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A tribute of its kind
- Madhur Gupta
Photos: Inni Singh

March 10, 2020

The soothing echo of a Tibetan gong emitted and the stage was lit up with a single beam, lighting up the dancer Dheerendra Tiwari who in turn lit up the stage with his production Pranmamyaham. "The making of this production has been an organic one wherein I reflected on how in myriad ways my gurus and mentors have contributed to my evolution of becoming a thinking artist. Pranmamyaham is my tribute to them."

With this, the seasoned Kathakar began his first piece Shivo Aham- An Ode To The Soul which was a choreography of his Guru Pt. Rajendra Gangani. An invocatory piece dedicated to the various facets of the supreme deity Shiva, the dancer delved into ruminating on the dwaita-adwaita bhava of the bhakta from this eternal, formless, and infinite being. The matted locks, ash smeared torso, snakes wrapped around, Dheerendra with much Úlan evoked the image of Shiva going swiftly into the tatkar portion featuring triple pirouettes. Proving himself worthy of the stamp of his guru, he then went on to interpret the Panchamukhi Shiva which was not only the five faces but also the five characteristics of the swayambhu and on it the dancer meditated. Staying true to the spirit of Kathak, the interpretation was done on the basis of tala, laya, and space that lie between them.

Next up was Nandanaar: The Humiliation of the Marginalised which was an appropriate choice, especially in the regressive political scenario that the nation is facing. A choreography of Tiwari's mentor Guru Shama Bhate, the piece came with a typical regional flavour of Kathak with the story of Nandanaar wanting to get darshan of Shiva in his temple rendered with minimalistic text while relying densely on the musical aspect of dance. This dalit potter wanted to worship his lord at the Thirupungur temple but faced rabid ostracization at the hands of Brahmins who would not let him step inside. A disappointed Nandanaar requests Shiva's vahanam Nandi to step aside so he could get a glimpse of Mahadeva before he breathed his last. And lo! The mighty granite Nandi moves aside. Who are we to discriminate when God doesn't! Food for thought for today's time and age.

Carrying a classic imprint of Aditi Mangaldas' style, Dheerendra who has been working with her for over a long period of time dedicated his concluding piece Conversation with Shiva to her. Balancing the lost art of bhavbatana with electric movements, the artiste described how Shiva is surrounded by all things cold, all things sheetal - snakes, Ganga, ash, chandrama, and even his consort Parvati who was the daughter of Himavan; while the bhakta burns with passion unbound, entangled in the worldly desires. Come o lord, reside in my burning heart and subside this pain that I feel being away from you! And with this down came the curtains on a well-executed and moving performance the capital has witnessed after a long time.

Special mention must be given to the light design by Govind Singh Yadav and sound design by Yogesh Dhawan who reminded one of how crucially important these technical aspects are to make or break a performance. This India premiere was presented on 4th March at Shri Ram Center auditorium in New Delhi.

Odissi dancer Madhur Gupta is a disciple of Guru Sharon Lowen. He contributes to national dailies like The Hindu, The Times of India, The Asian Age, The Indian Express covering at large the Indian classical dance and music scene of the subcontinent.

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