Jai Jyotsna and Naman to Jagannath!
- Ashish Mohan Khokar, Bangalore
e-mail: khokar1960@gmail.com

September 7, 2010

Dr. Jyotsna Jagannathan's dance of delight:
Many came soaked in the Seva Sadan hall in Malleswaram, Bangalore, from rains outside and were further soaked in rasanubhuti after an hour of excellent Bharatanatyam rendition by Dr. Jyotsna Jagannathan. Disciple of A Lakshman of KJ Sarasa stable, this lady of medicine, showcased what beauty of Bharatanatyam can be, if it is done properly. And what is properly?

It means each adavu, each hasta is well-etched and finished properly and neatly. There is no hurry-burry, no rushing to beat deadlines. It also means sahitya and laya; music and song mesh well with dance or dancer's ability to depict with depth while maintaining clarity. For many of us Bangaloreans, who try and beat traffic woes and reach venues in time, her dance calmed our frayed nerves and accelerated heartbeats. In her dance, the basic purpose of centering is served and in that, she is a rare dancer. Generally, dancers leave one disturbed! Either they are slip-shod or egoistic enough to think what they do on stage is even passable. Some even have the gumption of singularly lacking in every department of the art form and yet inflict torture on unsuspecting audiences and friends who come to support.

Jyotsna Jagannathan
Seeing Jyotsna's five items unfurl was to see the beauty of Vyjayantimala; the naturalness of Leela Samson; the spontaneity of Alarmel Valli; the hastas of Satyanarayana Raju and the aharya of Vani Ganapathy, except that of late, many dancers have given alta a go by and this makes palms and feet look empty. Alta is not mere decoration but delineation of space between the nether world of deities and demons and between stage and the human form.

Tayye Yashoda took one down memory lane and the varnam was detailed. All through the program, there was this feeling of a desire to see more. Shaktivel, the excellent mridangist, was sometimes in a hurry to catch the night train back to Madras and often ran off with the beat but was brought to rhythm by able conductor Guru A Lakshman, while the singer Sharanya Krishnan made the evening delectable with her singing that was deep and fulsome. The violinist added his own flourishes, here and there!

Jyotsna stands complimented as a dancer of depth and as a complete artiste. She is total in each aspect of her art. She is graceful and grown-up in abhinaya and meaningful in selection of items that sit well on her frame. She claimed this was her return to stage, after a hiatus of the stork having left a gift at the couple's door but with her excellent form and delivery, one wondered if she had ever left the stage or scene. And by the way, where she was all these days? Such dancers are rare; this is a dancer worth watching!

Naman 2010:
Orissi in Bangalore came seriously with Protima, who brought the great guru Kelucharan Mohapatra way back when she started her Nrityagram in 1989, on the outskirts of Bangalore. For the first few years, Protima's spunk and charisma, hard work and outreach, friends and fans, made Nrityagram happen. Gurus came to teach, festivals happened and the place was in the news, sometimes for the wrong reasons! Its annual festival - the Vasantahabba - became like Woodstock where pre-IT era Bangaloreans went for some all-night cultural activity and partake of national talents and stars that shone on stage and in the sky. The entire atmosphere was magical. Alas! Today all that is gone because Protima is gone. Nrityagram is pretty dead today and its girls have to come to town to teach, the original idea of gurukul in forest, lying in shambles and sadly so. We all loved the idea of Nrityagram.

Some years ago, another acolyte of Kelu-ji, one Sharmila Mukherjee from Kolkata, settled in Bangalore and started teaching Orissi and performing too. She has a committed group. Kelu babu style also has abundant lokadharmi aspects. On dramatic dancers like Sanjukta and Protima, the style sits well but not on all and Sharmila's dance depiction showed that.

Two years ago or less, one petite budding Oriya dancer, Madhulita Mohapatra, made Bangalore home and today she has over 50 students! It shows how keen was Bangalore for Orissi as a dance form and how Madhulita has worked hard to reach out. Madhulita is here to stay.

Uday Shetty, seniormost male Orissi dancer of Karnataka
Soumya Shetty, graceful partner
Madhulita is from Guru Gangadhar Pradhan mould and thus is detailed and good with outreach, like her guru! Her form is slight but her dance is substantial. Her students - seen months ago at Nadam kids festival - were exceptionally well trained and maintained all positions well. Their chaukh is a delight!

Madhulita celebrated her settling down in this IT hub by putting up the first NAMAN festival two weeks back. The invitation card looked like a Sholay film multi-cast, full of names and guests, one too many and some failed to turn up. The fest brought gurus from Orissa, chief among whom was Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, who has made a whole new Konark! And he is Orissa's senior residing Orissi dance and music talent. She also presented Bangalore's senior most Orissi dancer, Uday Shetty, the first student of Nrityagram. His wife Soumya's dance is a delight with a beatific smiling countenance, genuine and warm, beautifully etched hastas, even if her girth matches her abundance of talent.

Starting the evening half hour late the next day, after over 65 students had been presented the first day, Naman ensured quality in the very first talent, a sweet, shy, smiling Oriya boy Pankaj Pradhan. He is a son of the soil and his lasya and tandava mesh well even if he has a tendency to run off with laya, tempo. Youngsters suffer from this as they wish to prove themselves! Or sometimes, organizers are so limited they cannot put back-speakers for dancers to hear recorded music well. His three items were one too many, although all were very well executed. Occasionally, the choreography bespoke of unnecessary decorations but as Pankaj has many well-wishers and teachers, he is drawing from many sources.

Boy wonder Pankaj Pradhan
Sangeeta Dash
Sangeeta Dash from Pondicherry, heaviness of body though not of feet, made for a fetching khandita nayika in Yahi Madhava Yahi Kesava, though her Surya piece lacked involvement, even if she attempted some intricate postures to prove she may be heavy but the body bends. Before her, Sharmila Mukherjee tried hard to invest her Ramayana piece with punch but the item failed to take off. This is the most dramatic portion of Ramayana from Lakshman Rekha to Sita's abduction but she looked same in all roles and her entire rendition made no impact. A great opportunity lost. Dancers have to cut down on needless smiling on stage because it does not go with the theme in hand. She is the only one who used alta! And that shows good aesthetics.

Amulya Balabantaray was a heavily set dancer but very graceful. His items chosen did not do justice to his overall dance personality and the power and forceful nature of Durga failed to manifest. It was left to Uday-Soumya Shetty to conclude the evening on a high note. The sharpness of their footwork and hastas registered each movement with clarity and both looked a fetching dance couple.

Delayed start, one dancer too many and one item too many, made the evening cluttered. That Guru Gangadhar Pradhan was present and came all the way from Orissa made it meaningful for Madhulita and Bangaloreans. She is a smart girl who did not dance herself that evening, a pitfall most dancers who organize their own festivals, suffer from! Of the two comperes, one was simply atrocious, mis-pronouncing basic Indian words (America returned no doubt, with matching accent) and the other, a belle-dancer learning Orissi under Madhulita, was sensible and audible! By honouring all gurus and teachers, Madhulita diluted the impact of Orissi but she was trying to be inclusive in a city she has made home. May her art flourish.

Her quiet and devoted husband Imran helped immensely in the background with his smiling countenance and dedicated work. Madhulita's Naman will only grow with years and experience. A full and over flowing Seva Sadan hall meant people came from far and near for Orissi. Jai Jagannath!

Ashish Mohan Khokar travels all over India and brings to note dancers of merit, through his writings, columns and yearbook, attendance. India's reputed and widely-read dance critic, his words help dancers and audiences understand and appreciate the art of dance and the actual performance, better. For detailed bio see www.attendance-india.com and www.dancearchivesofindia.com