Natya Chintana: A workshop on Natya Shastra
- Viprabha

May 23, 2014

As everyone knows, Bharata’s Natya Shastra is the main root of all the art forms. Unfortunately, today in dance schools which teach Bharatanatyam, the consciousness of Natya Shastra is lacking. This is because the desi traditional dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi called today as classical dance forms have minimized the application of the important elements of Natya Shastra and have been influenced more by other scriptures or texts. So, it is hard to find performance/workshops which aim to deal with theoretical aspects mentioned in Natya Shastra and implement them effectively within their dance education limit. And that too which is equally useful and educative to young children, students and teachers.  All these queries found an answer in ‘Natya Chintana’ workshop which was held in Puttur from April 20th to 26th. This project was jointly organized by Noopura Bhramari and Sri Mookambika Cultural Academy, Puttur.

Headed by BN Manorama, Noopura Bhramari is devoted to the promotion of publication, advanced research and scholarship on dance and allied arts as well as to developing requisite resources in arts for research. Sri Mookambika Cultural Academy based in Puttur is an academy of family of artistes. B. Deepak Kumar is the director and the main tutor of this academy. His wife Preethikala is adept in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music. Deepak’s younger brother B Girish Kumar assists in conducting dance and music classes in different parts of Dakshina Kannada district. These two institutions clubbed together their thoughts to conduct the Natya Chintana workshop.

Natya Chintana - the concept and ideology itself is new to the art world of coastal Karnataka. Not only has it given a wave of freshness in understanding natya, it has also become the platform for new literature and poetry concerning the Natya Shastra and revolution in the art of choreography. The workshop was inaugurated in Puttur Muliya Auditorium by Jayceerett President Ashwini Krishna Muliya. On this occasion, Noopura Bhramari’s special annual edition was released. The first day of the week observed a lecture demonstration and performance by Bangalore based guru Dr. Shobha Shashikumar, who has studied Karana-Angahara and used that education in her doctorate on the topic ‘The harmony of Angika and Satvika Abhinaya of Bharatanatya.’ Shobha was assisted by her disciples Arathi Velan and Megha Krishna in portraying the Angika aspects of Natya Shastra.

The evening presentation was a proper repertoire by Shobha Shashikumar extending to almost 3 hours. Shobha presented 10 numbers which was weaved with the harmonious blending of Karana-Angahara with the proper usage of Angopangasamanvaya on the basis of Alankara Shastra. Of them 7 was derived from poetry of Kannada literature; the compositions of saint Purandaradasa, DVG, Kuvempu and Shathavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh. Shobha gave a strong new outlook to the nrityabandhas by effectively balancing the nritha and the literature of songs with aesthetics. The uddhatha (powerful) and sukumara (graceful) aspects of dance were beautifully distinguished and portrayed in kauthvam, jathiswaram and thillana.

Usually in dance workshops the resource person will teach items and make the participants perform them at the end of the sessions. Natya Chintana’s idea was totally different; here daily, there was lecture on tales of Natya Shastra and after that the participants were made to choreograph themselves on the topic taught. Guidelines were given to the participants on different modes of choreography and the handling of stories. The participants were classified according to their age, skill, interest and grasping power. Manorama BN wrote the script specially for this workshop, giving simpler scripts related to Natya Shastra for the dance explorers in Kannada language. By this, the lack of script in Kannada related to Natya Shastra was solved. The rhythm section was guided by Deepak Kumar by composing jathis, sollukattus or nadais whichever was apt for the situation. Preethikala provided music for the scripts, swaras, alapanas, whichever was needed at that point of choreography. Girish Kumar guided the youngsters in making their choreography.

The talent of the participants was revealed on the 7th day when their final presentation replete with aesthetics and filled with proper amount of emotions was done in front of the public. The costumes were also planned and decided by students themselves according to their concepts and indeed it was a good attempt. The audience understood and enjoyed the performances. Children starting from the age of 8 years up to 25 year olds participated. Candidates were of different caliber like beginners, juniors, seniors, students from different styles/schools of learning. Aesthetics was highlighted. The request by the guardians/parents after the workshop to conduct such projects in future showed the impact of the workshop.

Unfortunately in these days, the declining trend of narrating stories by the elders has curbed the imagination capacity of today’s generation. Noticing this factor, the workshop aimed at solving the problem by narrating stories of Natya Shastra and other Puranas along with its connection to dance and aesthetics. To encourage children to develop their imaginative powers so that they could implement the stories in their choreography was the key factor behind the success of the workshop. Resource persons prepared the participants so they themselves decided the plot to be choreographed, the swaras/jatis needed, pattern/mode of choreography and distribution of the characters. Along with several lecture demonstrations and discussions, 16 different dance choreographies were presented by the students. At the end of the workshop the main story chapters of Natya Shastra like Natyotpati, Apsarasrushti, Prathama Natya Prayoga, Jarjara, Dima, Samavakara, Avanaddha Vaadya Nirmana, Vruttivikalpa, etc took beautiful form on the stage.

On the valedictory day, theatre person, actor, poet, scholar, Yakshagana script writer, director of ‘Ramakatha’ rupaka, Korgi Shankaranarayana Upadhyaya gave a lecture on the topic of abhinaya. This unique workshop was a good attempt in which Bharata’s Natya Shastra could reach the children as well as elders. Muliya Jewels Puttur and Hindustan Promoters and Developers sponsored the event.