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Nalanda Kanaka Nartana Mahotsava
- Vijay Shanker
Photos: Paresh Desai

Uma Rele, Kanak Rele, Vaidehi

December 17, 2018

Nalanda Kanaka Nartana Mahotsava was organised by Nalanda Dance Research Centre at Kanaka Sabha in Juhu, Mumbai, on 24 and 25th November in order to celebrate the fruitful existence of Nalanda for more than fifty years and also to felicitate outstanding performers for their invaluable contribution in the field of Indian classical dance and music.

The recipients of the Nalanda Kanaka Nartana Puraskar were Guru Deepak Mazumdar and Dr. Uma Rele for Bharatanatyam, Kalamandalam C. Gopalakrishnan for Kathakali, Dr. Sunanda Nair for Mohiniattam, Jhelum Paranjape for Odissi, Shila Mehta for Kathak and Dr. Ambika Vishwanathan for vocal music. Dr Kanak Rele, renowned Mohiniattam exponent, dance educationist and founder-director of Nalanda Dance Research Centre said that it was an uphill task to get the sanction from the then vice-chancellor Dr. TK Tope of Mumbai University to introduce degrees in dance up to the doctorate level with affiliation to the Mumbai University. Over the years, Nalanda has been recognised internationally for its substantial contribution and students like Deepak Mazumdar, Sunanda Nair and Vaibhav Arekar have placed Nalanda on the international platform. While Shekar Sen lauded the untiring efforts of Dr. Kanak Rele, Dr. Sunil Kothari said, "We were quite young when we started off and quite passionate about our work; sometimes we would disagree too but the bond of devotion to classical dance still continues."

The unusual program of the festival was 'Rele Parampara' wherein it was a rare spectacle to watch Dr. Kanak Rele, Dr. Uma Rele and Vaidehi, three generations coming together. Vaidehi performed the beautiful composition "Simhavahini Srirajeswari" extolling the virile and benevolent qualities of the goddess who rides on the lion and one who kills the buffalo-headed demon Mahisha. Vaidehi captured the attention of the audience with her vibrant and striking movements, blending well with powerful expressions. While the choreography of this number was done by Ambika Vishwanathan and Radhika Nair, Vaidehi received fine musical support from Ambika on vocal, Satish Krishnamoorthy on mridangam and Satish Seshadri on violin.

Uma Rele interpreted the Kshetrayya padam "Indendu Vachitivira" portraying the khandita nayika when she questions her lord as to why he has come and his relation with the other woman. Uma's subtle expressions pertaining to her love and anger were well appreciated. The students were waiting anxiously to watch Guru Kanak Rele interpreting the 'Ashta-rasas' based on the Natya Sastra. Kanak took the rasikas on a journey of rasa-anubava of sringara, adbhuta, veera, karuna, raudra, etc with such rare intensity that the students were left dumbfounded. Kanak Rele's book 'Bhava-niroopana' makes a meticulous study of the rasa theory and its varied implications.

Sunanda Nair

Jhelum Paranjape

Shila Mehta

Gopalakrishnan & Narayanan

The highlight of the festival was that all the dancers performed based on the choreography of Kanak Rele. Deepak Mazumdar performed an emotional and soul-stirring item that establishes the vatsalya of mother Yasoda and Krishna. Sunanda's masterpiece performance was of Kubja, the cursed woman who serves as a slave to the wicked Kansa, until the divine intervention of Lord Krishna when she is blessed and regains her original beauty and form. Jhelum Paranjape impressed the audience with her interesting and emotional enacting of Satyavan Savitri. With Odissi base and intense angika abhinaya distinguishing the vibrant and rhythmic movements of Lord Yama and the slow and soft movements of Savitri, blending well with suitable music, her presentation created a lasting impression. Shila Mehta made a fine attempt in portraying two distinct characters Amba and Shikandi, but beyond certain point the characters were not established, leaving a partial impact.

Dussasana Vadham in Kathakali style was performed by Kalamandalam C. Gopalakrishnan and Kalakshetram Narayanan. Roudra Bheema role was essayed by Gopalakrishnan and of Dussasana by Narayanan. Bhima spots Dussasana in the Kurukshetra battlefield and is enraged, both get into a verbal spat and finally Dussasana is killed. Bhima rips him open, drinks his blood and thus fulfills the vow taken by Draupadi. The performance by both artistes was excellent due to the dramatic quality and impact.

Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.