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- Janani Murali
Photos: R. Murugavel

March 11, 2018

Pravidyā is the coming together of the thought processes, energies and efforts of three performing artistes, Dr. Priyashri Rao, Veena C Seshadri and Dr. Dwaritha Viswanatha. Pravidyā in Sanskrit literally means complete knowledge; knowledge that is primarily obtained from study and later by observing, participating in discussions and performing. The trio aims to host lec-dems, discussions and performances in their humble attempt to explore different dance forms and related fields. The inaugural event of Pravidyā was in the memory of the visionary dancer, late Rukmini Devi Arundale on her birth anniversary. The event, held on Feb 28 at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore, saw the coming together of gurus and students alike in a day-long celebration of her life as a teacher, choreographer, administrator and a visionary. Pravidyā was presented over 4 sessions aptly titled Rukmini Samsmaranam, Sastrat Jnanam, Vidvat Prastara and Nrityaaradhana.

In 'Rukmini Samsmaranam,' Prof M.R. Krishnamurthy, fondly known as Kittu Sir, remembered with a lot of warmth his formative years under the tutelage of 'Athai' as Rukmini Devi was popularly known. His first steps into the august premises of Kalakshetra, his tryst with Kathakali and then his life-long journey with Bharatanatyam were all shared with the audience. One relived Kittu Sir's teenage years with him as he spoke of how Athai would teach and oversee classes, how she would cast artistes for her productions based on their innate nature and the many days that they would be scolded and chided, albeit with much love! Kittu Sir has been instrumental in carrying forward the tradition of his guru and in turn several students have had the fortune of inheriting the legacy of Rukmini Devi. Kittu Sir's endearing talk was a befitting start to the day of lec-dems and dance that was to follow.

Prof M.R. Krishnamurthy

S. Jayachandran and Vamshi Madhavi

'Sastrat Jnanam' had S. Jayachandran and Vamshi Madhavi present an elaborate academic session. In this lec-dem on the Tiruvarur Sthalam and the interpretation of the Thodi varnam "Roopamu Joochi" composed by Rukmini Devi, her genius came to the fore even to the uninitiated. In the explanation of how the significance of the temple architecture, sthala purana and rituals find subtle place in the choreography of the varnam, her sense of aesthetic appeal and minimalism were laid out for the audience to savour. The lec-dem presented us with an example of why and how certain choreographic compositions travel through decades with undiminished brilliance. They were accompanied on vocal by Dr. Priyasri Rao, VR Chandrasekhar on mridangam and Sowmya on violin. The morning sessions were presided over by Guru B. Bhanumathi.

Guru Minal Prabhu

Dr. Sheela Sridhar

Shijith Nambiar & Parvathy Menon
Guru Minal Prabhu was a young child when she entered the precincts of Kalakshetra. On many an occasion, she has described how education at Kalakshetra has been holistic in its truest sense. In 'Vidwat Prastara' presided over by eminent Guru Usha Datar, Minal Prabhu manoeuvred through the nritta compositions and choreography of Rukmini Devi. The impact of rigorous training in creating a supple body, the innate grace of movement, and the aesthetic beauty of every 'korvai' put together by Athai were remembered and presented. Minal Prabhu's disciple Nikita ably assisted her guru in the presentation.

Dr. Sheela Sridhar, currently offering her scholarly expertise as HOD- Dance at Mysore University, paid a befitting tribute to her guru taking the audience through the technicalities found in the nrithya compositions of Rukmini Devi. Those who have not had the opportunity to meet Athai in person were presented with imagery of the personality that she was. Dr. Sheela went on to elaborate how the essence and depth of poetry was always stressed upon by Athai through a presentation of an ashtapadi and a padam.

Popular dancing duo Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon, directors of Samradhya, Chennai, presented 'Nrityaaradhana.' Accompanied by Venkatakrishnan Mahalingam on nattuvangam, Binu Venugopal on vocal, Karthikeyan Ramanathan on mridangam and Rijesh Gopalakrishnan on violin, the duo began their recital with the famous keerthanam "Natanamadinar" followed by the much loved Kalyani jathiswaram. Excerpts from the Narayaneeyam and a Tana Varnam in ragam Behag in praise of Lord Krishna formed the central piece of the evening's recital. Padam "Daari joochu" in ragam Sankarabaranam presented by Parvathi and keerthanam "Kaa vaa vaa" by Shijith formed the latter part of the recital. Nrityaaradhana drew to a close with a thillana in Senchurutti, a composition of Veena Seshanna.

Senior flautist and dance lyricist Dwaraki Krishnaswamy and P. Venugopal, Regional Director ICCR, presided over the evening.

Janani Murali is a Bharatanatyam dancer, writer and ecopreneur. She is the Associate Artistic Director of Padmalaya Dance Foundation, Bangalore, and Executive Member, International Dance Alliance, Bangalore Chapter.