Ram Gopal and Mohan Khokar Awards
Photos: Srivatsa

December 31, 2010

It seems all of Bangalore turned up, over 350, on 30 Dec 2010, the second but last day of the year, when most are busy with yearend festivities, friends or families. The sounds of nadaswaram welcomed all to Little France that Ashish Khokar has chosen to make these grand discourses in the last six months, quipped Mr. Causse, the French Consul General, who presided and Chiranjeev Singh, former Principal Secretary of Karnataka (and Culture Secretary, Ambassador to UNESCO) stated that this event was better than any state event he had seen in 30 years of service in Karnataka because it was truly a people's festival, a point Ashish Khokar too made when he started the evening with three VIPs: People, Press and Performing Artists.

Dancers of all types came to see the 12 best male soloists perform. They were Anil Iyer in Bharatanatyam, BP Sweekruth in Kathak, Gururaj in Kuchipudi, Parshavnath in Bharatanatyam, Tushar Bhatt in Kathak, Janardhan Urs in Contemporary, Mysore B Nagaraj in Kathak, Seshadri Iyengar in Bharatanatyam, Murali Mohan in Kathak, Praveen Kumar in Bharatanatyam, Uday Shetty in Odissi and Satyanarayana Raju concluded with Bharatanatyam.

12 male dancers who danced and 12 female dancers who garlanded them! The who´s who of Bangalore dance fraternity
Kathak dancer Murali Mohan
Kathak dancer Mysore B Nagaraj

All enjoyed being feted by a bevy of 12 beautiful Bangaloreans in the end: The oldest patron Vimala Rangachar, choreographer Usha Venkateswaran to younger ones Subhashini Vasanth, Poornima Gururaj, Vyjayanthi Kashi, Anupama Hoskere, Madhulita Mohapatra, Manasa Joshi, Smita Srinivasan, Vani Ganapthy, Sandhya Kiran, Suparna Venkatesh. They all were like Lakshmis, garlanding each male dancer with malas made of rupee notes! The malas had been especially crafted in Delhi and flown in for the occasion and remained a novelty item! Some girls were shy to put mala on boys as it looked like a swayamvara ceremony! The stage was full.

Emotions and expectations ran high when the two prestigious first ever awards, The Ram Gopal Award for Best Male Dancer 2010 and The Mohan Khokar Award for Excellence in Dance, were to be given. Madhu Nataraj read the citations, after living legend Guru Maya Rao had spoken on her memories of Ram Gopal and Chiranjeev Singh on Mohan Khokar.

Guru Maya Rao gave away Ram Gopal Award to Satyanarayana Raju while Ashish Khokar, Chiranjeev Singh and Susheela Mehta, jury members, join in
P Praveen Kumar gets the
Mohan Khokar Award for Excellence in Dance

The award ceremony looked a like a mini Oscar event, said Madhu who also read out the citations of the award and then requested dancer Murali Mohan to open the envelope who dramatically paused to say Satyanarayana Raju! Nadaswaram sounds accompanied the loud applause from the guests assembled and Satyanarayana Raju was happily surprised. The next award citation was read out and Praveen Kumar asked to open the envelope. His face fell and all thought he was shocked or upset that someone he did not care for had gotten it. Madhu Nataraj came to his rescue and chirped, P Praveen Kumar, and his face was full of adhbhuta rasa! Praveen Kumar was given the Mohan Khokar complete artiste award for Excellence in Dance.

Both awardees were seated royally and given traditional Mysore Petta (head-dress like turban) and silver wares were brought in by fellow dancer Mysore B Nagaraj, whose associates and Kiran Subramanyam's shisyas did the pada puja, much to the awardees' embarrassment. Feet were washed in milk, chandan put, rose petals showered and designer cape designed by fellow dancer Tushar Bhatt (who makes fine dance costumes) given in addition to real copper Tamrapatra and scrolls. The award is unique in other ways too: it carries no cash prize but a national and foreign performance tour, so that their art could be seen by more.

All had a moist eye as their hearts were filled with emotion the ceremony symbolised. It had grace, charm, novelty, fun and high honour bestowed on deserving artistes. Bangalore had never seen such a dance award and event. All went home happy for the artistes and art of dance. The jury and names of awardees remained a secret till it was announced: Chiranjeev Singh, Susheela Mehta, Elisabeth and Ashish Khokar. Murali Mohan gave the vote of thanks. Bangalore ended the year in high spirits, in dance.

Praveen Kumar, Sathyanarayana Raju
Pada puja of two awardees wearing Mysore pettas

What do the dancers feel about being the first recipients of the awards?
Sathyanarayana Raju: "I was not expecting it and I feel so proud and honoured. I really missed my Guru Narmada aunty. She would have been so proud. I also missed my parents who are not alive to see me get this award, especially in the presence of all the dancers of Bangalore. When my name was announced, I was so speechless that my friends later told me I looked dumb on stage! My reactions came later. It was an honor because all the great gurus were there, especially Maya didi. It was a very touching function."

P Praveen Kumar: "This is the first award I am getting in my life! I am excited as it was definitely a big surprise. I have never seen Mohan Khokar in my life. I have seen photos of him, and know of his wonderful work on documentation because of which we are able to see and read so much about the great dancers of yester years. When we hear of great people, our respect and appreciation for them grows. I am a great admirer of Mohan Khokar's work and that's why I am so happy to get an award in his name, that too being the first recipient. The citation says 'for a complete artiste' and hence I feel more responsible because I have to keep up to the expectations. Awards make you happy but it's also scary because you have to keep up the reputation of being a deserving awardee. I am thankful to my parents for making me a dancer and especially my gurus Narmada aunty and C V Chandrashekar. I missed Narmada aunty. She would have been so proud of me. On a lighter note, we were garlanded with rupee notes and Vani Ganapathy was chosen to garland me. This gave me quite a kick. When pada pooja was done and the nadaswaram was being played in the background, it was almost like a marriage function! The best of Bangalore dancers were there and I felt very nice about it."