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Chiaroscuro of classical cadenza

February 15, 2021

The pall of gloom seems to be lifting from this metropolis - as indeed from many other sites in India - at long last in the New Year and "the normal" is thankfully set to regain its hold from the "new normal". Such seems to be the case in the three prosceniums that find favors by the dancers here: the three auditoria of ICCR, EZCC and Gyan Manch in the descending order of their capacity. And the crowd seems to be flocking back to them, bringing such sighs of relief to the performing community, weary of the past deadening of pace!

Ananta (the Infinite) presented on January 9 by 'Darpani' as their silver jubilee offering, directed by the noted Odissi and Bharatanatyam dancer Arnab Bandyopadhyay (and very professionally anchored by Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee), was quite an eye-catching affair with a few luminaries from the dance world. The evening opened with Anita Mullick, a very senior Bharatanatyam dancer of Kolkata, with an Ambika Pallavi in raga Tilang and adi tala. This was a padam from Lalita Sahasranamam by Adi Shankara elaborating the goddess's divine attributes. Her second item was an elaborate Krishna Anubhava, presented as a varnam (although not announced as such) with pronounced teermanams. The abhinaya piece for the song Ya Krishna Yamuna... came through quite well with a peacock frolicking, Gopis reacting to Krishna's splendor, Radha's pointed response to her mon amour and the bewitching presence of the pastoral god, just alluded to in Nayanam madhuram, vadanam madhuram at the end...

Anita Mullick (Photo: Tarun Bose)

Ratikant Mohapatra

Ratikant Mohapatra, whose successful organization Srjan's branch is run by Arnab in Kolkata, took the stage next. His first presentation of the Jayadeva ashtapadi Priye charushile... from Gita Govinda was a vintage choreography of his illustrious father Kelucharan Mohapatra, with music set by Pt Raghunath Panigrahi. Taken from the twelfth (and last) canto of the epic, it catches an errant Krishna - having spent an evening of passion elsewhere - in a defiant mood by Radha having waited for him through a listless night. She is to be placated back to reconciliation: Twam asi mama jeevanam, twam asi mama bhushanam...,rising to a crescendo and in an ultimate submission by Krishna: Dehi pada pallava mudaram... that would make her yield to the desired union. Ratikant's abhinaya is very intelligent and he's an adept dancer, though his avoirdupois remains a feature tolling for a reduction. On the other hand, his second - and much longer - abhinaya dominated exposition of Shabari, based on Tulsidas's Ram Charit Manas came through superbly as a dramatic oeuvre. The long wait of the hermit for Rama, the unannounced arrival of her lord, the final encounter and the total enchantment, the sashtanga pranam (lie down salutation), and especially her offer of the berries after herself tasting them first for quality and Rama's good-humored acceptance from the innocent devotee were etched very well. Although presented to the Kolkata audience sometime back, the dramatic sequence was worth a repeat and remained a masterpiece.

The third presentation was a solo dance on Ardhanariswara Stotra by Adi Shankaracharya, presented by Arnab Bandyopadhyay, set in ragamalika and talamalika. It was a well known dance composition by Kelucharan Mohapatra with music composed by Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi, and Arnab did full justice to the elaborate alterations of tandava by Shiva and lasya by Parvati, with excellent ekaharya abhinaya.

Arnab Bandyopadhyay (Photo: Soumik Banerjee)

Prabal Gupta

Prabal Gupta, a meritorious student of guru Sadanam Balakrishnan and already well-established in Kathakali streevesham, came as the penultimate dancer with his chosen genre. His first item was a Purappad (commencement of program) comprising a mélange of ragamalika and talamalika, where he demonstrated kalasams (pure dance) of Kathakali. His second presentation was a padam Sammyam akkonoru uddyanam... in sringara rasa, choreographed by Sadanam Balakrishnan and set in raga Poorvikalyani and chempada tala, reflecting the queen Damayanti quite bewitched by Nala's garden with birds and swans. It was a skilled and professional choreography bearing the vintage stamp of his renowned guru.

Darpani ensemble

The grand finale was Ananta, an ensemble production of 'Darpani' in Odissi style, dealing with Pancha Bhuta (the five primordial elements). Performed by eight female and two male dancers, with Arnab providing the lead, it was the latter's direction and choreography reflecting both ephemeral and abiding aspects of earth, fire, wind, water and ether with well modulated choreography that was fairly eye-catching. The script was by Sreyashi Dey, music by Sandipan Ganguly, and voice by Suvadra Desai. It was quite a befitting spectacle to bring the curtains down.

Dr. Utpal K Banerjee is a scholar-commentator on performing arts over last four decades. He has authored 23 books on Indian art and culture, and 10 on Tagore studies. He served IGNCA as National Project Director, was a Tagore Research Scholar and is recipient of Padma Shri.

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