ON THE ROAD
Just back from a national tour of Gajaanana with Anita Ratnam and her troupe, covering New Delhi, Koltaka and Mumbai. No mean effort this as it involved zig-zagging around the country with a troupe of 17.
those of you who have not seen Gajaanana, it’s a modern presentation of
some of the stories weaved around India’s best-loved God Ganesha. The performance
combines traditional Bharatanatyam and not so traditional Bharatanatyam,
Thapatam, Oyilattam, Silambu, the chanting of Vedic hymns and Harikatha.
Perhaps for the first time, dancers are given a voice. The live orchestra
provides a wonderful percussion based accompaniment led by the versatile
N K Kesavan accompanied by Padamanabha Das (Edakka), Venkataraman (Vocals)
and Subhashri (Nattuvangam).
starts dramatically by one of the dancers having a cloth tied around the
head and face to emerge as a striking image of Pillayar. To those of us
in the South used to Therukoothu tradition this may not be so new but to
North Indian audiences it came as a surprise and was greeted by loud applause.
Anita, playing Parvati from whose sweat, sandanam (sandalwood paste) and
a bit of clay Lord Ganesha is born, holds the piece together using narrative,
slokas and chants as a Harikatha performer would.
Delhi University has been quite moribund and I read in the papers that the syllabus in some subjects like B.Com have not been revised in over 15 years!! So this event to broaden the ‘U’ horizons came like a breath of fresh air.
Kolkata was a different kettle of fish. Gajaanana was showcased as part of the Uday Shankar Shatabdi Samaroh, the Sangeet Natak Akademi festival of contemporary dance. The 1,500 strong audience was made up of the cognoscenti of the city and many young and not so young dancers. Kolkata is a city with a soul, not found in the other metros and the City of Joy gave its heart to Gajaanana. At the end of the performance, the show was greeted with cries for more and Anita and the troupe were mobbed by autograph seekers and numerous young dancers who wanted to know if they could come to Chennai and be trained by Arangham Trust.
The only sour
point in getting to Kolkata from Delhi by train was the journey through
Bihar where they have no respect for the words “reserved compartment” (IIA/c)
and even tried to man handle some of the female dancers. Complaints to
the police fell on deaf ears. Reaching Kolkata was a relief to the troupe,
especially when we discovered that most taxis are electronically metered
and they will hand you back change!!
writer is a Chennai –based artistic director and a set designer.
Courtesy: City Express, The Indian Express, March 21, 2002.