July 24, 2022
Rarely it happens that a show or space leaves one transformed. Please understand for some of us, watching 300 shows a year, in different cities, for last 50 years is a huge palette to even be coming from or compare with. So when one says two shows stood out for their transformative quality then believe me, it is true.
First was an innocuous, small hall, very popular of late in a traditional neighbourhood of namma Bengaluru. Seva Sadan in Malleswaram (the first half Mal is what makes Malgudi Days of R.K.Narayan fame, the second half - gudi - coming from another very old and traditional area called Basavangudi) is actually part of a school / orphanage. Many shows take place here in the last ten years.
When Arundhati Patwardhan and Manasi Jog performed here, arranged by singer-dancer Padmini, an ace student of dance icon of Bharatanatyam in Maharashtra, guru Sucheta Bhide-Chapekar, then the hall was spellbound. Was it theatre, was it dance, was it a musical? It was natya in totality. And the two were in total sync, art wise.
Sant Tukaram is a household name in Maharashtra, along with Namdev and Gyandev. They are the trio like in south we have the Trinity (Tyagaraja, Shyama Sastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar). To cull bhakti songs for Bharatanatyam is not easy because bhakti songs of this region of Vithala are not ready dance material. Then too, where to put Bharatanatyam dance portions? In an essentially mystic domain where can you jump or show adavus? This is where Arundhati's genius lay. Well thought out and enunciated, their dance was crisp and correct. A good sign of stamina is also how one breathes. Arundhati didn't gasp after five minutes. She danced with lips closed, showing regular practice. Only those who dance or practice occasionally, open mouth and look out of breath while performing. True, the dialogues divert and are too long without a break, especially for those who are not familiar with Marathi language but then how do Delhi walas or Bengalis or Gujaratis understand any of Tamil or Telugu or even Sanskrit songs of South Indian forms? Ultimately art must transmit, and transform. All left that hall soaked in Vithala effect.
The production was soothing, fulfilling and guru Sucheta tai introduced well. Her girlish giggles are her hallmark and she has an academic mind, so evident in all that she does. Here is a real big talent of India.
At a diametrically opposite end of town in J.P.Nagar 3rd block, above a nursing home, rests a rooftop space called Vyoma. Satyanarayana Raju, dancer-designer, put his heart and soul and transformed this into a magical space. The idea is old style baithak for soirees, silk and all. A two day Rasaabhinaya Festival, second in series, unfolded here where 3 good talents of the city were platformed. 5 actually: Seshadri Iyengar, Kiran Subramanyam (day one), Murali Mohan Kalvakalva, Praveen Kumar and Mysore Nagaraj (day two). First day clashed with above reviewed Tukaram show at Seva Sadan so what one saw next day when 3 consummate artistes performed, in that magical space was fulfilling. Manotripti. The poster by Aravind Ramanna set the tone; what an unusual dance poster. Many wanted an actual paper copy!
Murali Mohan Kalvakalva
Murali Mohan's face is like Murali Mohan the Krishna is: mischievous with a hint of sweet smartness. There is a lurking smile somewhere and natkhat eyes. So, for him to do Uddhav-Madhav was a polarity because this episode is about pathos, parting, pleading. Krishna has left Gokul never to return and all gopis await him and sending Uddhav there as rep or pacifier serves little purpose. Murali is a good communicator with his clipped English and accent which has a patina of polish. He is now a world citizen too and an all rounder. Samanvita Sharma's vocal accompaniment was divine with perfect pitch and diction, complimented by wind instrumentalist Vashisth.
Next came Praveen Kumar. Don't go by his dry, wry frame. There's lot of raggi packed in that - strong, disciplined, full of stamina! He reminds me of being a male version of one of Bharatanatyam's best in her generation, Leela Samson - same type of understated abhinaya and aesthetics. Praveen is the thinking, happening dancer. He chooses his material well, performs to the gallery and knows what's auchitya. A complete artiste with an e. Looking at Praveen there was this dissolving of gender and he comes across as a very centred dancer, sorted too. Both Murali and Praveen got attenDance awards 10 years ago so those who gave them spotted their talents, early on. Today they are local stars and active acharyas with substantial following.
The last dancer Mysore Nagaraj is a do-gooder too, who loves the art and serves it selflessly. He hosts artistes, makes most of their talents and presents them too through Articulate India. He has spent his own monies in Mysore in free shows that many partook of but no one paid for! Hence, it is good Vyoma charges attendees. What's a hundred or two for 2 hours of pleasure that good art gives?
Mysore Nagaraj's first half was a hurry-flurry of dance and he really came into his own upon request from audience, thanks to which he showed his acumen as Radha in one cameo and Shikhandi in next. His basic learning from stalwart guru Maya Rao came through and the musicians could play along too, as all were seasoned. A good time was had by all, rains notwithstanding. It didn't rain but poured dance. All stand complimented. There was genuine electrifying energy that evening and this happens rarely. Congrats, all.
Khokar is a critic by profession, historian by education, administrator by experience, archivist by disposition and celebrator of art and artists by spirit.
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