Chennai January Season performances 
by Lalitha Venkat, Chennai 
Photos: Lalitha Venkat 
January 8, 2004 @ Narada Gana Sabha 

Bharatanatyam by Prateesha Suresh, Bangalore 

Odissi by Ileana Citaristi, Bhubaneswar 

After the hectic December season, many of the city sabhas are presenting post festival performances. At the Narada Gana Sabha, the 2 accomplished artistes who performed on 8th evening were Prateesha Suresh from Bangalore and Ileana Citaristi from Bhubaneswar.  For an audience of 30 - and the entry was free.  

Whatever happened to the thronging crowd (at least for the Narada Gana Sabha performances) one saw when the shows were all ticketed? From the start of the year, the crowds have disappeared and in most of the shows in the city, one can count the members of a sparse audience. It seems in Chennai, even for the now free performances, there are no takers. It’s hardly encouraging for artistes, especially those who have come from outside Chennai to perform here.  

Prateesha Suresh’s performance was marked by excellent timing to a very supportive orchestra. The second performance of the evening was by Ileana Citaristi. She was accompanied by Banamali Maharana on the mardala, Ghanshyam Panda on vocal and Ramesh Das on the violin. Both artistes seemingly presented their best as if to an imaginary full audience.  

What did it feel like to travel all the way to Chennai and perform to a near empty hall? 
Ileana Citaristi said performers from outside Chennai have to face such situations, because they do not know the local press nor do they have that many contacts in the city who would come to see them perform. She felt happy that the few people she had invited had turned up, but laid stress on the fact that organizers need to do more publicity, like featuring photographs in the media, to attract crowds.  

Her eyes sparkled when she remembered performing to the huge crowds at the annual all night Savai Ghandarva Sangeet Mahotsav conducted by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in Pune, where the program features one dance performance. She feels even Kolkata which used to organize festivals on a massive scale, is now facing a slump in efficient publicity.  

In order to create awareness of dance forms other than Bharatanatyam in the south, Ileana suggests that organizations like Sangeet Natak Akademi could hold their annual Odissi festivals in cities like Chennai and Bangalore, instead of only in Bhubaneswar where anyway there was an overdose of Odissi. This would expose the people to the artistes and their work.  

On the brighter side, Ileana is thrilled about a forthcoming festival in Delhi in March, where she will perform with her guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and another festival that will feature artistes like herself who have adopted a culture other than their own.  

  Prateesha Suresh

  Ileana Citaristi