24th edition of Pt. Durgalal Festival
- Vaibhav Arekar
e-mail: vaibhav_arekar@yahoo.com

February 19, 2014

A dance and music festival of classical arts has an important role to play in the cultural milieu of cities like Mumbai. A city where everything is Bollywood centric it reinforces the importance of these arts in our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that Pt. Durgalal Festival, organized by Sam Ved under the direction of Uma Dogra, has become a landmark event in Mumbaiís performance calendar for February for the past 24 years. This year it was held on 7th and 9th February in Mumbai and Thane.

The evening of day one began with the lyrical exposition of Odissi by Madhav Mudgal, a name synonymous with the style itself. Be it her nritta or abhinaya, Madhavi Mudgalís style has a calm, self-absorbed execution. There is never this need to dominate or be aggressive, thus giving her performance a meditative quality.  The constant play between poetic lyricism and sparkling energy, in body movement and footwork, made her Pallavi an engaging piece. The music by Madhup Mudgal seamlessly flowed with the dance.

It is always fascinating to watch how a dancer shifts the focus, the stress and the perspective of the idea to be highlighted with a matured command over mukhaja and nayana abhinaya. The aim is to reach as many subtle emotions as possible and therein lies the mastery of dancers like Madhavi Mudgal. The subtlety with which she handled the Oriya song and two interesting pieces in braja bhasha was an experience in itself.

Madhavi Mudgal

Rajendra Gangani

Opposed to this serene Odissi recital in the first half, Rajendra Gangani came with his electrifying Kathak in the second half. His mastery over the layakari, as seen in teen taal, is awe inspiring. The way he uses the edges of his feet, the use of weight in striking the heel, clarity of each strike (even in the fast tempo) leads to a truly sonic experience. Every mnemonic of the tabla and pakhawaj were created by the feet. The way he landed on sam and his body assumed the thaat posture drew an instant applause from the rasikas. Rajendra Ganganiís abhinaya was rather subtle and underplayed. As the artiste himself revealed, it is a distinct style of his Guru Sunderprasad Gangani. His dance is like a huge river flowing from the mountain top - cascading, playing, treacherous till it reaches the plains below and flows with internal command.

Day two of the festival was held in the suburb of Thane, an adjoining city full of cultural activities. And the charismatic performance of Uma Dogra for almost two hours drew a houseful show.  She is one of the few artistes whose dancing, be it Shiva Panchakshara stotra or abhinaya to a thumri or vaatsalaya pada, reaches across with Ďtruthí in it and thus deeply touches and resonates in the hearts and minds of the rasikas.

Uma Dogra

Uma Dograís disciples

She also presented her disciples Indrayanee Mukherjee, Arti and Ulka in a radiant new composition set to pancham sawaari (15 matra). The intricacies, complications yet the ease in the composition were beautifully evident in the performance and the way it was conducted. The next presentation was of taal Durga, a cycle of 13 beats (another of her scintillating creations for the 60th birthday of her Guru Pt. Durgalal). This taal was performed by her able disciples Sarita, Ishita and Geetanjali.

Uma Dogra, as a dancer-choreographer-teacher, is a true torch bearer of Pt. Durgalalís style of Jaipur Gharana. Kudos to her for having successfully organized and brought the greats from the field of dance and music to grace the festival for the past  24 years. It is a remarkable feat to enter the 25th year, knowing how exhausting (creatively-mentally-physically) it can be for an individual organiser. And we are promised that the 25th year will have a celebration to be remembered.

Vaibhav Arekar is a Bharatanatyam dancer who runs his own school Sankhya Dance Creations in Mumbai.