Khajuraho Dance Festival
March 17, 2005
the 30th Khajuraho Dance Festival after an interval of three years, it
was a great pleasure to see that the festival has become an important landmark
in terms of an exclusive classical dance festival, enlarging its scope
to the related traditional physical arts forms like Thang-ta,
the martial arts from Manipur and this time it also embraced the typical
style the legendary dancer Uday Shankar had evolved and further embellished
by his daughter Mamata Shankar.
Now that the dates are fixed February 25 to March 3, tourists from within India and abroad are able to plan their visit well in advance. Over the years now the infrastructure has developed a lot and all types of facilities are available to make one's weeklong stay very comfortable. It is also well within the means of the middle class. Excellent hotels ranging from five-star to three-star and also dormitory-type are available. The M.P Tourism department through advertisements in the newspapers and the electronic media also provides information. There is also a website linked with the Department of Tourism, Government of Madhya Pradesh. The only difficulty, those travelling by air, experienced were of confirmed bookings for return flights, because the Indian Airlines had to suspend their operation for want of aircrafts and paucity of pilots. The authorities told me that they would resolve this issue well in advance, so that the return flights are confirmed. Otherwise in all matters the festival was conducted faultlessly.
The new director Mr. Arun Palnitkar, since he took over as a Director of Ustad Allaudin Khan Sangeet and Kala Academy in December last year, he has been literally on his toes looking after Tansen Music Festival Gwalior, Mahiar Festival and other cultural events in Madhya Pradesh. This festival is organized in collaboration with several other governmental agencies and is sponsored by Gail India Ltd for the past two years.
I have been closely associated with the festival in various capacities including a member of the jury for selection of the dancers, as a critic writing regularly in print media both Indian and foreign for the past twenty two years regularly, advisor to the organizers, looking after the correct announcements of the dance numbers, suggesting what technical requirements are necessary, bringing artists together, assisting morning sessions of photographs at the temple, helping in interviewing the dancers for print media, electronic media and assisting organizers in general. Since I have been attending the festival for the past twenty-two years, I am one of the 'Khajuraho regulars' and enjoy the privilege of an elderly person who is an expert in the field of classical dance. I must also put on record that all concerned have extended me the respect due to my seniority and experience. And I enjoy being a part of this most wonderful cultural event.
This year in
Kathak form Nandita Puri, a disciple of Roshan Kumari from Mumbai, Jayashree
Thakur from New Delhi in solo dance and Madhu Nataraj-Heri, daughter of
veteran dancer Maya Rao and Madhu's troupe from Bangalore and Uma Dogra,
a disciple of Durgalal, with her own disciples from Mumbai displayed the
richness of this open-ended form in group numbers. Whereas Nandita did
justice to Roshan Kumari's
the celebrated dancer Yamini Krishnamurty presented her students of
Nritya Kaustubh Cultural Academy, where she is passing on to young generation
of dancers her Bharatanatyam repertoire. As often happens, the expectations
of the connoisseur are not fulfilled, when they look for the excellent
technique of the mentor. What an outstanding dancer Yamini in her halcyon
days was! Even today with a fire in her belly she would make audience sit
up, were she to appear on the stage. The repertoire consisting of
'Rupa majuchi' varnam, Shringaralahari, Natanam Adinar et al created nostalgia
for someone like me. The fact that the young students got an opportunity
to perform on this prestigious platform was a big award for them.
Surupa has an admirable sense of exploring the movements, stretching them without distorting, and thereby lending a fresh look to Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra's training. The Oriya songs, the Shiva stuti and group dancing with Pavitra and another young dancer from Nrityagram were so absorbing that the audience wanted more and more. But with the right duration and variety of numbers, the dancers stole the show from others in terms of brevity and excellence.
film star and member of Rajyasabha Hema Malini's daughters Isha and Ahana
Deol were billed in Odissi on the last day after Uma Dogra's Kathak. They
have been learning Odissi from a traditional guru Ravindra Atibuddhi for
quite some time. Both are personable and have innocent and endearing looks.
It is Hema Malini's great desire, as she told during the press conference,
to see her daughters as dancers. Isha has already made a mark in the films
and would like to continue performing dance, as does Hema Malini. Doubtless
both the daughters have to go a long way, compared to the stalwarts in
the field. They have a head start as daughters of Hema Malini. If they
The selection of Kuchipudi dancers was also complimentary. Dr Uma Rama Rao's selection for presentation of Bhama Kalapam by Thanjavur yakshaganam-Matrubhuta Kavi's Pariajatapaharanam was most welcome. It had exquisite lyrics and the music was captivating. The young dancer Dr. M Jwala Srikala enacting the role of Satyabhama was very impressive. The group presentation of Shiva Shakti was well designed. Taranga Nritya besides the popular appeal of a dancer balancing and dancing on a thali, saw a young dancer playing role of Krishna. It was a heart stealer abhinaya by the young girl Tanvi. Uma Rama Rao had very wisely selected young dancers according to their abilities and in turn convincing audiences to believe in what was being presented.
The other group of Kuchipudi dancers arrived from the Kuchipudi village, led by Vedantam Venkatachalapathy, son of the renowned Rattaiyya Sharma, famous for his role of Hiranyakashipu. Venkatachalapathy reminded the onlookers like me who have seen his father, of his father. But more than that, he is so versatile that he convinced us in his impersonation of the female role of Satyabhama. This tradition is now almost extinct. But the art runs in his blood and somehow nothing looked incongruous. The marvel was that he could play both the male and female roles with consummate artistry. Keshav Prasad did the nattuvangam.
Untimely rains disrupted the show and Mamata Shankar and her troupe performed on next day. Their ballet was from the word go a runaway success with Mamata's troupe performing like seasoned dancers unfolding the story of Prakriti, a chandal kanya and her infatuation for the Buddha mendicant who accepted water from her, in spite of the fact that she was an untouchable. Gurudev Tagore's music is haunting and Mamata with her customary showmanship received from the audience big applause.
Thang-ta, the martial arts of Manipur, as usual was loved by one and all. The juggling, the blindfolded man, cutting the pumpkin on the stomach of a man lying on the floor, the sword fighting with sparks flying in all directions and similar exercises with spear, sword etc displayed the versatility of the Huyen Lallong Cultural Association. Sangeet Natak Awardee Guru Gourkishor Sharma's disciples and son did him proud.
From Kerala Kalamandalam, Cheruthuruthy came Nathalie, artist to present sequences from the Mahabharata, Draupadi's hair anointed by Bhima with the blood of Dusashana, Krishna’s showing his cosmic form, Vishvarupa when Duryodhana does not relent and tries to tie the hands of Krishna, and other events were much appreciated even when the stories enacted with the hastamudras often is not understood by the Madhya Pradesh audiences. Kathakali, even when presented in one hour's duration leaves a strong impact world over. The Kerala Kalamandalam artists deserve our praise for mounting such a good show.
first day, the announcement by Sunil Vaidya for Doordarshan was adequate
and well presented for Doordarshan. The organizers will do well to invite
the national media and critics to have the festival covered. With the financial
crunch the need for publicity in national and English media is curtailed.