Dance at dawn
Photos courtesy: Bandish Arts
August 6, 2021
'Bandish' is a pan-Indian lexicon for the text of classical music or the libretto of a specific song. Interestingly, it resonates with the Bengali word 'Bandi', meaning 'the one in bondage', and makes one immediately hum Kazi Nazrul Islam's inspiring hymn: Iron gates of captive jail / Break them down, let freedom prevail...The yearlong pandemic lockdown prevailed with dark, dreary nights with everything going bleak and virtual and their apparent recession just at the moment glows with some hope, to be welcomed by open-armed physical bonhomie - could this lull permit a brief song-and-dance workout? The reverberations do hark back to the 1950s' Hollywood romantic blockbuster, Singin' in the Rain, with Gene Kelly's joyous steps and aerial leaps filling the screen in a perfect Music Hall routine amidst pouring downpours.
Bandish Arts, a recent non-profit organization set up for artists' welfare and assured payment for performance (to replace "pay and perform" mentality) founded by Swati Athmanathan - a Chennai based disciple of Guru CV Chandrasekhar and Santanu Roy, a Kolkata based disciple of Samrat Dutta --promoted, during the brief respite in lockdown some elements of performing arts on, first, online platform and covered 100 episodes of performances and interactive sessions in the entire globe and later opening up in the physical form. Later, it curated Bandish Arts - Season2 for Kolkata Chapter on March 12 at 'Rangkarmee Usha Ganguly Manch,' a studio theatre created in the memory of Usha Ganguly, the doyen of Hindi theatre in Kolkata, whom the Bharatanatyam dance world had gifted to the metropolis and whom the city lost during the pandemic.
Vikash Pal & Anushtoop Mazumdar
The proscenium programme started with a short, but scintillating musical overture by Anushtoop Mazumdar, a highly meritorious disciple of Ajoy Chakravorty. Anushtoop opened the evening with raga Yaman. Following the tradition of Patiala Gharana, he started by singing a short alap and then moved on to perform a Bada Khyaal, Sumarana Tora..., composed by Sadarang (Naimat Khan) in vilambit ektaal. After showing Yaman's various colours through copious vistars, sargams and taankartab, he increased the tempo to drut ektaal and performed a short bandish, Main Vari Vari Jaungi..., with composer unknown. Anushtoop concluded his performance with a Meera bhajan - Chalo man Ganga Yamuna teer / Ganga Yamuna nirmala pani, sheetala hote sharir..., made ever popular by DV Paluskar's melodious recording. An admirable singer, Anushtoop was accompanied by Vikash Pal on tabla.
Sourav Samanta, a young Odissi dancer, took the stage next. Having started with Bharatanayam and later groomed well in South Gurukul Society under Sutapa Talukdar and pursuing Masters in psychology, he participated in a large number of festivals and now runs 'Vivartan', an associate group of deprived children, supervised by his guru. He began with a ritual Mangalacharan, passing on to Gouri Nandana, an ode to Ganesha, composed by Nabakumar Mishra, music by Sukanta Kumar Kundu in raga Mohana and choreography by his guru. His concluding item was an Arabi Pallavi. A well known item with music by Pt.Bhubaneswar Mishra and choreography by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, the dance moved entirely on a Swaraprastha: re-ma-pa / pa-ma-dha / sa-ni-dha-pa-ma-ga-re-re and had staccato movements on odd beat combinations that made it very attractive to behold. Possessing a good physique and pleasant demeanours, Sourav came across very well on the stage.
The finale by Delhi based Bharatanatyam dancer Tanya Saxena was quite a tour de force. A senior disciple of the well known gurus Saroja Vaidyanathan and Rama Vaidyanathan, and widely travelled globally, Tanya has held many collaborative programmes under Sangeet Natak Akademi and other agencies, and has a Master's degree in Performing Arts from Thanjavur University. A well known teacher now to other dancers, Tanya began her recital with Shambu Natanam. Performed as Shiva Tandava, the song is traditionally ascribed to saint Patanjali, in raga Lathantapriya and tala khanda chapu, with jatis provided by R. Sriganesh. Tanya's dance was marked by its adherence to geometry, clean lines and subtle expressions, quite reminiscent of her guru Rama's chiselled dance form and pristine clear style.This was followed by an interesting shloka delineating the nine rasas. A composition of Melattur Veerabhadrayya, this shloka was made famous by the celebrated dancer T. Balasaraswati. The version presented here was in Ragamalika, bringing out the mood of each rasa and performed as a viruttam. Choreographed by A. Lakshmanaswamy, the dance painted a picture of various aspects and anecdotes of the mystic Shiva.
Her next item was another abhinaya, with a famous Bengali patriotic song by DL Roy - recently sung very feelingly by TM Krishna - that had the recurring choral lines: You haven't seen such a golden land, anywhere on the earth / The queen of all lands, it's the land of my birth...Tanya innovatively interpreted the song as a homage to the mother. She concluded her performance -- as well the Bandish Arts show -- with a Tillana, using a well-known composition of Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, and choreography by Saroja Vaidyanathan, set in raga Paras and talam adi.
The entire programme was redolent with a spirit of release, from the thraldom of a vicious virus as it were and coming out to breathe fresh air, what with its narration, style of presentation and the overall sense of relief expressed by the spectators in the pocket sized studio theatre! It did seem like a song-and-dance celebration in the balmy breeze of early spring, if not under the gutsy monsoon of the metropolis!
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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