Bragha beckons Bangalore 
- Priya Raman, Bangalore 
Photos courtesy: Nadam 

May 17, 2010 

NADAM, an institute of fine arts, run by Nandini Mehta and K Murali Mohan, organized an abhinaya workshop by Bragha Bessell for the second consecutive summer in Bangalore. 

Be it Ananya's perfect cozy basement auditorium or Nadam's own centre at Banashankari or Bragha Akka (as she is addressed), the ever smiling humble self absorbed in abhinaya or soothing our body into each character beating the outside mercury levels, it was all too tailor made for a dance enthusiast. 

Bragha Akka had a marathon of abhinaya classes as she handled three back to back sessions at Ananya and one in the evening at Banashankari. Despite all this, as she stood decked and puffed in her practice sari everyday, one would watch her enthusiasm in awe, though now entering into her mid fifties. 

The workshop was all about understanding poetry, internalization of the character, enjoying the portrayal and talking through the face. Whether it was the younger batch regaling in the life of naughty Krishna or the older professionals trying to slip into the 'other' women's cunning moves, it was an exercise to let go of inhibitions and dwell in the joy of emotions. 

With close to 10 people in each batch to cater to, Bragha Akka had to do all the running around raising one's stance or fixing the eyes at particular points or demonstrating stress areas. She had this uncanny ability to relate all expressions to real life and how one would react in a similar situation. This eased the comfort level of the dancers in expressing themselves. Her subtle way of pointing mistakes (she rather called it doing the better way!) and offering feedbacks, gave the participants a positive approach towards learning. 

And in between all this teaching and learning, there were feelings shared and experiences revealed. When dancers had to laugh at the stupidity of Krishna, they recalled their acts and laughed spontaneously and when they depicted nayaka's love to his nayaki, how they wished it was true in real life. And when one day Bragha Akka very excitedly exclaimed, "Naa innikki enn magana paakka poren" (In Tamil, meaning 'I am going to meet my son today!'), one could sense that she does not need to 'do Abhinaya' but she is 'Abhinaya in motion' or 'Abhinaya personified.' 

The participants in the workshop went back heavy not only with 'items' but with a vocabulary that they could use and develop all through their careers. 

All this was substantiated as the workshop ended with a mesmerizing performance of hers. She took us through a kaleidoscope of emotions in her two hour 'Only abhinaya' recital. Bangalore's well known and who's who in the culture field flocked to (a packed to the doors Ananya auditorium) catch a glimpse of her doing what she knows best. 

Priya Raman is a Bharatanatyam dancer from Bangalore. She has been conducting interactive workshops on classical dance for school children as an Education Consultant with The Times of India - Newspaper in Education (NIE). Having a passion and flair for writing, Priya writes on dance and dance related issues in Ananya's monthly magazine, Abhivyakthi.