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Vishal Krishna demonstrates his prowess at Saptak
- Dr. S.D. Desai
Photos: Harshit Mehta

January 17, 2020

It is difficult to say the Kathak presentation made by Vishal Krishna in the first session of day six (Jan 6) at Saptak Music Festival was pretty well structured. The handsome young Kathak dancer seemed informal to a fault and one noticed a sense of hurry in his presentation. And yet, Vishal Krishna (29) without doubt left a lasting impression as a growing classical dancer with a passion for his Gharana, exceptional prowess in it and the complementary personal ebullience.

Twelve years ago when Sitara Devi, his grandmother, was in Ahmedabad for one of her disciples, in a chat she fondly talked about her father Pt Sukhdev Maharaj, the founder of the Banaras Gharana, and the rather mystifying ambience of the ancient city with a gleam in her eyes and a smile on her face. She also talked of the illustrious cousins in the Maharaj family. I have not yet forgotten how her eyes twinkled recalling that if there was a tinkle in “my ghunghroo”  in the middle of the night, the birds on the trees echoed the tinkle. Vishal, brought up in this ambience, belongs to the fourth generation in the family.

There was an air of expectancy particularly among the young dance lovers when without any fanfare for his entry, Vishal right away flowed in for Ganga Stuti with a rhythmic pace in his feet and ripples his mudras conjured up. He presented images of Lord Shiva and the flowing Ganga as obeisance was paid to the Shubhadaayini Bhagirathi with glimpses of the pakhawaj and kartaal played and aarati done. He demonstrated his technical brilliance in amad, chautal, trital, tihai, bol, tatkaar and all with finesse. Particularly remarkable were his stylistic thaharav and coming on sam, standing and squatting, reminding one of his grand uncle Gopi Krishna. Modesty remained his ornament. With reverence, he remembered Pt Birju Maharaj while dancing his rachana, saying tasveeer  dikhai  deti  hai  unki!

While he was doing his delicate abhinaya piece preceding nuanced rhythmic variations on a brass plate after getting a signal from behind the curtain, presumably for the time left, many viewers must have felt more time was left for it. His medium-paced soft lyrical movement on feet, almost glides, as Krishna and as a demure, nearly fluttering, Radha with the ensuing conversation in fluid movement were delectable. In the lines by Surdas, Krishna taken by vismaya, asks, “Who are you? Where from? How come I’ve not seen you before?” The response, coming right from the heart he gets is, “I was all these days fearful of one Kaa’n who is known to be stealing gopis’ curd and butter!” That leads to endearing amorous moments between the two, now speaking with eyes, now playing hide-and-seek, now on the jhula swaying as a twosome.

Vishal’s brass plate dance offered pretty more than Kuchipudi dancers generally offer. Besides the rhythm from the tabla, the regular thud of the plate on the surface of the stage became a rhythm supporting his dance. More than that he wove varying tinkle sound patterns emanating from the ghunghroo – a buzz from all the tinkling bells, the sound going down with a fewer number of the bells, and finally silence descended in which only a single bell tinkled. His hands moved sideways following the patterns. The face, including eyes, smiled and interacted with pairs of eyes in the audience. A demonstration of exceptional prowess and the joy it gives both to the dancer and the viewer!

While Pt Puran Maharaj was on the tabla, Vivek Mishra was on tabla and bol. The vocal support came from Somnath Mishra, Ikram Khan was on the sarangi and Alka Gujar on the sitar.

Dr. S.D. Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts Critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti, Nartanam and Attendance. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer.

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