Raindrops Festival of Dances 
- Shyamhari Chakra in Mumbai 
e-mail: shyamharichakra@yahoo.com 

July 29, 2006 

 

It was raining and raining outside the Godrej Dance Academy Hall of NCPA on Mumbai's marine drive. And reigning inside the auditorium was the reverberating sound of the ghungroos of the dancers and recurring clapping of an enlightened audience.  

The occasion was the 16th annual edition of the Raindrops Festival of Indian classical dances (July 19 & 20) mounted by well-known Kathak dancer Uma Dogra's Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts. The two-day event showcased six soloists in four styles-Kathak, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Odissi. 

Does the Raindrops relate to Mumbai's monsoons in any way? "Rains bring hope and cheer to the earth for new creations. Raindrops presents young and promising dancers who also usher hopes for the future of the vibrant Indian classical dance scene," articulated Uma Dogra in her inimitable manner. 

The festival kicked off with Mumbai-based Bharatanatyam-turned- Odissi dancer Sangeetha Rajan. A disciple of Debi Basu, one of the few Odissi gurus of the City, Sangeetha commenced her presentation with a neat presentation of pure dance – pallabi - set to raga Khamaj. It was followed by an abhinaya (dance of expression) number based on the 12th century saint-poet Jayadev's Geet Govind. The artiste attempted to portray an anguished and love-lorn Radha upset over a futile wait for Krishna throughout the night who turns up to her in the morning pleading plausible excuses much to the disbelief of the lady. 

Switching over to the character of Krishna in the next episode, the dancer demonstrated how he wooed Radha after exploring all possibilities following which the couple had a dance of delight together. 

A dancer of calibre, Sangeetha is gifted with the feminine grace that goes into the making of an amazing Odissi dancer, in the intensely lyrical style of her guru's guru - the legendary Kelucharan in particular. But to this reviewer who watched her during the recently concluded Kal Ke Kalakar dance fest in Mumbai, it seems she is a talent under-utilised. While she does not delve deeper under the skin of the character in abhinaya that restricts her spontaneity, intensity and clarity of emoting various bhavas, she needs to put in more force into her movements in pure dance numbers to bring out the best in her. 

While her wonderful team of young accompanists was amazing, one wondered why she included her ghatam-player brother amongst her musicians. Did she and her choreographer find the traditional percussion instrument of mardala inadequate to produce the desired sound patterns? Or was it an experiment for experiment sake? Both of them indeed need to answer. 
 

Sangeeta Rajan
Preeti Sathe
The star performer of the evening was however, Preeti Sathe of Baroda City, who literally stormed the stage with a pulsating performance of captivating Kathak in the Jaipur gharana. A disciple of Jagdish Gangani, who choreographed and conducted her performance, her invocatory piece- sundar kahat kathak katha - was in praise of Lord Shiva, the cosmic dancer. Describing both the tandav and lasya aspects of dance, the artiste attempted to ascertain how beautiful could be the creator of such a beautiful and pious dance form! 
  
Exhibiting unbound energy and enthusiasm, the dancer then presented a bouquet of traditional numbers in 13 beats. Her thaat, paran, toda, tihai and chalan showed how she has imbibed the best of talim (training) and riaz (practice). Special were her movements of the arms that literally pronounced the rhythms with perfect sync with the percussionist. The more she danced, the more delighted she looked - a rare trait discovered in dancers. 

Preeti concluded with an impressive abhinaya number - karat solah singar - that described the preparation of an abhisarika nayika waiting for a union with her beloved man. 

Singapore-based Kuchipudi guru and performer Siri Rama was the last performer of the inaugural evening who presented her invocatory number - mangal arati - in praise of Lord Ganesh in Marathi in an apparent move to reach out to the audience in Maharashtra. It was followed by jatiswaram in adi taal and an abhinaya number - Shiva natya leela –weaving the mythological stories attributed to Lord Shiva. She concluded with a neat presentation of the traditional dance on the brass plates, a unique feature of Kuchipudi style. 

One, however, failed to appreciate the logic behind inviting such a senior dancer to an event that is dedicated to the budding artistes. 
The second and concluding evening commenced with a commendable performance by budding and promising Odissi dancer Rajashri Praharaj. Disciple of Ratikant Mohapatra, son of the illustrious Kelucharan Mohapatra, the youngest participant of the festival impressed the audience with her performance of purity and perfection. 

Invoking blessings of Lord Ganesh for an auspicious beginning in the traditional mangalacharan, the artiste set the mood of the evening accompanied by the soul-stirring music scored and sung by Laxmikant Palit, a popular musician of Orissa. It was followed by yugmadwanda pallabi, a pure dance number that was woven with wonderful rhythmic movements conceived by Ratikant Mohapatra who has emerged as an innovative choreographer. Versatile vocalist Raghunath Panigrahi, better known as the better-half of late legendary Sanjukta Panigrahi, has been the music composer for this mesmerising number. 
 

Rajashri Praharaj
Saji Nair
Rajashri was at her best in Durga, the concluding number in ragamalika in praise of the goddess who is shown as a compassionate creator and destroyer as well. Choreographed by Guru Kelucharan, the music scored by Debashis Sarkar deserves special mention. Light arrangements - the only performer of the event to ensure it - elevated the appeal of the show to greater heights. 

Mumbai's emerging Mohiniattam dancer Saji Nair impressed too. Groomed by the renowned Kanak Rele at her Nalanda Dance Research Centre where Saji has been a junior lecturer, this daughter of a Kathakali dancer-father also commenced with salutations to Lord Ganesh. But unlike her predecessors, her presentation portrayed Ganesh as an innocent child who looks at his father Lord Shiva’s head with a sense of wonder. 

Mahumasa-her next presentation narrating the spring season- was drawn from popular Malayalam literature Gatha Sapta Sati compiled by King Hala. Struck by the Cupid’s arrows, the love-lorn nayika pleads with her man not to leave her alone in such a season of love and union. Saji’s description of the beautiful earth in spring in the language of dance was vivid and quite convincing. And the artiste was at her best in her concluding piece of abhinaya – Kubja, the hunch back lady in the court of King Kansa who was transformed into a beautiful lady by Krishna. Music essayed a vital role in the artiste's articulate portrayal of the exact emotions. 
 
In a fitting finale to the festival, Pune-based Kathak danseuse Yogini Gandhi hooked the spectators to their chairs with her amazing ability in involving the audience that included several exponents and performers. An artiste with a mind of her own, she danced to most of her own choreographic compositions. 

Angika bhubaman, the first canto of the Abhinaya Darpan, was Yogini's invocation of Lord Shiva as an auspicious beginning that was followed by a dhrupad bandish. Her pure dance segment was a treat for the ears in which she displayed wonderful and soothing rhythmic sound patterns while executing her innovative footwork both in vilambit (slow) and drut (fast).  

Her abhinaya segment showcased a Meera bhajan in raga Yaman that dwelt upon the Krishna-Yasoda and Radha-Krishna delineations. Yogini aptly concluded her performance with a taraana in raga Bhairavi, an ideal raga for an artiste to end her performance in praise and prayer of the goddess of arts. Nikhil Pathak on tabla and Chinmay Kolhatkar on harmonium were simply superb. 

Yogini Gandhi
While host Uma Dogra deserves kudos for her untiring effort in providing a platform for aspiring artistes, gratitude goes to the Mumbai audience for their unpretentious acts of appreciation and support for the hosts and performers. 

The festival was dedicated to the memory of Kathak exponent Madhurita Sarang who passed away a few months ago. 
 

A former journalist with the Indian Express group, Shyamhari Chakra is a New Delhi based freelancer writing on dance and culture. He is building up an archive on Odissi dance in Bhubaneswar.