Matru Devo Bhava!
November 9, 2023
Mothers are often the centre of our universe, if not universe itself (remember li'l Ganesha going around his parents thrice in circumambulation, to denote he had gone around the universe, while his brother Kartikeya set out globetrotting physically and returned many aeons later?) and so when a star-dancer like Prashant Gopal Shastry mounts a homage function in memory of his parents Prabhavathi and Gopal Shastry then there was many a teary-eyed in the ADA Rangamandira, Bangalore, on the 4th of November 2023.
A tad too long an evening - loud to boot - and impatient kids scooting all over the hall, made it a homely function. Serious viewer's tolerance was tested by the constant chatter of most attendees, making it more a mela than melam of classical dance. Not just millennials, but even seniors were busy on cell phones, distracting the proceedings with the glare of cell lights, as if the world would end if they didn't see their screens for two minutes! So what was the good part?
Three dancers from the long evening of many. One, a 14 year old - yes, 14 year old delight of a dancer called Shaivi Gururaj. What a centred dancer! Total calm, ease of delivery and first- rate finish. Her gurus Prashant Shastry first and Rajendra Srinivasan for last three years stand congratulated. One has rarely seen this matured artistry even in grownups. This dancer and her dance is the gift of the gods. Her talent can't be this birth alone, but from purva janmam sanskara. She alone made up for the whole evening with her three items that were not demanding even on audience patience. She danced in as a breeze of fresh air in a stuffy hall. She needs better costume sense, lighter colours, smaller borders that helps her height and frame. She is just 14 so will grow with experience.
Another self-contained artiste was sea blue with white costumed Kochi dancer to reflect the sea; as it were she was the epitome of good grace in dance. Neat and clean, her finish was good and she showed a good foundation. Her name: Sanjana Sivakumar.
Prashant Shastry himself appeared with a stately presence and glitter and instead of a varnam, vatsalya bhava intense item would've brought him closer to the memory of his mother on the occasion. Both he and his sister could've danced together to show homage to their guru and mother and to show how his training by their mother sat on siblings, male and female bodies. Also, the sound system did not help him and he lost focus midway. He is an established TV and film artiste and dancer of note. His sister Gayathri next, acquitted well with her hastas and mukhabhinaya, which are enough to watch to see her fine art. Guru Lalitha Srinivasan as chief guest blessed them and graced the occasion.
Odissi duet by under 10 talents
It was left to a first-rate professional of Bangalore Odissi scene, Madhulita Mohapatra (awarded that evening along with academician Karuna Vijayendra) to lift the evening with a spiffy group work on the Tri Devis, that went with the spirit and season of rhythms of Puja pandals and it was well etched by each of her young dancers. Next item by two under-ten talents should have gone first as a warm up and both were fetching in their delivery and cameos. The third item was totally unnecessary. The gains of first two were lost in the third. Why didn't the organisers limit each presentation to just two items, when the evening had a dozen? Also by definition, group work should've gone in the end so there was a conclusion on a high note. In this concluding piece, Odissi met Bharatanatyam in Bollywood! Speed, racy music and shades of Pallavi marred the lalitya aspect of Odissi. Most of Odisha is suffering from this jazzed-up version of Odissi seen in last few years and those doing it in Odisha itself, musicians and dancers are doing singular dis-service to the very fibre and fabric of the form.
The last dancer, again a soloist doing three items, proved more is too much and leads to ennui and fatigue and in the end twenty people were left in the hall. Dancers are never the best of editors as they lack objectivity and so it is up to the organisers to be firm in instructions and not to over present. One item was enough; you don't need to eat a mound of rice to know it is cooked!
The 48th year of maintaining a festival started in 1975 and last 15 years in enhancing it must lead to an understanding that less is more and audiences today are restless and want a spiffy evening, not an unending one. Even the compere Shadakshari Sugganhalli looked tired for once, though he conducted the proceedings with his usual smile and substance. There was an overall sense of fulfilment for most and if classical dance can give that high then why not? Prashant Shastry and team worked hard and included all in their homage to mother guru Prabhavathi and father Gopal Shastry. Wherever they are, they must be blessing them.
Critic, connoisseur, historian, author, artivist, archivist, administrator and more - editor, columnist and mentor Ashish Khokar remains true to his muse.
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