A bouquet of Bharatanatyam and Kathak by Nritya Kalangan, Kolkata
- Nita Vidyarthi
Photos: Ashok Banik
November 26, 2021
After two successful mega sessions of Pranitwa Festival last year on the digital platform, Nritya Kalangan, Kolkata, under the guidance of its founder-director Jalsa Chandra have ventured out recently with a three-hour presentation of Bharatanatyam and Kathak dances at Rabindra Sadan, Kolkata, obeying all Covid restrictions.
Exhaustively trained in Bharatanatyam under Guru Dr. Thankamani Kutty, Jalsa by now a noted established dancer, is at present honing her skills in Kathak, under Pt Rajendra Gangani. So the variety of numbers choreographed by her spread over ten Bharatanatyam group items, a Bharatanatayam solo by her and a concluding group composition in Kathak.
Beginning with the prayer Mahavishnu Stotram "Garuda gamana tava charana Kamala..." ten young learners clad in lovely purple costumes performed with good discipline with the Kriti sung in appealing devotional flavour by Ranganathan Srinivasan. What was noticeable about these little girls was the sense of spacing and distance between each other. And this was uniformly maintained in their subsequent presentations of Rama Keertanam "Brochevarevarura" and "Vaara veena", a sargam adorned geetam on Devi Saraswati. Good teamwork proved their training and rigorous rehearsals. While Shabdam and Alarippu in adi talam by slightly senior dancers showed their grip of rhythm, the beautiful vatsalya rasa based "Enna thavam seithanai" on Yashoda and Krishna composed by Papanasam Shivan in ragam Kaapi, portraying the motherhood of Yashoda by a similar group of dancers appealed for their practised abhinaya skills. A suladhi "Sapta tala alamkara", pure dance based composition with a large group of dancers was a visual pleasure because of the arrangement and colour composition of a central blue clad group of dancers with two others in brick red, flanking the two sides of the stage. Well manoeuvred multiple entries and exits with jatis as important punctuation in the choreography were also handled with neatness.
Moumita Mukherjee & Arunima Mukherjee
Jalsa Chandra & Arunima Mukherjee
Dancers, some in light green and others in lemon yellow costumes, gave a fairly good account of their grasp in "Gaja Kauthwam". However, "Natanam Adinar" was ordinary. The best group presentation aesthetics both in choreography and execution was Dasavatar set to adi talam and Ragamalika. Choreographed in the Bharatanatyam idiom, dancing and drama were skilfully put together by the uniformly trained group. Jalsa Chandra in Kurma avatar stole the show and as always the Narasimha avatar stance was received well by the audience.
The song "Sakhi hey keshi mathana mudaram" from the second Canto 'Aklesa-Keshava' (Keshava, the blessed one) of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda was a Bharatanatyam solo by Jalsa Chandra. The piece requires maturity and highly sensitive abhinaya skills to reveal the glory of poetry in the lyrics by blending dance with the understanding of the underlying nuances of how Radha expresses her desire to her friend (sakhi) to arrange for love dalliance with the God of Love - the valiant subduer of Keshi. The piece had some nice moments but even when Jalsa was flawless in grammar her interpretative brilliance suffered in patches.
Jalsa Chandra in ashtapadi
The evening concluded with a pleasing Kathak presentation "Birhan Sawan" based on the virahotkanthita nayika embracing sawan (monsoon). It began with Jalsa and two other Kathak dancers in a pure dance sequence set to the recitation of Tagore's composition "Sawana gaganey ghor ghanaghata" otherwise a very popular and beautiful song based on Vidyapati's pada, which had glimpses of the rhythmic skills of the dancers. Jalsa is a consummate dancer well proficient in both the styles and so gave a fine account of herself in this presentation with her senior students, which was set to the lovely song "Badar giri aye" interspersed with the recitation of the poem choreographed with the elements of Kathak. Although the footwork was strong, and the taiyyari was good, the nazakat suffered. Jalsa regaled with smart chakkars and footwork but there was lack of spice in her abhinaya visualisation especially for the expressions in "Motimharey Besh Banadey...." of the poem. The reciter too lacked in expressions.
After an appropriate artistic start of light designing depicting the advent of monsoon, the excess pumping of smoke and blue light submerged the lovely movements of the dancers. The projection of blue lights need to be restricted to a minimum for better enjoyment of the performance.
Able vocal support was offered by Ranganathan Srinivasan, Anand R. Jayaram (also violin), mridangam by Shankar Narayanswamy, flute by Rupak Mukherjee and Jalsa Chandra shared the responsibility of choreography and doing the nattuvangam.
Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.