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Celebrating Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan with Indian Classical Dance Festival 2020
- Sukanya Jayaram

January 8, 2021

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, scholar, author and connoisseur of the arts has been an inspiration to generations. Bharat Bhavan, the official cultural exchange undertaking of Govt. of Kerala, paid tribute to this legend with an online Indian Classical Dance festival. This venture from Bharat Bhavan has been a breather considering the pandemic situation, where art forms have been the worst hit. When all life gradually began to return to its normal self and routine, art and culture stood in the midst of the 'online' trend. For any artiste, the inspiration or the main drive behind performing is to connect directly to the minds of the audience through their performance. Different questions were aroused in the mind of the artiste. "How effective would it be?", "Will I be able to communicate the true essence in me through my art with all its meaning to the public?", "Will the people ever watch me perform?", "Will I ever get a chance to work with my co-artistes?", "How will I interact with my peer artistes?" and many more to add to this list of Qs.

The classical dance festival conducted by Bharat Bhavan, Kerala, has not only wiped off all these queries and anxieties from the minds of artistes, but has also brought into limelight the newer and promising flavors of the media through which the art and artiste can reach out to art lovers in the best possible way. It is said that 'Change is inevitable and for good', and here is where we can see that change is for the better. Preserving the charm of viewing a live on-stage program, Bharat Bhavan has bagged accolades throughout the entire set of 11 days by meticulously setting out guidelines to the artistes on capturing the performance videos and also ensuring that these are strictly adhered to, maintaining the discipline and uniformity of the performances. It was a fiesta to the art lovers and a path setter to writers, practitioners, performers throughout the globe.

This festival was conducted as a tribute to celebrate the vision of the grand matriarch of cultural research, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, who was known for her intimate knowledge of Indian classical dance and her innate ability to knit literature and art in the aesthetic understanding of it. Art was an expression of life for her and art definitely brings hearts together. She would bring out the essence of every art tradition and see it in the light of modernity.

After the inaugural ceremony, the curtain was raised for the fiesta by remembering and reminiscing the life and legendary contributions of Dr. Vatsyayan to Indian classical dance, art, architecture and art history by renowned personalities in the fields of art and literature. V.P and Shantha Dhananjayan, late Dr. Sunil Kothari, G. Venu, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj and Dr. Ayswaria Warier shared their memories of Dr. Vatsyayan, making the viewers thoughtful and nostalgic. The performance commenced with an inspiring Bharatanatyam composition presented by Dr. Narthaki Nataraj. This was followed by a series of spellbinding performances by Dr. Ayswaria Warier and Dr. RLV. Ramakrishnan giving Mohiniattam recitals and wrapping up with a visual treat by the Bharatanatyam duo Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon.

The evenings of the following ten days were filled with cultural fiesta for more than 2 hours, opening with specially created documentaries as a dedication to those prominent personalities who had marked their presence as indispensable in establishing the classical dance forms and bringing it to the forefront, yet faded away from the thoughts of many. This comprised of remembering the fiery queen of Kathak - Sitara Devi, maestro of Manipuri dance - Guru Bipin Singh, poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and his contributions to Rabindra Nritya, the matriarch of Mohiniattam - Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama, the foremost exponent of Vazhuvoor bani style of Bharatanatyam - Kumari Kamala, Kathakali acharya Guru Chandu Panicker, Kuchipudi maestro Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma, Odissi dancer Sanjukta Panigrahi and cultural ambassador Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan. There were also illustrations and detailing on the dance forms such as Vilasini Natyam, Gaudia Nrithya, Sattriya dance, Chhau dance and Kerala Natanam. These were not just short biopics, but an insight for the practitioners to comprehend and appreciate the classical dance form and the maestros behind it.

The lecture demonstrations by exponents and curators of the festival like Dr. Neena Prasad on Mohiniattam, Dr. Rajashree Warrier on Bharatanatyam, Monisa Nayak on Kathak, Prof. Dr. Sruti Bandopadhyay on Rabindra Nritya, Prof. Y. Hemanta Kumar on Manipuri dance, Srikanth Nataraj and Aswathy Srikanth were a definite eye-opener. Presentation of scintillating performances of nearly 13 classical dance forms of the country by a fair representation of around 80 talented performers, charmed the viewers.

One witnessed the Bharatanatyam opening performance by Parshwanath Upadhye, presentation by Revathy Vayalar on the composition 'Sargasangeetham' by the legendary Malayalam poet Mahakavi Vallathol Narayana Menon, followed by male representation of Mohiniattam by Thomas Vo Van Tao who came all the way from France to Kerala with the keen desire to learn this art form. The sumptuousness of the dance fiesta continued with Kathak performance by Hari and Chethana, sparkling Sattriya dance by Mridusmita Das Bora, colourful Manipuri dance by artistes from Imphal, Rabindra Nritya performances by artistes from Viswa Bharati University, Shanthiniketan, and dynamic Kuchipudi recital by Bijula Balakrishnan. The flavor of the festival was enhanced with Vilasini Natyam by the effervescent Purvadhanashree, Dr. Satabdi Acharyya portraying the authentic Gaudia Nritya and Niroj Kumar and Lakshmidhar Ghunia showcasing their flair in Chhau dance. Odissi by Sarita Mishra and Kerala Natanam by Dr. Raji Subin were added attractions. The special performance in Bharatanatyam by Rohin Balachandran amazed the audience due the fact that he was hearing impaired. Kathakali staged by Kerala Kalamandalam on the story of 'Duryodhana Vadham' on the great epic Mahabharata made the festival wholesome.

Pramod Payyanur, Festival Director of Indian Classical Dance Festival 2020, is a renowned theater personality, film director and member secretary of Bharat Bhavan. The tireless efforts of his team definitely resulted in excellence. The dance festival was presented by Bharat Bhavan, the official cultural exchange centre of Kerala in association with Directorate of Culture, Kerala State Youth Commission and Malayalam Mission. The 11th day showcased a festival round-up along with valedictory ceremony. The performances are still available in the Facebook and YouTube channel of Bharat Bhavan-Kerala.

The next initiative by Bharat Bhavan, Trivandrum, is the International Tribal Festival in January 2021.

Sukanya Jayaram is a freelance writer on dance and music.

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