Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Immortal Art

It is a long time since I came back to my blog! There were three triggers why I am back here! One was an invitation to visit an art exhibition of a parent of a danseuse I admire a lot about whom I would write last today! There were merely two pictures of this artist Kuber Dutt in whose memory his daughter and family had put up the art show. The pictures spoke volumes about the man and his life as splendid as resplendent it should have been as his art. But such  geniuses rarely stay for long lest they get sullied by the ways of the world. Purva had asked me to come to the exhibition but there were many other worldly things I was caught up  which prevented me from going to this exhibition which is going to be a great regret for life because I had to decline something that was offered out of love  for something that was created out of love and immortalised  for the world.   I will try and make amends for it soon. 

The second trigger for the writing is owing to another great miss this week of an extraordinary performance by one of the most admired male exponents of  classical dance who refused to go out of line of the tradition and who is upholding the rigour and grammer of dance, Vasudevan.  This one artist I would  want to watch with my heart's content one of these days with Smitha, my partner in life who herself is a dancer of some standing from the past.  Vasudevan I am told  brings the subtlety of dance with the strength firmness of the male footwork which should be enthralling experience for sure! 

Third and final trigger is of course the beautiful Purva  who has captured the imagination of many by her seemingly endless repertoire  of expressions and powerful performance where she becomes one with the character she is personifying.  Dance, unlike even stage  drama, makes the artist change personalities and moods in a  moment's notice where the former allows the actor to live the role to its full. Not for the stage actor to change the role from balarama to parasurama, not for him to change from parasakti to a poor mendicant all  within the space of flicker of an eye in a dance drama. The expressions of the face and the hand moments  of a solo dancer have to spontaneous so as to tell the story and not allow the spectator to wonder whether it is the same person performing the next scene.  The whirlwind of moods, the tapping of the feet,   the undulating pitch of the lilting music, bright costumes  and of course the seamless choreography should transport the audience from their seats to the palaces of dwaraka, the jungles of Mathura, the lofty mountains of  Kailash, the idyllic lakes of mansaraovr, the bustling ghats of  kasi and of course the pains and pleasures of the divine mother.  Has Purva done all of this, only her friends and her audience could tell, I was part of the audience just once. But I can see from the repertoire of pictures that keeps streaming out and screaming her talent, she definitely is already firmly on the path to glory which her father set out to traverse long ago and seemingly now continuing through her! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nagumomu in dance!
Of the many Thiagaraja Keerthanas "nagumomu kanalene " in Abheri ragam is an all time hit with all leading singers from semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer, M. S Subbulakshmi, Balamuralikrishna, Sudha Ragunathan to countless others. It is also a favourite for the instrumentalists too! But rendering the song in dance is truly a divine experience as done by Nirupama Rajendra who seemed to have a 15 minute delightful video posted three years earlier. See Nirupama Rajendra rendering solo  Nagumomu
Nirupama and Rajendra, a dynamic and spellbinding dancing couple from Bangalore-India have over the years created a wave of excitement on the Indian dance scene. With their own worldwide successful company - Abhinava Dance Company’ firmly established as one of India’s most popular and cutting-edge, the duo have been credited with injecting a great deal of innovation, creativity, enthusiasm and imagination to Classical dance. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dancing legs dont stop!
Except that they would make others tap to  the rhythm honed out of years of practice and performance on stage. One finds that there is a definite revival of this artform  worldwide thanks to the amazing work being done by senior artistes without exception. Suchitra, a Kalashetra artiste, today a mother of two and in her early forties could not wait to get back to  dancing, except that she chose to be a dance teacher rather than push herself to the fore. Dance is an art that should be practiced on stage by  young women and men when their bodies are supple and movements are fluid. Asking your limps to move and trying to present yourself as an alluring  Bhama or Rukmani when you are in the wrong side of forties can be quite tiring for the audience, however much you could be accomplished as a  dancer, a mistake many an ambitious artist make much to the discomfort of the audience!

Here is an interesting website   http://www.cyberkerala.com/bharatanatyam/ which has a lot of information and data on dancers in chronological order. About 22 artists have been listed with a request for more people who could be enlisted at this site provided they send in their resume with three photographs. A good effort but expecting people who are busy pursuing their vocations to get enlisted in any website is a tall order. We wish the website the best.  What I liked also that they have linked as external links  the following artists, some of whom are well known names  on the basis that they have a website of their own.
1. Rema Shrikant
2. Vasumathi Badrinathan
3. Shobana
4. Febina Mathew
5. K.Mohanan & Sunitha Mohanan
6. Medha Hari
7. Radha Dutta
8. Anupa Thakurta
9. Aline Civinelli
11.Gayatri Subramanian
12.Parvathy Raghunath
13.Anjali Nandan
14.Pranita Jain
Once again I must come back to ICCR  which has not done this sort of work where irrespective of their standing in the dance profession, every single performer of value should find their names and links in the ICCR database, which is no big job for this government organisation.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Celestial dancer
Mythili Prakash Home
This a blogpost which seem to have remained in draft form  for some months. I debated whether or not it was dated and relevant and decided to go ahead and publish it without any modification as the person and her work is something everyone needs to know about, if they have not known already! 

Mythili prakash is a celestial dancer as akin to the Urvasi &  Menaka of   Indra's court. It was an amazing few minutes that I spent with Smitha watching this youngster perform. Spellbound, speechless, enthralled....adjectives have no meaning to describe how she came across to us. Even as I write this after 16 hours of the performance in my minds eye she is still there and her perfect movements her dexterity of footwork her precision and perfection in landing back exactly where she started after a swirl, her arrow like body and her sheer energy.....! Amazing that such youngsters do exist to continue this phenomenal art form called bharatanatyam. The story line she had taken was about three forgotten women from the epic Ramayana, namely Kaikeyi, Surpanaka and Sita and she tried to weave a dance drama around them interpreting their lives in the context of modern women. While this interpretation fell flat as the explanation being offered did not fit with the context nor was the research done about the three women clear, the way the programme was rendered made one forgot about the naivete of interpretation of the respective role of each women in the epic or their relevance to the modern context.

The programme held at Habitat Centre auditorium was sponsored by HCL. Me and smitha in fact quite unexpectedly came across this programme and walked in to watch and it turned out to be a lifetime experience. My feeling quite sincerely was like the average bhhakta who spends life time of his savings and undergoes so much of hardship reach Tirupathi koil to have the darshan of the Lord and gets pushed in the queue only to get a minute of His darshan for all his efforts. But that single minute in the jostling crowd would stay etched in his mind for the rest his life and this episode would be narrated endless number of times all this life. This one is in that category, honest! Thanks Mythili for giving such a celestial experience.

It reminds me of an experience I had couple of years earlier when we gave a training session at a school in Dehradhun for the teachers. We had switched on the music and told the teachers to close their eyes and relax for about ten minutes and report back their experience.I didn't realise that the music that played was classical dancae music until one teacher came up to say that she experienced being before the king Indra and dancing before him in all the few minutes the music played. We believed her then and I sincerely believe her now. I can understand her true feeling. Smitha and I were transformed to another world for the few minutes we spent watching Mythili perform, a world beyond possible, a world of sincerity a world of hope, peace and promise. God bless you Mythili.

Here is the open mail/letter that I had sent her this morning.

Dear Ms Mythili
yesterday was one of the most memorable days of our lives quite honestly you happened totally unexpected to us, me and my wife Smitha. You simply entered into the realms of our eternal imagination as the embodiment of limitless possibility with your dexterity and sincerity of your performance on stage. Frankly we didnt know you existed purely  owing to our own limitations of not knowing the artists even though we have a keen appreciation of the art form of classical dance. Nor we had an invitation to your performance. We just chanced by and that too towards fag end of performance and whatever those 20 minutes were, they are etched in our collective memory and speaking for myself these were moments of truth which happen to people barely a few times in their lives. Mythili you are a great dancer, quite sincere to getting perfection and above everything you live for dance as simply as you breathe to live. This I am positive about. I am sure you have a very rich future ahead for contributing to this form. My only request is, it is one thing to build a career out of such a performing art but yet another in contributing to its growth as only sincere and devoted people like you could carry the mantle forward in this generation.. This is best done through research, documentation, dissemination and participation. Mega shows add a lot of value to your career but sincere hard core research and its dissemination keeps you in the mindscape of people even many generations after you have passed. Like the celestial dancers carved in sandstones in Belur Halebad, Konark, Mamallapuram, Aayiramkall mandapam of Trichy, Madurai......who live to this day your work would stay for posterity provided you delve deeper in this artform and make it available to everyone!

In this context getting things right is equally important and I want to place before a few thoughts on the topic you had chosen for yesterday's performance about the three women and their deeds. The three women from the epic Kaikeyi, Surpanaka and Sita have interesting background and they are simply caught in the web of fate, though each were endowed with their own special strength and calling in life. In fact the last one was the most affected of the lot and more dependent on the Male factor than the other two. Sita did not have a life of her own. The context about her is not about people questioning her integrity which is but a minor aspect of her life and even this was done by her own husband anticipating such a query from people and the society which may not actually have happened. But the real issue is she was never free and was always in shackles in all her life. She was a puppet on a string put there by her father to be claimed by any male prince of valour. Rama having conquered her by his strength of bending a bow and not appealing to her heart simply led her around as his handmaiden into all difficulties and she landed herself in trouble just about the only time in this story she is seen to have expressed her desire to possess something namely the magical deer. This time in the hands of the demon king Ravana who perhaps treated her with more dignity by preserving her and constantly beseeching her consent and not wanting to take her against her will--something Rama never worried about as she came as a gift for his show of strength. Sita is the best example of a nameless faceless womenhood which has continued from that time till date.

As to Kaikeyi she being a women of valour and strength herself chose to marry a blind king as his second wife, perhaps out of sympathy or a misplaced sense of possession as after all his life was a gift she gave in the battle field. It was not altogether unexpected for such a woman to nurture a dream of power for herself or her son particularly when Manthara came along to remind her of her chance to exercise her boon. Kaikeyi fits more with the description you gave for surpanaka in the modern context where women in corporate sector who otherwise are very sincere about their work and commitment do not hesitate to go for the kill if it suits them.

Surpaneka is merely a mirror image of manthara and her role is only to instigate her brother to lust and revenge which was quite vile considering that she got insulted by the brothers Rama and Lakshman when she desired the boys for her lust. She is no woman of any virtue and not worthy of being mentioned along with the other two women. Surpenaka is evil as evil can be described and quite a minor player.

The bottomline is simple. In your zeal to contextualise the characters from the epic you should stick to certain realities of the time and now and not interpret in the manner you have done which does not jell at all. Having seen your performance and your sincerity I wished you do a more thorough research and analysis of the stories and episodes you take up before putting these on stage. After all coming from a devotee of the art like you anything you say or do would carry more weight and meaning than perhaps what was written or said from the epics or other stories you take up for enactment. That is your responsibility and your call in life. I hope you appreciate that.

My sincere wishes and blessings to a great artist with tremendous promise and one who is going to not only continue the powerful artform practiced by her grand gurus and her mother but one who would contribute more it and immortalise it using modern tools of knowledge. God bless!

Thothathri Raman

Friday, May 10, 2013

DHYANAM-Purva Dhanashree!

DHYANAM-Purva Dhanashree! 

 Hey Manusha! I am Devi! I am Mata, I am your mother, I am everything  and yet I am frail and may be no match to the timeless stone images which surround me!  The eyes are closed but are seeking an seeing which a wakeful mind cannot perceive. The stones which have come alive around me and myself as a person, are no different from each other. 

All of us are made of the elements of nature, combined differently, ordained uniquely by our creators. The one, man created has stood the test of time and is withering away ever slowly bearing witness to the centuries of human agony, ecstasy and realisation!And yet as a human I know that I have but a limited window to live and to give, to seek and be sought after, to create and be part of the creation,  like the artists who have long gone but whose  creations have stood the test of time, I would also create, carve something out of the human  consiousness so that when I am gone, my work would stay, it would be carried in the mind and feet of the generations to come, each adding to the learning as I did after learning from Guru, who did likewise.  Each individual adding to the uniqueness of dance, the expressions and the life itself!  

My eyes are shut and yet I am seeing the world that is passing in its own rhythem, creating and destroying everything around it and everyday man is waking up thinking he would live for another 100 years and yet men in their millions have come and gone, each merged with the soil, the rivers, the skies from where they came and each becoming the soil on which new saplings grew, creating a world anew.  No one is dying, no soul is  going back to the creator as creator is no one different than his creation. All are here and would remain in the only world that human knows which can preserve him, the world I salute with my eyes closed as I seek to know the truth, the truth of my existence. 

The reason why I came, the reason why I would go  so that a new generation would walk the same path, move mountains, create a new world, only to become part of the dust that they would leave in their wake.  Dhyanam is not just to discipline my mind and thought process but it is  the unique few minutes when you could visit your soul  and be with it so that you know you dont have to be born again as you would never have gone, you are here and you will always be here. This is the world I came to this is the world that has been given to me, this the world that I would shape  in my unique way, this the world that I will leave to become part of its microcosm so that in every shaft of light, in every drop of water and every gust of cool wind, I know I will be there, again and again!

Inspired by the beautiful young friend and Bharathanatyam  Dancer, Purva Dhanashree

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bharathanatyam, a street dance?

Cazrode Yongsterz has taken Bharathanatyam literally to the streets! May a bit unconventional but it does catch the attention of people and makes them curious to know this form of dance. The dress is colourful and the moves are ethereal and fluid and the dance would fit with any crowd. In fact, the street theatre of  Tamil Nadu  with Kagagattam, Mayillattam, Oyilattam....all have some elements of bharathanatyam including even its trademark attire in these. Dance is an expression of the inner peace and good dance simply flows when the artist decides it should be. The art and artist become one and the universe simply wraps them around and watch them in awe. Street or stage makes no difference.  Great show Cazrode!  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Following my blog! I didnt quite know there is a fair amount of following of my blog and it is going to touch 10,000 views! Amazing. Well, the beautiful dance form is something everyone is now rediscovering for its true worth. The artistes are getting new recognition for their efforts. In my recent visits to the USA, the Orient and within India I find more people are getting interested in traditional art forms. More people are willing to spend money to train their children, take the effort to drive them to the classes and wait patiently outside for hours, go through the pain of getting the Arangerrams done. It is no longer fad, it is serious business.
Move over man!
Also I guess internet has also contributed hugely to this phenomena where people are able to track the best and also follow their favourite artists. Despite all this disconcertingly, the senior artists are still ruling the roost and in the process inadvertently denying the fair chance to the youth. Besides, such art forms as these require lithe young artists who could carry themselves in the stage. The elders should have the magnanimity to vacate the space and encourage the youth to take the centrestage as a show of their true maturity. Sharing of knowledge, researching and uncovering new knowledge nuggets is possible only if the elders turn to be mentors and not remain as competitors.
The ICCR show!
A serious research on some of the key shows that took place with government ICCR assistance in the last one year would easily tell you that 90 per cent of the funds have gone to a handful of senior artists which is pretty unfair. Someone in the profession should file an RTI to find out who has utilised the government funds, who has used the Doordarshan programmes, who has performed in some of the key government supported mega dance shows. A serious rethinking is needed to see that the big names remain big by mentoring and not by competing with the youngsters. This trend is not only in bharathanatyam, but in all art forms where government funding is involved.
Can someone also file an RTI to find out how much money was dished out, who benefited and what follow up action was taken while providing the ICCR scholarships. Here is the link http://www.iccrindia.net/otherschemes.html
Did you know that ICCR has dozens of Fellowships and Chairs abroad in practically every country you can think of. http://www.iccrindia.net/chairslist.html I wonder who used these funds and what follow up was done to pass this knowledge to the young artists in India.
Check this list and you can easily spot everyone who is anyone including the wife of a famous crickter is here. Most of the yesteryear artists who refuse to step down are also there in equal measure. http://www.iccrindia.net/iccr-annualreport-2010-11/Annexure%2011%20(Festivals%20of%20India).pdf
I rest my case!
Having said this, I must also place on record the tremendous contributions made by the senior artists like Padma Subramaniam, Alarmel Valli. Bhavalaya.com has an interesting collection of bios of leading artists of yesteryears and not so yester too! See this ">link