27th Pt. Durgalal Festival of Samved Society for Performing Arts
- Sanjukta Wagh
e-mail: sanjuktawagh@gmail.com

February 11, 2017

On January 27, Mumbai witnessed a beautiful evening at NCPA’s Tata theatre, Samved’s Pandit Durgalal Festival, a festival celebrated consistently for the last twenty seven years in memory of the legendary Kathak maestro, Pandit Durgalal.

The evening began with Taal Chakra, a tribute by Guru Uma Dogra to her guru, Pandit Durgalal. Taal Chakra was presented as a garland of talas not often performed in Kathak (Taal Dhamar 14 beats and Taal Durga 13 beats). The young upcoming artistes received encouragement and applause from the audience. The highlight of the piece was 9 Matra, performed and composed by Uma Dogra herself, dedicated to her guru and mentor, where the compositions all ended uniquely at a starting point of a powerful rhythmic phrase that led to the sam (the first beat). It was a delight for the connoisseur and novice alike to engage with both traditional and innovative rhythmic compositions in dance accompanied by three percussion instruments, the tabla played by Vinayak Netke, who also designed the musical score, the pakhawaj played by Satyaprakash Mishra and the ghatam played by Shankar Lakshmanam.

Uma Dogra

Uma Dogra’s disciples

Surupa Sen

Nrityagram ensemble

As soon as the opening performer of the Nrityagram ensemble set foot on stage, the magic  began as Surupa Sen’s choreography and Raghunath Panigrahi’s music brought to life traditional Odissi poetry and rhythms in ‘Sriyah.’ The musicians and dancers offered the audience what can be termed as a perfect blend of precision on the one hand and abandon on the other. The perfect execution of every jump and sacred geometry in space seemed unanimous with the subtext of each poem that was danced, the nritta and abhinaya, the rhythm and the melody, the singular and the collective were not just in seamless synchronization but in a state of  rapture and celebration that can only perhaps be possible in complete surrender.

The dancer who as always held the audience in her aura and her divine exuberance was Bijayini Satpathy. Her embodiment of the Mahishasuramardini was akin in my eyes to a darshan of the goddess herself. Surupa Sen’s solo rendition of “Keshi mathan mudaram” was another lyrical highpoint of the evening, with her angika and mukhajabhinaya leading the rasikas to the essence of love and longing that is Jayadeva’s  Gita Govinda. The audience was left spellbound and bathed in ecstasy of the dancers as the boundary between the stage and audience blurred, with each sahahridayi partaking of the collective rasa.

A memorable festival like this serves to reinstill faith in the inherent power embedded in Indian classical dance for frequent dance lovers and at the same time creates new ones.

Sanjukta Wagh is a Kathak dancer based in Mumbai