National launch of Attendance

August 4, 2010

The national launch of attendance in Delhi on 28 July at the prestigious Habitat Centre was truly national, as nearly all those who are iconic names in the dance field, were there. Critics, gurus, governors, MPs, culture vultures, star dancers, media, men who matter and women who make men feel they run the system! It was a night of dance stars descending on earth. The lifetime work of Mohan Khokar and his son Ashish Khokar were celebrated that evening. 

First to arrive, half an hour before the show was to begin, was prima donna Yamini Krishnamurthy because she said she was afraid she may miss it and desired a good seat! The hall was full, on an evening that competed with 5 other shows going on right in the Habitat Centre itself and elsewhere, but Delhi´s dance fraternity turned up in full force headed by king of Kathak, Birju Maharaj, and queen of opening ceremony of Commonwealth Games, Shovana Narayan. Veteran choreographers Yog Sunder and Bhishmapitamah of publishing, Mr. Malhotra of Hind Pocket Books, the famous Dilwali father and son team were there as was ace documenter Himani Pant.

L-R: Geeta Chandran, Kaushalya Reddy, Yog Sunder, Aruna Sundarlal, Jayant Kastuar, Dr. B Jayshree, Seshadri Iyengar, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Satyanarayana Raju, Dr. Karan Singh, Guru Pratap Pawar, Tushar Bhatt, Murali Mohan
The voice of reason and woman who has seen many a season of dance, Shanta Serbjeet Singh, Chair APPAN and veteran critic, started off the evening with her direct, clear tone and contexts of documentation, focussing on the urgent need to organise the Mohan Khokar Dance Collection. She said if these rare materials were not saved, a full century of dance would vanish. The author, who duplicates as general editor and publisher of attendance, reputed critic Ashish Khokar had prepared an audio visual on 'A century of Indian dance' that gave insights into the Khokar Archives, painstakingly built over eighty years. The film was tight and spiffy and each page and persona in dance history unfolded breezily.

Dr. Karan Singh released the book featuring the lifetime work of Mohan Khokar whom he had known for long and admired. He demanded of the Secretary, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Jayant Kastuar present on the dais, why no scheme reached real people and causes like these? He desired a museum be set up in Mohan Khokar´s memory with his materials. Dr. Karan Singh sat through the entire 2 hour plus evening. Jayant Kastuar spoke about how the SNA plans to help set up the Khokar Archives as a national resource. He regaled with stories reconstructed from memory of how he first met Mohan Khokar to get a rail travel concession when he was the Secretary of SNA, a post he himself enjoys now. He said he learnt from Mohan Khokar´s example to always be nice to artistes walking in the SNA doors and how to be of help.

Yamini Krishnamurthy
Birju Maharaj
The Bangalore School of Music with TVS Motors´ patronage had co-hosted the event and both its Chair, Sudhakar Rao, ex-Chief Secretary of Karnataka and Aruna Sundarlal, Founder Director, honoured all main participants with Mysore silk shawls. Aruna Sundarlal is a beacon of a lighthouse in the wilderness of south India for western classical music.

Birju Maharaj spoke of the fact that their memories were intact because of the work done by the Khokars. Between two individuals, 100 years of dance history was safe. Yamini Krishnamurthy was the only one who quoted from the book and regaled with stories. She missed Mohan Khokar, a true lover of art and she also spoke on spirituality in dance of doyenne MK Saroja. Yamini´s speech was mesmerizing and deep.

Guru Pratap Pawar from London, Parul Shah from Baroda, dancers of all age groups from seniors like Sharon Lowen to current stars like Geeta Chandran, Avinash Pasricha without his camera for once, GS Rajan, the fine composer and flautist, installation artist Naresh Kapuria and modern dancer Hamsa Moily were spotted keenly watching the evening unfold. Jyoti Shrivastava, Ambika Paniker, Papiha Desai and Vani Madhav representing Odissi while Ragini and Vasanthi representing Bharatanatyam, were present.

Among the guest of honours were the theatre singer and now MP, nominated by the President no less, Dr. B Jayashree. H.E. The Ambassador of Poland came late but spoke in chaste Hindi on the importance of the guru. Two former governors, both men of erudition and scholarship, Shri T.N. Chaturvedi and Shri Pradhan, enhanced the occasion.

Ambassador of Poland
Seshadri Iyengar
Four male soloists from Bangalore showcased the marginalised art of male soloists, which this issue too focusses on and each acquitted himself admirably with Murali Mohan and Satyanarayana Raju clearly the winners. Tushar Bhatt´s Shiva tandava stotram was much liked despite faulty tala finish and Seshadri Iyengar's dance seemed strained though well-etched. They were all blessed by the great of gurus of India and best audience possible.

The current 2010 issue of attendance is almost sold out, noted the printer Kshitiz Sachdeva of Printways. Excellent support from Habitat staff Renu Oberoi and technical handling by Suresh ensured a great evening even though the stage for dance was small. All in all, as one critic said: attendance was compulsory!!