Drishti Dance Festival  
- Jyothi Raghuram, Bangalore  
e-mail: jyothi.r.ram@gmail.com 
Photos: Lalitha Venkat 
January 31, 2007 

 "Drishti" is both the name of the classical music and dance quarterly brought out by the Vikranths, and the annual dance festival organised by them, which is into its second consecutive year now. This year's festival at Chowdiah Memorial Hall on January 12, attracted a packed audience just as it had last year.  
While it is heartening that a classical dance program can attract an overflowing audience, especially considering that it is a horrendous task for a dancer to garner even a respectable viewership, it is worth mulling over how and why "Drishti" has been able to catch such crowds. One obvious reason is that it packs in a variety of dancers and dances in just an evening's program, each one of them attracting his or her own fans. Perhaps good publicity too has as much a role to play.  
The festival was a mix of popular names and a younger crop of dancers, where classicism was not beyond suspect and contemporaniety its thrust. Padmini Upadhya, Parshwanath Upadhye and Aishwarya Nityananda presented the inaugural Pushpanjali, Ganesha stuti "Gajananayutham" (Chakravakha), and "Eesham Sarvesham" (Ragamalika), a Shivanama stotra, where the nritta fell into place. The rapport among the dancers, even in the ensuing numbers, was one of the highlights of the show. The vocal of Manasi Prasad was pleasing and the dance composition of Anuradha Vikranth, crisp.  
Parshwanath, Padmini and Aishwarya
Anuradha Vikranth
Anuradha's "Nritthonnathe" (Keeravani) from DVG's Antahpura Geethe was high on the glamour quotient, the "aaharya" befitting a shilabaalika. Music was by Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma and vocal by M S Sheela.  
Sathyanarayana Raju was the lone dancer to present a solo from the traditional margam. His varnam, "Devadideva Nataraja" (Shanmukhapriya) was marked by neat nritta. He dealt with the elongated korvais with practised ease. A more focused drishti, consistent aramandi, and the opening up of his abhinaya will give a sharper edge to his presentation. When Guru Narmada wielded the cymbals, it was a rare outing both for her and the audience. Srivatsa (vocal), Gurumurthy (mridangam), and Mahesh (flute) were the accompanists. 

"Rhythms," a light filler - one calls it so because of its unconventionality, brief duration and pace - was the number by the "Drishti trio" of Anuradha, Shama and Sanjay Shantaram. It was a toe-tapping number, its appeal lying both in its beat and its movements, drawing as it did heavily on folk and free style. Here again the rapport among the three conveyed itself as a buoyant piece to the audience. The dance composition by the protagonists was a fluid amalgamation of the styles, the rhythm pads by Prashanth deserving special mention for the array of background instrument effects it produced.  

Sathyanarayana Raju
The Kirans were next to come on stage, their "Kapalini" picked up from a work of Kalidasa, the devi stuti from one of Adi Shankara's verses, and a tillana being the bill of fare. Kiran Subramanyam’s footwork had a rare clarity, but his facials, vis a vis his eyes, need to be toned down. Sandhya Kiran's costuming was classy. The pyrotechnics in the music was jarring. Prasanna Kumar and Ramya Janakiraman (nattuvangam), Srihari (mridangam), Chitra Lingam (veena), Arun (rhythm pads), and Mahesh Swamy lent support from the wings.  
The festival threw up a pertinent question: Is the solo Bharatanatyam recital, as we know it, on its way out? Also, are group features and duets a substitute for it?  
Our classical arts, be it music or dance, are essentially solo forms. It is as much the responsibility of a dancer to woo the audience as a soloist (which requires going deeper into the technicalities), as it is for an audience to increase its level of awareness of the art. Here again, the dancer has a role to play.  
Inability to carry conviction with the knowledgeable is perhaps one reason for dancers resorting to group features, which is less demanding in more ways than one. If duets and group features become more the order of the day, then it ceases to be Bharatanatyam, and becomes another form.  

Yet, there can perhaps be a happy balance between the solo form and group features, the latter fulfilling the creative urge of an artiste, while being able to offer something different to the audience. After all, creativity is of essence for any art to survive and thrive. It is through continued experimentation that an art form assumes vibrancy.  
It is here that a festival such as "Drishti" could prove to be a turning point, with its format and forays hopefully focusing as much on preservation as experimentation.  

Jyothi Raghuram is a journalist by profession, having worked in the print media in major newspapers and agencies such as "The Hindu" and PTI for about two decades.