Tradition lives on
- Jyothi Raghuram, Bangalore

September 22, 2011

Raghavendra J Prabhat

Shakuntala R Prabhat

Prabhat Kalavidaru, the all-encompassing cultural organization, is synonymous with the ethos of Karnataka, having been an integral part of the cultural landscape of the region. Theatre, music and dance of every traditional genre, yoga, and every conceivable indigenous performing art have found expression in Prabhat, with Harikatha being its fountainhead.

For decades, Prabhat Kalavidaru has proudly held aloft tradition, even in the face of dwindling interest in anything home grown. Despite odds, Prabhat never went out of circulation, its ethereal and riveting ballets being most representative of its rootedness, talent, creativity and contemporary outlook.

Among the founding fathers of Prabhat was Vidwan TV Jaisimha Das, an ace Harikatha exponent, singer, actor, composer, director, choreographer, all rolled in one. Above all, a visionary who lived and dreamt of telescoping the indigenous arts into a nucleus which would be a springboard for blossoming the arts further. Twenty five years after his passing away, a cultural event got up in his memory not only gave a glimpse of the rich artistry of Jaisimha Das, but reinforced how his heritage is thriving in the fourth generation of the Prabhat family.

One did not go to the event at the Ravindra Kalakshetra the other day with much expectations other than a few glorifying speeches and the signature presentation of Prabhat - a ballet. But it turned out to be a lively, informative walk down memory lane, with a mosaic of performances thrown in to make it a truly intimate and memorable day even for the audience.

Prabhat Arts International

Got up by the Prabhat family under the banner of Prabhat Arts International of Raghavendra J Prabhat, one of the sons of Jaisimha Das, it aptly began with a recitation of Vedic hymns. The patriarch was brought alive through presenting a song written by him, set to dance by his daughter-in-law Shakuntala Prabhat, and a snippet from one of his most popular dramas, Lava Kusha, a children’s song, and a sequence from Sri Krishna Vyjayanthi, among others. ‘Simhaavalokana,’ the imaginatively-titled biography on Jaisimha Das was brought out on the occasion.

Veda gosha
‘Lava Kusha’

‘Rukmini Kalyanam’
Ashwin & Madhuvanti

The entire morning was variety entertainment at its best - classy in style and content, with little gloss to it except in the dance costuming. Prabhat’s costuming even today remains apt and attractive - a combination that is usually difficult to arrive at, given the characterizations in its productions, with as many varying themes. Raghavendra, as the Master of Ceremonies, had conceptualized the sleek show, where compering became an integral part of the journey into the life and work of Jaisimha Das.

The most gratifying aspect of the event was the involvement of the Prabhat family, where even the fourth generation is seriously into art. Raghavendra’s two sons, Sharat and Bharat, were the best examples of this. The siblings are performing Kathak dancers, with Sharat also carrying on the best known legacy of his grandfather - Harikatha.  One gleaned the talent of the youngster for this once glorious art, when he presented a brief discourse.

Bharat & Sharat in ‘Mahadeva’
Sharat (Harikatha)

Witty, conversational interludes with artistes such as CR Simha and Srinath, known for their felicity of tongue, who were more than familiar with Jaisimha Das, gave the event a rare intimacy.  Theatre, dance and music came together in traditional form in this unique programme that presented the cultural kaleidoscope of Karnataka in a nutshell. It also reinforced that the past has blended well with the present vis a vis art.

Jyothi Raghuram is a journalist with over two decades experience in both the print and electronic media, having worked with news organizations such as PTI, The Hindu and Indian Express. Her specialized writings on the performing and visual arts have been considered as benchmarks for their comprehensive and in-depth dealing of the subjects.