Seven days of harmony
the cultural capital of the state of Kerala, India, languishing since the
introduction of TV got a fillip recently. Thalam, a nascent cultural organization
celebrating its anniversary combined with Hari Sree Vidyanidhi in its silver
jubilee year, administered the revival medicine.
The art fete brought nostalgia to old timers. The Sangeetha Nataka Academy Hall rang with the jingling bells of dancers of Odissi, Manipuri, and Kathak. And a contemporary dance that mesmerized the audience was a revelation. Top-ranking artistes brought their troupes and performed a range of items from the classical to folk as well as modern innovations. Truly it was a dance-music fiesta for the art lovers of Thrissur.
Odissi is a
classical dance form of temple origin, performed in front of Lord Jaganath
in Puri, and at the famous Sun Temple at Konark, in Orissa. With social
and political changes in Indian society, these forms moved out of the temples
to take their place in the wider Indian society, performed by individuals
and traveling troupes.
The second half of the evening featured a performance of Manipuri by the Kalavati Devi troupe of Manipuri Natrtanalaya, Kolkata. Manipuri has two distinct forms: the forceful, vigorous thandava, and the soft, delicate lasya. The performance started with invocation to Lord Krishna, the master of geeth, vadya and abhinaya. This beautiful piece was followed by a ball game played between Krishna and Balarama, in which Krishna loses. Even a god loses is a comforting thought in our times of cut throat competition. What is important is that one should play the game gracefully. And hence they reconcile and dance happily.
In Pung Cholom, the dancers played upon pung - the drum - and danced while playing the intricate time cycles executing somersaults and breathtaking acrobatic feats. The finale was truly novel in which both Odissi and Manipuri dancers came together to perform a jugalbandi, a friendly competition. Vaishnavism, the common spirit of both these dance forms, inspired the artistes to perform a single theme in two styles together. Aloka's interaction with Guru Kalavathi Devi led to a harmonious blend of Manipuri and Odissi. The message is loud and clear that the dances of India weave a multi colored, beautiful pattern as a unifying force amidst the apparent diversities of the subcontinent.
artistes are internationally acclaimed dance exponents whose mission is
the perpetuation and propagation of their passion with their devoted group
of dancers and musicians.
The folk item brought life to the romance and merriment of Holi, the festival of spring. The innovative modern piece, Yasodhra, the deserted wife of the Buddha meeting her Lord was a poignant one. The sequence was rendered in the lasya anga style of Kathak by one character portraying the various roles in the narration. Yasodhra is confused about their new relationship. How is she to meet her husband, as an estranged wife? A devotee? Finally as the reality dawns she asks him two questions: why did he leave her in the middle of the night. Of course when the call comes one simply leaves no matter if it is the midnight or mid-day. Willing to follow the path of her husband, she offers to be his devotee. But the Buddha says women are not given Diksha. The rest is a very poignant rendering of her grief, perhaps, of that of Indian womanhood caught in its ethos. Yet another modern piece, in simple modern costume, is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's saying that all religion is one. The choreography explores the concept of harmony and echoes the message of non-violence and peace. The finale celebrated the beauty of human form. The dance and music blended the elements of the Spanish dance Flamenco and Kathak. The change in costumes pointed to the turning points in its historical growth. Kathak's swirling movements, lightening-quick pirouettes, its sudden poses, its rapid stamping of feet, and subtle gestures express a wide range of emotions. The heartbeat of Kathak is its footwork in combination with ankle bells, accompanied by percussion instruments that produce a special harmony, bewildering yet exhilarating. This special effect was missing here as the troupe danced to the music flowing from the CD. Of course Manipuri dances were edited for the concert platform to suit urban audiences during its journey at one point of time. Even now it retains its essential aspects of nritha and nrithya. Yet the growing expense robbing it of its charm is a sad commentary on our times.
The fourth day witnessed popular Bharatanatyam by cine artiste Vineeth and Lakshmi Gopalaswamy. Once again the C D substituted the orchestra. And the performance was a success because of its star value. But the students of Hari Sree Vidyanidhi did receive the message that one has to follow the passion of one's heart amidst peer pressures to perform.
On the fifth
day, the troupe of the legendary Chitra Visweswaran retold the tale from
Mahabharata - an eternal theme of modern relevance. The emphasis was on
the game of dice, which evoked political intrigues beyond the barriers
of time and place. The inter-play of good and evil that leads to war was
the highlight. All dancers wore the same costume; they enacted various
roles. Women dancers played all the major roles. Dancing from corner to
corner of the stage, displaying the might of evil, anger, and spite, they
recreated the dark world where all intrigues are born.
The interactive sessions between the artistes and connoisseurs after the performance each day were revealing in nature to the lay audience. Local celebrity Nalini Chandran, the Founder-Principal of Hari Sree Vidyanidhi and the chairperson of Thalam, was the driving force behind the renaissance.
The next two
days of gana mela entertained the students as well as the art lovers. Trinity,
a troupe from Tamilnadu and Trance, another from Kerala catered to the
tastes of three generations. From the melodious numbers of Mohammed Rafi
to the fast, body-swaying, erotic, rhythmic beats of modern filmy stuff,
they sang a mix of the old and the new in three languages: Hindi, Tamil
and Malayalam. The seven days of splendor, with its special significance,
raised the hope of a revival of art and culture in the heart of Thrissur.
Padma Jayaraj retired as a college teacher in Kerala. She is a freelance journalist, who has contributed articles to Transitions Abroad, an American magazine and to The Hindu Metro magazine.