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28th Pandit Durgalal Festival
-Anupma Harshal
Photos: Girish Nambiar

February 18, 2018

In its endeavour to promote Indian classical music and dance, Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts, an institution founded by Kathak exponent Uma Dogra in 1990, held the 28th Pandit Durgalal Festival on 4th Feb 2018 in Mumbai. The festival pays homage to her beloved guru, the great maestro late Pandit Durgalal of the Jaipur Gharana. As a respect to the master's undying spirit, two main festivals are held every year. The first and foremost is the Pandit Durgalal Festival that pays tribute to the great mentor and features renowned artists of the music and dance fraternity. So far Sam Ved has had the privilege of legends of almost every field having graced its stage in Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Aurangabad, Bhopal, Kolkata and Pune. Some of the eminent musicians and vocalists to have performed include Pt. Jasraj, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Rashid Khan, Anup Jalota, Shubha Mudgal, Ustad Shahid Parvez and late Jagjit Singh and Ustad Sultaan Khan. The nation's finest dancers have also performed such as late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Sitara Devi, Sonal Mansingh, Pt. Birju Maharaj, Hema Malini, Madhavi Mudgal, Sujata Mohapatra, Rama Vaidyanathan to name a few. This year the festival hosted Mangala Bhatt, her talented colleague from Hyderabad, who has also trained with Pandit Durgalal and one of the most dynamic duos in Kuchipudi, dancer and choreographer Vyjayanthi Kashi with her disciple/daughter Prateeksha.

The prelude to the festival was a two day workshop by Mangala Bhatt, who has been an erstwhile student of the Kathak Kendra, Delhi, and has been mentored by Pt Durgalal during the period 1985-90. She enriched the participants on the finer nuances of his style in taal Astamangal. She taught uthaan, thaat, tihai, small tukdas from his repertoire. The outcomes of her discourse include the need for a dancer to be in sync with laya, mark your line, register your vision and then follow it to the core. Guru Uma Dogra was astute in performing all the above with them and added colour to the sessions with beautiful stories of their long association. The young and talented Satyaprakash Mishra set the tone of the workshop by his rhythmic notes on tabla. Mangala made a beautiful note about the concept of drawing your line through space.

Mangala presented teentaal bandishain wherein her footwork was enthralling and aphonic (moving from loud to noiseless). Her presentation of the bols taa thai taat in different colours or shades enthralled the audience. The gaat kee chaal in vilambit laya, was a treat to the eyes - noteworthy here is a mention that she had rehearsed only once with the musicians. Her footwork reflected her riyaaz and truly showed her hold over laya. She presented Sant Tukaram bhajan Raajasa sukumar, describing Krishna mahima, feeling one with the divine. The esteemed panel of musicians included Pandit Kalinath Mishra on tabla, Vaibhav Mankad on vocal, Sangeet Mishra on sarangi and Alka Gujar on sitar.

Mangala Bhatt

Vyjayanthi Kashi & Prateeksha

The Kuchipudi recital by Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha was a treat to behold. They brought to life Jatayu wadh, story of little Hanumana engulfing the sun god, the Bhadrakali episode and the Hiranyakashyap vadh. The articulation of the monkey god face by Prateeksha was soulful. All beauty is that which is Radha in Hari's eyes, an amorous piece that brought out the romance between the two. The transition of a manav (human) into danav (demon) by Bhima, to the tune of "Prakriti yeda kampinch" was mesmerizing. The act of Draupadi engaged in a blood bath to her open tresses knitted the audience as if it were live. The mother -daughter duo generated compassion through expressive gestures and slower body movements harmonised with musical notes. The movements were precise and the expressions were divinely inspired and the compositions steeped in the deep understanding of history, mythology and spirituality.

The stage backdrop was aesthetic reflecting emotions through the colours of the hanging drapes. The event saw Uma Dogra being emotional as she gifted her erstwhile SNA awardee shawl to Mangala Bhatt wishing her the SNA Award soon. The crowd bore witness to the alluring performances replete with tradition, spirituality and bhakti rasa, manifesting themselves in the mudras and expressions of the dancers. The evening lived up in spirit to the ideals of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, "The noble and far reaching ideals of a great mentor invariably cannot be achieved within a single lifetime. Disciple must carry on the mentor's vision and continue the ongoing endeavour to make it a reality."

Anupma Harshal is a Research Scientist in Biology and has been trained in Kathak dance by late Pandit Brijraj Mishra.