Abhinaya workshop by Bragha Bessell
- Radhika Ramanujan
e-mail: radhika.dance23@gmail.com

May 27, 2014

A weeklong workshop in abhinaya conducted by Bragha Bessell was organized by Nadam - Nandini Mehta and Murali Mohan - at Ananya Sabhangana, Bengaluru. Bragha Akka, as we fondly refer to her, is renowned for her mastery over Bharatanatyam. Her magnetic pull brings all of us together under one roof to attend her workshops. She sets standards of originality, innovation, deep study and excellence. Her classes and workshops are eagerly awaited by students, performers and teachers. She connects instantaneously with the students. A popular saying goes “Vidya dadathi vinayam.” Bragha Akka, besides being an expert in the art form and an ocean of energy, is also very humble and kind which makes us, the eager students, feel at ease at all moments.

During this year’s workshop, she took four sessions every day for a period of the week, teaching four padams, 2 javalis and 2 ashtapadis to almost 80 students. She wanted us to reproduce the lessons learnt in every class upon which she corrected us and made us repeat while urging us to “Make mistakes, no problem – we will learn from them.” This was very encouraging for us and pepped us to learn better. She also provided us the lyrics for the songs, the detailed meaning and notes. That she did this all in such a short time brings out the devotion, dedication and discipline she has toward the art form.

Her approach to dance is the utmost lesson we all need to learn. The characterizations, the nuances, the complexity and the richness of the padams are brought about so well in her abhinaya. We stand there spellbound when she teaches us. When she stops, we come back to reality and make an attempt to reproduce it. She is patience personified and this was evident all through her classes while explaining the items to us or happily agreeing to repeat the nuances “n” number of times for our benefit.

Till she comes next year, we have enough home work to do. All the information she conveyed is either in the form of notes or in our heads. These have to be recollected, felt and reproduced in our dance. She said, “Be a sweeya, parakeeya or a saamanya nayika, enjoy the feelings in them and become the nayika when you perform.”