The 26th Raindrops Festival 2016
- Sanjukta Wagh & Daksha Mashruwala
Photos courtesy: Samved

July 27, 2016

As much as a cup of steaming tea, a plate of hot bhajias and vada pav has become an intrinsic part of the Mumbai monsoon experience, so has a classical dance festival that celebrates young dynamic talent from around India. A festival that is now in its twenty-sixth year – Samved’s Raindrops Festival of Indian Classical Dance.

I have been a participant in this festival since the last twelve years as performer as well as a rasika and the festival never fails to bring a sense of humility and pride in being a celebration of the solo carrier of a dance form, an individual who has given many years of his or her life to a classical dance in small pockets all around India. It is an appreciation of dedicated learning from the guru, unflinching hard work and more often than not incredible isolation from the outside world that riyaaz demands. Here is a festival that celebrates upcoming soloists across Indian dance forms and connects them to fellow dancers, rasikas, and senior artistes and gurus, who also begin to feel some sense of community, which is almost non-existent in a fragmented city like Mumbai.

Vrinda Chadha

Bhakti Deshpande

Divya Ravi

Spearheaded by one of India’s foremost Kathak exponents and Founder and Managing Trustee of Sam Ved, Uma Dogra, who describes herself more as a seeker and dedicates the festival to her Guru Pt. Durgalal and spiritual mentor Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, the festival stands out because of her personal effort, an initiative that she has almost singularly sustained over twenty six  years.  Hers is vision of inclusiveness, deep investment in nurturing young talent and sowing a seed of hope in artistes at fragile junctures in their dance journeys, honouring their teachers and most of all building audiences who come regularly to soak in the warmth and joy that is intrinsic to the spirit of the festival, without getting unnecessarily formal or pedantic.

It was heartening to see a full house at the Mini Auditorium of Ravindra Natya Mandir, on July 16th, 2016. The three young performers that wowed the house were Vrinda Chadha (Odissi), Divya Ravi (Bharatanatyam) and Bhakti Deshpande (Kathak). All performers displayed elegant poise and expertise. The artiste that stood out for me in her soulful presence, nuanced abhinaya and a quiet ownership of the Bharatanatyam vocabulary was Divya Ravi.

Another feature very special to the evening was the interludes between performances, Baat-cheet, which is such an intrinsic part of a gradually depleting mehfil culture, filled with stories of backstage and life anecdotes, junctures where performers’ personal and professional journeys overlap. Uma Dogra spoke about Ranjana Gauhar, who had come all the way from Delhi to encourage her student Vrinda, had her eyes wet with tears as her twenty year old child performed. Bhakti’s Guru and mother, Vidyahari Deshpande spoke of Bhakti’s reluctance to let go of the Mugdha (naïve) nayika in a chaiti that she concluded her recital with, which made it so enjoyable for the spectators to relate to moments in her performance. Bhakti was ably accompanied by Vivek Mishra (tabla), Sandeep Mishra (sarangi) and Vaibhav Mankad  (harmonium and vocals). Celebrated gurus from Mumbai, Daksha Mashruwala and Deepak Mazumdar blessed the artistes with words of encouragement and flowers.
- Sanjukta Wagh


Swati Sinha

Anand Sachidananda

The second day of the Raindrops Festival was such an extraordinary treat for the audience that all the three performers on that day got a standing ovation. The first artist, Gururaju from Bengaluru presented his well researched and choreographed dance in chaste Kuchipudi style. Beautiful, neat lines and body work made his dance very enjoyable to Mumbai audience who does not get to watch Kuchipudi very often. The cosmic dance of Shiva left a vivid image of creation.

Swati Sinha, the second artist from Delhi, created magic on stage. Being perfect in the technique of Kathak dance is not very uncommon but her maturity and spontaneity stole the hearts of the viewers. With excellent support from live orchestra onstage, Swati’s presentation of the opening Vandana, the Tee and the thumri kept rising above the expectation of the viewers each time. Her dance reflected the brilliant training from her Guru as well as her own deep understanding of the form. The concluding artist thus had the challenge of keeping up the mark with two others who left the stage totally energized.

Anand Sachidananda again had a very good selection of items that reached out to everyone in the audience. Narrating on how the people in Mumbai pray and ask for success in every endeavor, to Lord Ganapati at the iconic place of worship, the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai, Anand brought in good elements of humor along with the mundane existence of the people in a metropolitan city like Mumbai, whose only hope remains in the benevolence of the Lord!  The next item, Shabdam, written by the 5th century Tamil poet, was immersed in devotion and excellence in abhinaya. The concluding vibrant thillana left the audience convinced that classical dance is very safe and secure in the hands of this generation.

A final round of applause to the festival directors, Indrayanee Mukherjee and Suhani Singh, who were understated but illuminating presences. Suhani played the role of the sutradhar as she very effortlessly joined the dots in words of warmth, bringing the wonderful evening of the Raindrops Festival to its closure. Kudos to the entire team at Samved for its consistent enrichment of Mumbai’s cultural fabric. 
- Daksha Mashruwala

Sanjukta Wagh is a Kathak dancer from Mumbai. Odissi exponent Daksha Mashruwala is a disciple of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and artistic director of Kaisiki in Mumbai.