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Lankan honour for Kathak dance duo
- G Ulaganathan

July 18, 2019

Hari and Chethana are a well known couple in Bengaluru who are passionate about dance. Kathak is a form of dance which requires rigorous training, regular practice and dedication. Now, the couple is headed for Colombo to receive the island country's prestigious award given to those who render service to the people devoting their lives for the glory of either national or religious causes through cultural, literary work, or Performing Arts. This award is being given by The National Peace Association, headed by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, who has sent out a personal invitation letter to them.

"This award is being given to us in recognition of our contribution in the field of Arts on the 28th of July at the Bandaranayaka International Hall," says Hari. Their connection with Sri Lanka goes back to 18 years. "In 2002 when Sri Lanka was in turmoil as a result of ethnic war, we volunteered to visit the country on our own and helped to collect Rs 2 million through our performances and with the support of Colombo Young Women's Association, helped to build a home for the Elders in Jaffna. Then we helped to raise funds for a reputed Bharatanatyam dance institution called `Kalalaya', in Colombo, founded by the legendary Rukmini Devi Arundale. The money was used to build rehearsal halls and a dormitory for students learning dance.We specially choreographed a sequence called Rhythms of Kathak which was presented to audiences in various cities," he adds.

At a time when many Indian performing artistes were reluctant to go to the troubled island nation, Hari and Chethana were part of a Peace Summit, organised by the High Commission of India at Indian Cultural Centre in December 2003 and there they presented three productions-Omkaar (description of the primordial sound), Bahurang (different colours of Kathak) and Abhisar (One of the nayikas who tries to ensnare a Buddhist monk Vasavadatta but he enlightens her and says desire is the cause for sufferings) -all focusing on the need to maintain peace at any cost and depicting the principles of Buddhism.

In 2007, there was a series of performances sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations beginning with the Indian Independence Day celebration in Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Jaffna. "In 2008, we were invited by the Indian High Commission in Kandy to present the literary works of the famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib called 'Hazaaron Khwaishen' which was presented in universities in Colombo", says Chethana and adds "We also have had the good fortune to closely interact with the legendary dance gurus Chitrasena, his wife Vajira and their daughter Upeka who is a fine Kandyan dancer (the island nation's classical dance form)."

Hari and Chethana founded the Noopur Performing Art Centre in Bangalore in 1996. They also have their branches in The Netherlands and in the US which are run by their senior disciples.

Ulaganathan Ganesan is a senior dance critic based in Bengaluru.

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