- Anirudh Srinivasraghavan
August 9, 2017
The morning at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore, on 29th July was full of bright energy and enthusiasm. It was the day to celebrate one of the powerful personalities of India, who played a pivotal role in the struggle for independence and was a connoisseur of literature, Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, aka K.M. Munshi.
Dr. Padmaja Suresh, founder of Aatmalaya and an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer, brought together Bharatiyaalaya, a national cultural festival dedicated to art and great personalities. The event began with the lighting of lamp by dignitaries, who all spoke about K.M. Munshi and the relevance of his work values today. This was followed by the enthusiastic participation of students from various schools in a public speaking contest, across age categories. Their interest and research on the life, writings and message of K.M. Munshi was on display. This contest had 3 judges - Rajgopal, Neena Paul and Anil Annaiah. The winners were selected and all other participants encouraged for their efforts. A beautiful dance recital brought in colour and shared a story. This performance was a thematic presentation of Munshi's novel by students of Aatmalaya. With school students holding their prizes, the thought provoking morning session concluded.
The evening dance presentations, most of them dedicated to him and based on his novels saw Jai Somnath, a dance drama based on K.M. Munshi's book of the same name, by Padmaja Suresh and troupe. It was the story and heroism of King Bheemdev and the love of the temple dancer Chaula for him. Bheemdev falls in love with her and makes her his queen. The temple is destroyed, over 50,000 soldiers are mercilessly massacred by Mahmud of Ghazni and simultaneously, Chaula who begets her child feels that it's her blunder and resultant curse, to have married the King. This had been against the Devadasi tradition of being eternally vowed to her Lord Somnath. Chaula decides to wear a veil, performs her last dance, and unites with her Lord Somnath in the rebuilt temple. The determination and dedication of the heroine in the entire plot is strongly woven in the story by Munshi.
The theme of the fest conceived by Padmaja Suresh gave a chance to open the doors to a plethora of work done by K.M. Munshi. It not only enlightened the performers about his political endeavor but they were also deeply enthralled to read the works written by him in various spheres of knowledge from politics to philosophy to history to mythology.
Revathi Srinivasraghavan chose Lomaharshini for her presentation. A lot of thought process had to be put in this. It was a challenge to portray the emotions of the central character of Lomaharshini ranging from a child to young girl to a teenager and finally a woman with the feelings of femininity awakening inside her. Ramana Maharshi School of Dance and Namita Bodaji presented Krishnavatara - The Magic Flute, from Munshi's book as excerpts. There was Odissi by Vaishali Kalakendra from Noida and Kathak by Soma Ghosh as well as Mohiniattam by Rekha Raju and team.
Three awards were instituted by Aatmalaya again this year to rural based artists which was commendable. Chakyar Rajan Memorial, Guru G Karunambal Memorial and Shanta and Justice Jagannatha Shetty Memorial were presented respectively to Bharatanatyam guru Kalamandalam P.N. Rugmini, Bharatanatyam guru Krishnaveni and Yakshagana artiste Dayananda Nagoor, all senior artists with years of dedicated service.
Anirudh Srinivasraghavan, disciple of Pt Ram Deshpande, is a Hindustani music vocalist specializing in the Gwalior gharana.