Delectable Kathak by Sushmita Ghosh
- Dr. Sunil Kothari

May 30, 2012

Sushmita Ghosh is a senior disciple of Guru Munna Shukla of Lucknow gharana. She has been on the scene for more than twenty years. My memory goes back to some fifteen years ago when I had seen her at Bharatiya VIdya Bhavan in London. Munna-ji was teaching at Kathak Kendra and in the early years when Kathak Kendra used to present Kalka Bindadin Maharaj Kathak Festival, there were many occasions when one used to watch Munna-ji’s disciples. However, over the years, I seemed to have missed Sushmita’s performances. Therefore, it was indeed a delight to watch Sushmita’s Kathak on 24th May 2012 at Alliance Francaise, New Delhi, when her institution Akrooti Foundation presented her young disciples and her solo under the title Avaahan.

An excellent team of musicians including Shiv Shankar Roy, a disciple of Gyan Prakash Ghosh (tabla), Sanghamitra S Das (vocal), Pritam Ghoshal, (sarod) and Ghulam Mohammad (sarangi), gave support to Sushmita and her young disciples ranging from tiny tots to twenty. As usual, young children stole the show. The preparations, kavits on Krishna which suit the young children and a thumri in raga Desh, a composition of Bindadin Maharaj, “Avat Shyam, lachak lachak” performed by two senior disciples set the mood. Since the young students have to get an opportunity to perform on stage, one overlooked few lapses here and there and Sushmita would do well to train them with more care in matter of (ang) bodily presentation.

After a musical interlude on sarod by Pritam Ghoshal who played raga Durga, Sushmita presented a Shiva Stuti to recorded music. From the very entry, she displayed that here was a seasoned dancer in full command over her idiom. The stances were elegant and the bodily movements sophisticated. It was a spirited presentation reflecting the mood of the prayer in praise of Lord Shiva with his various epithets, Trishuladhar, adorned with a garland of skulls, astride Nandi, the bull, his vehicle, holding ‘pinaka' weapon in his hands, trinetra, with three eyes and interspersing in the exposition both Tandava and Lasya, vigorous and delicate movements interpreting Ardhanarishwara aspect, half male and half female form of Lord Shiva. Sushmita embellished the prayer with rich imagery.

Then with live music, she presented traditional numbers beginning with thaat and its variations, attractive postures, graceful and arresting. Uthan tukde, parans followed when she danced in jhaptal of ten matras, often coming to the sam in a tantalizing manner. The taal patterns comprised of elaborations, coming together, element of time handled in imaginative manner. Sometimes it gave an impression of tight rope walking and sometimes it looked effortless. She said that when she plays on taal, it is according to her gharana, ‘do doston ki kahani’ – story of two friends coming together. She displayed where pause was employed and how it helped embellish the number. Her grasp of the binary motion and silence was enjoyable. Farmaishi tukda and often verifying taal with tatkar, Sushmita was in her element. The tarana in Janasammohini raga by all disciples could have had a better impact with more practice. The finale was a tatkar by all along with Sushmita.

The evening held the attention of all present in the compact auditorium of Alliance Francaise. It would be interesting to watch Sushmita’s solo presentation, as she is a mature dancer with commendable aesthetics.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. He is a regular contributor to, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 11 years.