will-perform-in-yours type of barter system among dancers. With opportunities being so few for dancers and operators (fixers, quasi pimps palming off as promoters!) being many, in each region of India, it is noteworthy some sincere festival organisers still exist. Madhulita used to mount her annual school day, the Naman festival in August, and now has graduated to doing special focus festivals like these. Any support to arts and artistes is welcome, especially as govt. patronage does not reach all.

It was a pleasure to see Kohal Das and Parshwanath Upadhye on Day 2. Both maintained the depth and dignity of dance, one still new and bit raw but Kohal's best abhushan was his smile and overall countenance. His hastas are well-etched, his chowkh, a delight. He has a certain lightness of being and managed to set the satvik tone for the evening with his refined Odissi.

Sanjay Shantaram represents all that solo Kuchipudi veers towards, the over-dramatic melam style when transported to single patra and lip-syncing which is part of Kuchipudi vachika abhinaya tradition too and we could see traces of it when he actually sang few lines and sang them well. His overall aesthetics and costume/aharya may be garish and loud (with fake cleft in a podgy chin, painted by a pencil liner!) but boy does he fly! He floats when he dances and his feet’s sharpness and strength alone justifies his star-dancing status, as a local popular TV artiste too. Even Ravana was made lovable in his portrayal. His guru Veena Murthy’s choreographic skills could be seen by all.

Probal Gupta, stree vesham specialist for last few years, has now decided to also present male patras. There was absolutely no punch, no strength in his Krishna. Taking excerpts from the well-known Kalyana Sougandhikam, he could have shown some range. The backlit screen text with word to word meaning was a good idea if the screen was readable but Probal covered most of the stage with his Kathakali aharya and frame. His characters need strengthening as also his male patras. Even in Kalyana Sougandhikam, an oft done piece in Kathakali repertoire, his Krishna came off as weak and lacking in depth or delineations the form is so known for.

Sanjay Shantaram

Probal Gupta

Surya N. Rao

Parshwanath Upadhye

Next, Surya N. Rao uplifted sagged spirits of post Probal show and despite his oddly heavy frame, Surya was light footed in his racy, winsome delivery and Keerti Kumar’s lighting made for half his rendition. Ardhanarishwara shone literally in this soft, shaded lighting. Seva Sadan is a drab hall… sorry WAS a very drab hall and of late refurbished and renovated and the stage and arena were transformed in Keerti’s lighting. Veena Murthy again could take pride in yet another student of hers acquitting well.

The best was reserved for last. Short he may be but there is nothing short about his talent. Wonder boy of Karnataka, Parshwanath Upadhye shone like a well cut diamond. Each step, each swing was perfectly etched. He is a total package. The perfect unison of lasya and tandava in his Ardhanarishwara developed a crescendo to the evening. His opening Ode to Amba invoked the Navaratri season. Those who see dance minutely should see his breathing: Not once he opened his mouth and huffed and puffed. He breathed though his nostrils - a sign of an accomplished dancer and someone who practices daily, whose body is his perfect tool. Parshwanath’s bio data stated he has won 8 national awards and I wonder which ones because there are only 2 national awards, the Padma and the SNA! Dancers’ bio-datas can sometimes be too creative! Anjali Janardhan did well compering the evening though she has to learn correct pronunciation of words like attana (stress is on tta) or sojourn (so-gern is how it ought to sound). The quietest male talent of the evening was Imran Mohd. Khan, who wrote the script, received guests always smiling and stood quietly in service of dance. Madhulita is indeed lucky to have a hubby like him. Jai Jagganath Salam-e-Waleikum! 

Historian, editor, critic, scholar and author-publisher Ashish Mohan Khokar brings out Attendance, India's only yearbook on dance and promotes dance activities in various ways, through attendance awards, dance DISCourse and India’s largest world dance day. He is curator of MKDC and chair, DHS.