Sweekruth BP: A potential star soloist  
- Ashish Mohan Khokar, Bangalore 
e-mail: khokar1960@gmail.com 

July 7, 2009 

Writing on a historical overview of Indian dance in last 50 years for some Italian journal, Teatro something, I stumbled as to who to write about as young Kathak soloist today? In all of India, either Kathak is being done as group art now or some fusion-confusion stuff. Then, there are hubby-wives duo, who are generally mismatched or uneven…one fat, one thin; one tall, one short. One talented, one add-on. So, who in Kathak? Soloist. Male. 

I thought hard and looked in my mindscape, memory bank and recalled all in Delhi, the main adda of Kathak today. None.  Rajendra Gangani is a lone ranger and not so young.  Guru Birju Maharaj’s many students and sons shine but none as individuals. All his shining stars are women: Bharati Gupta, Shovana Narayan, Saswati Sen, Malati Rawat to name the top in last 4 decades. Of course, there was Pratap Pawar, Pradeep Shankar and Tirath Ram Azad, but they never became just soloists. They were either duos or “ballet” dancers. Once upon a time, Brojen Mukhrejee was one fine talent, but lost to wilderness of Bihar. Calcutta has some, but none solo, male, star material. Madras = zero! where Kathak is concerned, naturally, as only Bharatanatyam rules the roost, then some Kuchipudi. Even Kathakali is hard to come by, unless we think of a few Kalakshetra senior alumni, whose make up, mannerisms and netra-abhinaya is Kathakalish! Bangalore has some Kathak thanks to great guru Maya Rao but male soloist of class? None. Ahmedabad-Baroda-Mumbai has some, but star male soloist? 

Life offers strange surprises at oddest of events! On 1st July, at a run down hall in Bangalore, a group of substandard talents were being presented by do-gooder Sai Venkatesh. He needs to do some quality test/check before letting all on stage and inflicting on unsuspecting viewers, even if they are mostly family and friends. Sitting on hard plastic chairs, I wondered what I was doing there, suffering two hours of Bharatanatyam by a totally uninspiring lot, except for a male dancer Arvind something, when the name of a new (to me) Kathak talent was announced.  Sweekruth BP. I said to myself, hope he does not raise my BP further (after seeing bad BN!), even if I look calm! 

The minute he entered the stage, there was pure, joyous energy and good feeling about a wholesome dancer. Let me qualify these words: Generally, male dancers either look namby-pamby, with no clear position or form, or outright roguish. Some thin ones bend so much when doing gaits, it looks like strong winds will blow them away, or worse, they may fall on stage!  Some, look good but dance badly and most have no clear foundation to survive even half an hour of performance, ALONE! Group work is a good way out to cover up everyone’s shortcomings and that is the vogue these days.  

Thus, to see a brilliant diamond of a dancer shine like a clear jewel was a delight! His positions, stances, structure and over-all delivery was impeccable. This credit he gives to his gurus, not much older than him in age, Nirupama, the Bharatanatyam beauty of Bangalore, wife of equally talented Guru Rajendra.   

So Sweekruth graciously and generously gives credit for his foundation to Nirupama and Rajendra and to Maulik Shah-Ipsita in Ahmedabad, where this Bangalore boy goes regularly to polish his art and learn further. Among his mentors, he also includes Murlimohan Kalva, that Nadam doer and dancer of Bhavnagar-Saurashtra type of Kathak of Gangani gharana now in Bangalore.   

What is so heartening in Bangalore is that all these young dancers themselves (anyone under 50 is young), help each other and do so happily. They don’t treat fellow travellers as competition of threat and do all to help, guide and plug for younger aspirants. 

At 29, Sweekruth is no spring-chicken but perfectly poised for a bright future, other things being equal. Other things are: good luck, good supporters and good opportunities. One has just to see his tayari, his clarity and his fulsome, genuine smiling face on stage and one knows it is real, neither for effect nor for show.  His abhinaya still is literal and for that he needs to learn from a real master, a great abhinaya guru. Birju bhai will be my obvious choice as he is male, has depth and will cut this diamond better to shine more. Dancing traditional Kathak repertoire to recorded music is not easy and robs of the spontaneity so needed. But with Ashit Desai and Rajan-Sajan Mishra themselves lending their voices and music to this budding talent, Sweekruth proved his mastery pretty well. 

Sweekruth may well be the find of this decade to come and holds lots of promise. Finally, we have a potential male Kathak soloist star-in-the-making. May all gods and gurus and promoters and organisers be kind to him! He needs all their support to go far. It is so rare to come across one real star talent in today’s clime (with no godfathers or deep pockets) so I sincerely hope, Sweekruth and his dance art is seen by all. He seems to be Saraswati’s favoured son; hope Lakshmi is kind to him too! 

Ashish Mohan Khokar is the editor-publisher of Attendance, India's only yearbook on dance.