31st Raindrops Dance Festival
- Vijay Shanker
Photos courtesy: Uma Dogra
August 5, 2021
One of the most popular dance festivals of Mumbai is the Raindrops Dance Festival organized by Kathak exponent Uma Dogra, on behalf of Sam Ved Society of Performing Arts. This festival is one of its kind as it is mainly organized to encourage young talent from all over the country and abroad too. It is an annual festival organized during the Monsoon season, which is otherwise the slack season for performing artistes.
Uma Dogra says, "When I started organizing the festival over 31 years back, there were hardly any festival for dancers, particularly for young dancers and I felt that I must take the initiative as the young dancers are the performers for tomorrow and they definitely deserve all the encouragement. I am glad my festival is really popular, as every year I get more and more applications and it becomes difficult to accommodate more dancers. I am glad to be the forerunner in the right direction. The pandemic has completely shattered the world of showbiz and I did not want the performers to be disappointed, hence this initiative of organizing this festival digitally, for the first time. This festival is offered as a 'shradhanjali' to two important personalities I lost this year - firstly my mother Shakuntala Sharma, who induced and encouraged me to learn dance at the tender age of six; and Bala Lal, wife of Pt Durgalal, who stood like a rock to encourage him and continued to serve, after his demise, bringing up her children singlehandedly."
Program directors Suhani Singh and Indrayani Mukherjee welcomed the participants while narrating the significance of the festival (July 16-18, 2021). Incidentally two festivals are organized annually by Sam Ved Society of Performing Arts, namely the Pt Durgalal Smruti Samaroh, inviting established performers to perform and the Raindrops Dance Festival that is exclusive for young dancers. Indrayani went a step further by describing "Her Sorrow A Mission" - in spite of being completely disheartened at the untimely demise of her mentor, Uma Dogra since then determined to serve the cause of classical arts, by providing platforms to performers, which is not an easy task. What better tribute can a great maestro ask for.
The 31st Raindrops Festival commenced on 16th July on the YouTube channel of Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts. The performers for the first day were Vinita Venugopal (Kathak), Vaidehi Rele-Lal (Bharatanatyam) and Rudra Shankar Mishra for Kathak. The second day performers were Karthika Unnikrishnan (Kathak), Arpana Rao (Kathak) and Odissi duet by Santosh Ram and Samir Kumar Panigrahi. The last and final day of the festival featured Diksha Rawat (Kathak), Ayana Mukherjee (Kuchipudi) and Anwesa Mahanta (Sattriya). While Kathak dominated the festival, it was equally interesting to watch the other forms being performed on the same platform.
Vaidehi Rele Lal
Tall and slim Vinita Venugopal, the first performer of the festival, is the disciple of Uma Dogra. Elegantly attired in a yellow costume, Vinita moved with poise and precision. After the Krishna Vandana, Vinita created a lasting impression with precise execution of rhythmic footwork of 15 matra pancham sawari. After the invocatory salutations, Vaidehi Rele Lal performed a beautiful number in praise of Lord Krishna that commenced with the description of his attributes and his persona like "Kasturi Tilakam" extending to "Sundara Gopala". Vaidehi with a natural flair for expressions presented a wide spectrum of the life of Krishna, pertaining to his childhood pranks, his adolescence and culminating with "Vishwaroopa darshanam" and Geetopadesham. With the expert tutelage and guidance of mentor Deepak Mazumdar, Vaidehi is shaping up to become a fine Bharatanatyam exponent.
The first male dancer of the festival, Rudra Shankar Mishra, commenced his Kathak performance with a vibrant interpretation of Shiva Vandana, pertaining to aspects of creation, preservation and destruction by Mahadeva. Here is a dancer who dances with complete involvement and passion. His footwork for the varied pure dance pieces, revealed his mastery of teyyari and layakari. Rudra should take care of his long strands of hair that keeps covering his face which is distracting for him and the audience too.
Rudra Shankar Mishra
The second day of the festival commenced with the Kathak performance by Karthika Unnikrishnan with the Ganesh Vandana. She then performed the traditional Tarana with precise execution of intricate rhythm and varied movements. Karthika scored well in the jugalbandi of music and dance with a fine team of musicians. With little more concern over the finer aspects of dance and aesthetics, Karthika can aspire to become a fine exponent. Arpana Rao is the disciple of Uma Dogra and also learnt the Banaras Gharana of Kathak. Her performance was quite pleasing, particularly her display and mastery over the execution of Durga Taal of 13 matras.
Santosh Ram and Samir Kumar Panigrahi
Odissi duo Santosh Ram and Samir Kumar Panigrahi, disciples of Guru Bichitrananda Swain of Rudrakshya Foundation, left a lasting impression with their spontaneous, fluid and flawless performance. Demonstrating the masculine and the feminine spirit in the Ardhanarishwara number "Namah Shivaya," the dancers were both supplementary and complementary with movements extending and merging with each other, fine representation of both Shiva and Shakti. Beautifully performed with spot and appropriate lighting and sublime music that kept the audience enthralled.
The third and final day of the festival commenced with the Kathak recital by Diksha Rawat, another disciple of Uma Dogra. Three disciples in the same festival is really creditable. Diksha revealed her command over layakari with the precise execution of taal dhamar of 14 beats. In the expressional dance number Diksha interpreted "Baat chalat nayi chuneri rang dari" establishing the romantic inter relationship with Radha and Krishna with a natural flair for expressions.
The only Kuchipudi dancer of the festival Ayana Mukherjee performed the beautiful and commendable composition by Tanjore Shankara Iyer, "Mahadeva Shiva Shambho." It was a real treat to watch Ayana perform with complete control over varied movements that were both elegant and vibrant, interpreting the varied attributes and power of the Lord with soul stirring music rendered by the vocalist and the complete orchestra. Ayana concluded her performance with the Meera bhajan "Barase badariye sawan ki, man bhavan ki" that interpreted the relationship of nature, rainfall and the divine love of Meera for Krishna.
The last dancer of the festival was Anwesa Mahanta who performed Sattriya dance with graceful and lively movements. She presented "Jaya Jaya Yadukula," the story of Lord Rama and Satyabhama Manabhanjan. Anwesa is a charming and graceful dancer. On the whole, it was a grand festival of young talent.
Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.