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'Netaji -The great son of the soil' by Kalamandalam, Kolkata
- Dr. Nita Vidyarthi
Photos courtesy: Kalamandalam, Kolkata

March 22, 2022

A one hour audio-visual dance production, 'Netaji - The great son of the soil', was presented at different venues by the performing wing of Kalamandalam Kolkata, to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of the great hero. Kalamandalam Kolkata's tribute displayed the limitlessness of human endeavour and also the craft required to bring the endeavour of a blazing patriot Subhas Chandra Bose who captures the vast canvas of history as the bravest man in India's struggle for freedom before independence.

Netaji - The great son of the soil

The presentation choreographed by Guru Dr. Thankamani Kutty and directed by Somnath Kutty relives the patriotic times of the "unsung hero" through dance, punctuated by audio-visual (slides) projection on the screen at the backdrop of the stage. It courses through a series of political events touching on various significant events in his life in chronological order and the advent of a personality oriented political scenario. The slide of Subhas landing in Bombay on 16th of July 1921 at the age of 24 after completing his ICS from England and immediately thereafter meeting Mahatma Gandhi till 1943 after the "Great Escape" in January 1941 from his Elgin Road home in Kolkata provides the texture of the production. Commentary in Hindi and stage presentations embracing Bharatanatyam, Folk and Baul dance styles set to unmatched patriotic songs act as parallels for keeping the historicity of the orientation and the predicament in which the brave, intelligent patriot finds himself in motion, journey after journey. All these were interspersed with dance numbers.

The opening group number was set to Tagore's "Kharabayu boye bege charidik chhaye megehe" (Steer your boat carefully, O boatman, as the sky is overcast and strong winds are blowing). This "sari" (boatman) song is a warning for the distressful times of the Motherland and was an apt beginning. The short group dance numbers were set to popular and familiar patriotic songs of Rabindranath Tagore like "Je tomaye chhade chhaduk" (I will not leave you, Mother - a song of promise), "Eko sutra bandiyachhi sahasrati mon" (a song of unity) and a solo "Ebar tor mora Gangey" by Jhinuk Mukherjee. And there were delightful soul stirring songs - Dwijendralal Roy's "Dhana dhanyo pushpo bhara", Mohini Chowdhury's unforgettable "Muktir mancher sopan toley" immortalised by Krishnachandra Dey's singing and the marching song of Azad Hind Fauz "Quadam quadam badhaye ja" penned by Vanshidhar Shukla and composed by Ram Singh Thakur.

Pitambar Das' heart-wrenching song "Ekbar bidaye de Ma" (Bid me goodbye, Mother) composed in honour of the youngest martyr in India's freedom struggle, Khudiram Bose and sung by Lata Mangeshkar found place in this presentation as a short solo even though it had no direct connection with the era of Subhas Bose. And finally it was Bankim Chandra Chattopadyay's "Vande Mataram" which closed the presentation.

Netaji - The great son of the soil

The dancers were seniors as their confidence, solid training and team work proved. The nritta item of a combination of jatis was enjoyable. The merit of the production is its simplicity and direct approach to reach all as a homage and tribute. It can be looked upon at two levels. On the surface level it is an account of the life and journey of a great hero. At a deeper level, Kalamandalam's 'Netaji' is a portraiture and record of self discovery and also the quest of self-realisation of a personality like Subhas Bose through dance, to reach the mass - a tribute and message to respect the mottos of Azad Hind Fauz, Ithad (unity), Etmad (trust) and Qurbani (sacrifice). It is not easy but Kalamandalam have met the challenge with success.

A bit of reworking in the influence of patriotism during Subhas' school days in Cuttack and the Headmaster and the choice and matching of songs with the history, the effective backdrop would be welcome.

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi
Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.

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