Exhilarating classical and folk flavours at Vikram Sarabhai Inter-Art Festival
- Dr S D Desai
January 7, 2022
Elite viewers in their trendy woolens at Darpana Academy's three-day 42nd Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Fest that took off on 28th December at its open-air Natarani amphitheatre with Hoshrubad Repertory's Ek Punjab Yeh Bhi were ushered in to the robust rhythm of Chenda Vadyam that traditionally accompanies religious and cultural events in Kerala.
Ek Punjab Yeh Bhi
The band, eleven strong, had among bare-chested men on a chilly night a thirteen-year old girl in it trying to match masculine power with sticks beating drums. The six-beat Panchari Melam, one of the major forms of Chenda Melam, the team with Manikandan, Akhil, Venu, Prakash and other skilled drummers with Arya - all local South Indians - played for thirty minutes, a treat in itself. It elevated the listeners’ spirits and created an ambience of cultural appreciation.
Ek Punjab Yeh Bhi is a dramatic musical presentation of four of the stories written by Ali Akbar Natiq, a famous poet and storywriter in Urdu, in Dan Hussain's direction - Jeerey ki Ravangi, Shareeka, Jodhpur ki Hadd and Shahabu Khalifa. It has absorbing flavours of Punjabi folk drama, dance and narrative with integral elements of lilting music, costumes for verisimilitude, wit and humour as part of the life portrayed and, as expected from Dan, a socio-political critique of contemporary life.
On Day Two, an interesting, rarely heard Chenda-Tavil and Hang-Mridangam (Manikandan-Palanivelu) Jugalbandi in adi talam, with Jagdeep playing the Manjira, of fifteen minutes each welcomed the expectant audience for Celebrating Kumudini Lakhia.
The ebullient group of dancers (Rupanshi, Mitali, Mansi, Nirzari, Vaishnavi, Harshi, Parita, Rohit, Mukesh), all thrilled to be part of the prestigious Inter Art Festival, is probably the youngest from Kadamb seen in many decades. Modestly evolving and affable, individually and merging in a group, they would never rest at rehearsals until they got a smile of satisfaction on their nonagenarian legendary guru Kumudini Lakhia's face.
The Kathak dancers were privileged to be performing in the event Celebrating Kumudini Lakhia (Dec 29) to a packed elite audience lustily cheering them from time to time. It was a compact presentation of Kumiben's signature choreographies ranging from 1973 to 2018 - years these dancers were yet to be born! The climax was in a Tillana, in which a group of Darpana's young Bharatanatyam dancers led by Manoj Bagga were on stage with the Kadamb dancers as a mark of a tribute to Kumudini Lakhia.
Day Three (Dec 30) of the Fest was all music, percussion and vocal, of the kind that would have the feet of even non-dancers tapping. Prominent tabla player Fazal Qureshi, legendary Ustad Alla Rakha's son, is a name familiar to Ahmedabad, as much through Darpana Academy as the annual Saptak Music Festival. With his impressive ensemble, including the inimitable folk singer Kutle Khan Manganiar of Rajasthan, he paid an unforgettable musical tribute to Dr. Vikram Sarabhai as part of the finale of the festival.
Kutle Khan Manganiar
Qureshi and ensemble
The ‘magic of music’ as Zarana, a promising performer at Darpana years ago put it, was such when Kutle Khan sang the Rajasthani enchanting Ghumar song and Amir Khushro's immortal mystic Sufi lines Chhap tilak chhini re mo se naina milai ke ... some of the dancers in the audience, led by Mallika Sarabhai, could not hold back. They were right on stage and broke into exhilaratingly inviting dance steps. The finale could not have been better.
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.