Bangalore International Arts Festival 2016
Photos courtesy: BIAF

October 26, 2016

Bengaluru’s acclaimed international arts festival BIAF 2016 opened its 9th edition with a gala inauguration on September 9, 2016 to an over-packed house at Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Technology auditorium. The evening began with a youth program involving college students presenting their talent, which proved that today’s youth have evolved into multi-talented vivacious young graduates.

AIM under the leadership of Dr. Suma Sudhindra and Dr. Veena Murthy Vijay envisaged a 9 days and 7 venue festival with participation from various states and countries. There were vibrant folk dance groups from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Telangana and other states. The audience cheered the dancers and created a joyful atmosphere making the opening a thumping success in spite of the bandh and the delayed start due to it.

The spirit of unity, the spirit of oneness was the highlight of the folk festival that continued at Freedom Park for the 2nd day. Folk troupes who travelled the long distances from across the globe showed their prowess by showcasing their land’s culture in their lively well coordinated performances and well designed colourful costumes. Some of the dances were traditional like Pooja Dance from Srilanka, the Flag Dance from Bangladesh, Mathuri from Andhra, Oggu Melam from Telangana and Shanka Naad Nruthya from Orissa. The acrobatic formations with leaps and jumps brought a sense of eager anticipation in the audience. The weather supported the festival, waiting until the end of the programs before pouring with rain. Suma Sudhindra, Veena Murthy Vijay and the team of AIM were in blue symbolising sustainable harmony. The leaders of the team, Tilak Fernando from Sri Lanka, Vishwakarma from Telangana, Ravi from Andhra, Nittorang from Bangladesh were honored.

The festival continued on the 3rd day at Freedom Park. Being a Sunday, the crowd started filling the open air theatre at 5pm. The dancers from Sudan, Rwanda and other countries enthralled the audience. Manganiyar magic led by Bungur Khan and team was a melodious fare mixed with rustic folk beats. Kalbelia, the Rajasthani dance with graceful serpent like movements and acrobatic stances was an added attraction. The second half featured music band Sushryavya performing popular Kannada film numbers and Bhavageethe in unplugged style. The band was led by Prof. Suchethan Rangaswamy, popular singer and TV actor, along with Supreeth Phalguna and Aishwarya Rangarajan as  co-singers, Pranav Dutt on drums, Sharan Rao on keyboards and Sudatta LS Prasad on tabla. The large crowd enjoyed until the end, a testimony to BIAF which is reaching out to new audiences.

Slide show

On 16th September, the program took place at Green Path Organic State. Shraddha Dance Centre presented well coordinated and neat Bharatanatyam performance. Shama Krishna presented specially choreographed dance sequences by her students. The group performed Arishadvarga, depicting the 6 weaknesses of man by narrating interesting episodes from mythology. Another interesting number was DV Gundappa’s Antahpurageethe describing the magic of stone sculptures of Belur and Halebid. The sculpturesque poses based on the karanas of Natya Shastra were the highlight of this dance presentation. The program concluded with a thillana.
The weekend crowd at Phoenix Market City Mall, one of the 7 venues of BIAF, was treated to unique dance performances by two groups on 17th September. Mahari dance from Orissa was led by Sharath Chandra Das. Staged at the Phoenix amphitheatre, the rich and unique costumes and head gear added to the graceful dance presented by 8 dancers. The rituals which are performed before Lord Jagannath in the temples of Orissa and the floral tributes offered to the gods were depicted. The second part of the evening comprised of a thematic dance production by young dancers of different styles - Divya Ravi (Bharatanatyam), Prateeksha Kashi (Kuchipudi), Amith Kinchi from Delhi (Kathak) and Vandana Supriya (Odissi). The theme sketched the characteristics of the 5 elements - air, water, space, fire and earth. Amith Kinchi’s swift swirling chakkars and fast footwork were impressive. Divya Ravi’s powerful rendition with involved abhinaya added to the overall flow of the theme. Kuchipudi by Prateeksha and Odissi by Vandana were presented with lilting grace and contrasts of these forms were neatly presented with harmony. The evening ended with all four dancers coming together in a finale presentation showcasing their mastery in their respective styles. 

Bengaluru is known for its cosmopolitan culture, welcoming every culture and genre of arts with an open mind to enjoy the diversities of varied arts .This part of city has been a home to all travelling, visiting and migrating techies and corporate business elite. The audience comprised of new Bengaluru’s dwellers enjoying what the city has to offer amidst its super fast growth beyond its capacity. On 18th at Phoenix Market City Mall,
the audience enjoyed santoor by Suddhashil Chatterjee and Mexican flute by Natalie from Mexico. The session opened with raag Yaman and Suddhashil’s mastery over the complex santoor instrument in the technique of raga expansion displayed his musical prowess. Natalie’s flute added colour and melody to the concert. Her calm rendition of the compositions in coordination with santoor made the concert appealing with Ravikiran Nakod accompanying on the tabla.

The second half featured a fusion band Megha featuring Dr. Suma Sudhindra on the veena, Gerard Machado on the guitar, B.C Manjunath on mridangam, Karthik Mani on the drums and Prakash on bass guitar. This power packed fusion band played some   vibrant and melodious numbers to the joy of the discerning music lovers. The concert began with Suma’s opening number in fast pace, setting an impetus to foot tapping mood of the fully packed amphitheatre. Gerard Machado’s guitar brought in the right amount of fusion ingredient complimenting the traditional raga rendition of the veena. Suma presented the popular composition in Kadana Kuthuhala ragam that bore the rich stamp of classicism. Her rendering of the fast paced phrases both in the lower and middle octaves with care and ease was enjoyable. ‘Touch another life’ was a fusion composition in which the energetic beats of the mridangam and drums played in a kind of combined exchange with complicated rhythmic combinations took the concert to new high. Manjunath and Karthik Mani enthralled the audience with their lively support.

The final weekend of BIAF 2016 was a success with full attendance at Chowdiah Memorial Hall by Bengaluru’s art loving crowd on September 23. The young and energetic group Abhjatha presented ‘Hari Hara,’ a jugalbandi of Kathak and Bharatanatyam. The four dancers Aswin Prabhath, Rohini, Neha Seshadrinath and Naveen Hegde, disciples of Nirupama and Rajendra, presented stories from mythology by depicting comparative notes on Shiva and Vishnu, Lakshmi and Parvathi. The audience watched in eager anticipation of two of the main Hindu gods being depicted with their unique characteristics. The finale brought all dancers concluding in high energy synthesis of both gods’ attributes. 

The second half of the evening was Bharatanatyam by Rama Vaidyanathan. The performance highlighted the beauty of Marga in the diverse and layered perspectives as it is evolving today since its original Sadir form from 18th century. Rama began her recital with a powerful composition praising Goddess Durga. Rama then moved on to 'Navarasa Mohana' based on Bhagavat Gita verses, describing episodes in the life of lord Krishna and the reactive mood it created in the hearts of the people of Mathura, like sringara in the hearts of the Gopis, hasya among his cowherd friends. The Kamsa vadha and Govardanagiri episodes were dramatically woven into her intense and almost meditative bodily control and concentration creating the required bhava. Through her flawless abhinaya, she portrayed varied expressions including aggression, peace, prayer, love and killing with remarkable finesse. The last piece was about Radha writing a letter to Krishna of her most cherished wants, desires and dreams. Through the writing, she gradually realises the philosophical being within her, she finds herself as Krishna. Not knowing this new found identity she becomes restless and starts to read her own letters and feels that they were written to herself.  This self realization brings about total surrender to that infinite being becoming one with it sometimes and belonging to it as a part of it other times.  Her expressions of moving emotions like the anger, pain, pleasure, happiness, sorrow, love and lust were portrayed with masterly grace taking the audience into the journey from the tangible subjective to the intangible objective. Her musicians K.Venkateswaran (vocal), Sumod Sreedharan (mridangam), Dr. S. Vasudevan (nattuvangam) and Viju S Anand on violin complemented her with some soulful music.

In her interaction with the audience she exhorted the youth to explore new possibilities in creativity and that one gets to learn how much modernity or contemporary  improvisation within the frame work of classicism should be used, is understood by a dancer after falling several times and several attempts and that should not stop creativity. She insisted that conviction towards one’s idealism will surely lead to the path of self evolvement. Rama Vaidyanathan’s recital was indeed memorable.

The next evening at Chowdiah Memorial Hall saw Madhu Nataraj, daughter/disciple of Guru Maya Rao present a scintillating performance based on women empowerment titled ‘Like camphor on fire.’ The presentation was on certain great thoughts of the female Shaivism gurus who became cult figures. Nirvaya is inspired and informed by the profound and abstract Kannada vachanas or poetry of mystics called Sharanas.
Dance and text moved together, sometimes parallel, whilst translating the profound concepts of women and male mystics - Lingamma, Allama Prabhu, Molige Mahadevi and the radical poet Akka Mahadevi. Their philosophy is Linga- advaita or monistic Shaivism, with roots in the Vedas and Kashmiri monistic Shaivism. Madhu depicted these abstract thoughts through motifs of Kathak swirls coupled with subtle graceful movements bringing about the essence of Sharana salvation in ‘Nirvaya’ (becoming nothing), disappear without leaving a trace like camphor on fire. It was a wonderful depiction of Vachanas, through visual art of Kathak dissolving into each other in experiencing the mysticism of the Sharana and Sharane or the larger perspective of onness of the mortal with the immortal.

Anajasa, a colourful spectacle was staged by Apsaras Arts from Singapore. A rare theme chosen for dance interpretation but well executed, was conceptualised, choreographed and produced by Aravinth Kumaraswamy, director of Apsaras Arts. Beautiful Buddhist architectural sites of Asia were chosen to interpret the Buddhist culture through dance. Various heritage sites like Bodh Gaya, Mahadevi temple in Nepal, Wat Pho in Thailand and many more were chosen and projected as backdrop from different Buddhist monumental sites across Asia. The dancers presented certain episodes connected to the monuments with perfect synchronization. Well coordinated dance with graceful movements conveyed myriad emotions of the characters like the emperor Ashoka and other kings who spread Buddhism across the world. Colourful costumes and creative lighting made this production a visual splendour. 

The 9th edition of BIAF concluded on 25th September with a saxophone performance by Kadri Gopalnath. He was accompanied on the violin by Vittal Ramamurthy, mridangam by Trichy B Harikumar, morsing by B. Rajashekhar and tabla by Rajendra Nakod. He began with a composition rendered in quick melodic notes of the raga followed by alapanas and improvisations which displayed his musical prowess and mastery over the instrument. The pallavi was proof of his impeccable vidwat. With “Endaro mahanubhavulu” in ragam Sri, Kadri Gopalnath regaled the audience on the concluding day of the festival.