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Sterling performances at Aagman Festival
- Vijay Shanker

May 22, 2022

Aagman Festival of young classical musicians and dancers commenced on 4th April at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Organised by Sangeet Vidya Niketan, the festival aims at engaging, supporting and presenting young and emerging talents in the field of Indian classical music and dance. It gives a stage to original voices, to pioneering ideas and move in the direction of serious transmission of 'Gayan, Vadan and Nritya'. The festival featured some of today's foremost young Indian classical dancers, vocalists, and instrumentalists of the current generation. The week-long festival concluded on 10th April with the grand finale Bharatanatyam performance by the couple from Chennai, Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon.

Aagman is an attempt towards bringing gurus, performing artists, scholars, connoisseurs, and students on an equal dais to enrich and inspire the younger generations and help them develop sensitivity towards Indian performing arts. Pt. Suresh Talwalkar, an eminent musician and guru believes that, "Guru Shishya Parampara is the soul of Indian classical music and Aagman Festival is a welcome effort in bridging the gap between the young and the seasoned."

Sangeet Vidya Niketan, through its efforts to bring the art of Indian classical dance and music into the core of everyday life of those initiated and uninitiated, aims at providing a creative oasis for the community at large. Madhur Gupta, Odissi exponent and founder of Sangeet Vidya Niketan says, "The future has a way of arriving unannounced. I believe the future generation of Indian arts has arrived and this festival is a historic one. In the sense that the audience will get to hear the unheard, see the unseen, and experience a mélange of never before felt whirlwind of emotions which brings out the artist within."

Aagman in its week-long celebration of the performing arts, featured segments like workshop series, Kala Upasana Film Screening, Meet the Maestro Series, Young Masters Photographic Series and Concert Series. In the workshop series, Hindustani classical vocals by Ketki Singh and Kathak dance by Divya Goswami were organized. The festival commenced with invocations and bhajans by the children of Salaam Balak Trust, followed by the screening of the documentary 'Kala Upasana.'

Questioning the relevance of worshiping one's art, this short documentary features some of the senior most maestros to the likes of Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt. Rajendra Gangani, Guru Sharon Lowen amongst others, imparting the true essence of what following the margam of art truly means. Tabla wizard Ustad Zakir Hussain said, "Through Kala Upasana one can go beyond the routine existence and transcend onto higher metaphysical planes. Aagman Festival has the right blend of modern and young. They are taking our arts forward while keeping their heritage intact. I am happy to have contributed to this beautiful effort being a part of the film presented by Sangeet Vidya Niketan at the festival."

Critic Manjari Sinha who was also featured in this film said, "Classical dance and music is a long process of several years of practice and hard work. There is no short cut to success. It's not like instant coffee or tea; you have to be completely devoted to do your best." Sharon Lowen opined that, "dancers should realise that classical dance is not just entertainment, it's much more. It's the expression of the soul, hence trying to reach out to the supreme through the medium of classical music and dance."

In the Meet the Maestro Series, one has to look back and assimilate what it 'was' to then create what 'will' be. Senior gurus and maestros like Pt. Suresh Talwalkar, Darshana Jhaveri, Kumkum Lal, Shruti Sadolikar, G Venu shared their journeys, gave invaluable insight into their art forms, and ignited the flame of curiosity in the young minds to question their art to then expand the boundaries from within.

Curated by celebrated photographer Avinash Pasricha, the Young Masters Photographic Series featured photographic stills of some of the foremost Indian classical dancers, vocalists, and instrumentalists of their generation.

With the theme of arrival, four leading Indian classical dancers and musicians presented a full evening length concert series in their respective genres. The concert series featured some of the noteworthy artistes of the younger generation like Madhur Gupta (Odissi), Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon (Bharatanatyam), Shruti and Ninaad Adhikari (santoor), and Aditya Khandwe (Hindustani vocal).

Madhur Gupta
Madhur Gupta (Photo: Avinash Pasricha)

New Delhi based Madhur Gupta commenced his elegant performance with a beautiful composition on the goddess, featuring her ten tantric forms, pertaining to varied aspects of the goddess as the protector of all mankind and the universal mother of prosperity and knowledge. This number was in raag Malkauns in ektali triputa. The Jaijayavanti Pallavi is the typical item of stylized and lyrical movements, the tempo increases, forming a fine synthesis of music, melody and rhythm. Madhur danced with spontaneity, grace, poise and effortless execution of rhythmic movements. In the Oriya number "Jhagdi matra hela re Shyam" Radha describes her pangs of separation to her friend Lalita and says that "one night is like a thousand nights." Madhur concluded with the ashtapadi "prasarati" featuring khandita nayika. Madhur received fine orchestral support led by Ketaki Singh for vocal and pakhawaj by Prafulla Mangaraj.

Shijith and Parvathy
Shijith and Parvathy (Photo: Anoop Arora)

Shijith and Parvathy created a magical spell with their vivacious and commendable Bharatanatyam performance. They commenced with a beautiful Shankaracharya stotram "Alingan" in Brindavana Saranga ragam incorporating the concept of both Shiva and Shakti. This was a fast number, blending well with varied movements which were supplementary and complementary to each other, creating a fine spectacle and bonding with both the dancers. The jatiswaram was a Swati Thirunal composition in praise of Lord Padmanabha. The ashtapadi was a solo number performed by Parvathy interpreting the "viraha tapam" of Radha. After the keerthanam, the duo concluded the performance with a complex Thillana. Fine orchestral support was rendered by Saji Lal on nattuvangam, Venugopal on vocal, Shivaprasad on mridangam and Easwar Ramakrishnan on violin. On the whole, it was a grand festival.

Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.

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