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Bharathanrithyam with a new focus
- Dr.Nita Vidyarthi

February 20, 2019

'Bharathanrithyam with a new focus'
By Dr. Shrividya Muralidhar
Aayu Publications, New Delhi
128 Pages
Hard Bound Jacketed
Price Rs.1500
ISBN: 978-93-85161-32-2

The 128 pager gets straight down to charting how to focus on the credibility of the name 'Bharatanatyam' with attention to 'untold' and 'uncontemplated slips' and moves process of dance subjects. The work attempts basically to coin the term Bharatanrityam instead of the earlier name Bharatanatyam and subsequently Bharatanatyam, interpolating technically the name and content of the latter. The preface by her mentions that "sustenance of rudimentary entity and continued research," authenticates the work to coin the term 'Bharatanrityam.' Dispersal of the term Bharatanatyam and justification of Bharatanrityam is the running thread of the book.

The book is divided into 16 chapters with a bibliography at the end followed by 14 lovely coloured photographs of the author, Dr.Shrividya Muralidhar in different postures and poses. This idea of not interleafing illustrative plates is interesting. The book is research oriented in the field, vision and presentation of Bharatanrityam.

The first chapter 'Dance-An artistic creation' is an ordinary introductory essay and could have been done away with. The author comments about the discrepancy between the dance of the tribes and the classical dances, though not quite convincingly. To draw an analogy or difference at this point seems to be redundant.

The real discussion starts from the second chapter 'Bharatanatyam-The evolution.' Muralidhar begins with a strong remark that "Today's Bharatanatyam has been referred to as 'Sadir' till the beginning of the 19th century." Running through the 'adavus' briefly and the margam repertoire architecture by the Tanjore brothers, she considers "Sadir nautch" and how Bharatanatyam was related to it. The fifth line on page 20, referring to the contribution of stalwarts like E. Krishna Iyer, Rukmini Devi, Kolar Kittappa, Rabindranath Tagore, Uday Shankar "who in their contribution in some or other way 'architectured' dwelling for Bharatanatyam from Sadir nautch in its most revered name and form." It is difficult to comprehend the incidental character of this line and the word "architectured dwelling" should have been explained briefly. Incidentally, Tagore embraced Bharatanatyam as a part of his movement vocabulary of Rabindranritya as he did Manipuri, Kandiyan and others without any other intent. Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam has been quoted heavily in this chapter. It closes very briefly specifying the factors that have sculpted Bharatanatyam.

In Chapter 3 'Natya', the discussion steps on to Vrittis, Nritta and Nritya briefly, relying on the Natyashastra and Abhinaya Darpanam till the end of the 4th chapter 'Bharatanatyam-the term and name in question' at the end of which she justifies the need for rejection of the name Bharatanatyam and commend the term to the idea of Bharatha nritya. The author declares at this juncture that Bharatanatya has been connoted and understood as Bharatanrityam, furthering the insights of the book. Stepping into Bharatanrityam from Bharatanatyam in Chapter 5 is rather abrupt.

Chapter 5 'Expanding Bharatanrityam within grammar' is informative and direct. So are Chapter 7 'Understanding literature for performance,' Manodharma in Chapter 8 and 'Nava Vidha Bhakthi' in Chapter 9. While most of the chapters are kept short, the author discusses dance and dance music elaborately in Chapter 12. Chapter 13 is dotted with references by AEOLUS from Attendance, articles of Maya Rao and quotes by Ashish Mohan Khokar from editorial of Attendance.

The author's closing comments in Chapter 16, 'Bharatanrityam Today' in support of the term Bharatanrityam are "that it is contemporary in the notion that it is a true evolution of a sacred culture. Bharatanrityam is complete in its own way."

Dr. Muralidhar explores the extent to which exploration creates a diversity of responses towards issues of the coinage of the term. Drawing on quantitative methodology she concludes that it is incorrect to use the term Bharatanatyam but Bharatanrityam but her indifference to structure and formatting of the contents are disappointing and are not quite reader friendly. Despite these shortcomings, the book is loaded with valuable material. A bit of reworking and editing with the presentation would be worthwhile.

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.

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