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Sensibility raises Drishtikon's Widening Circles to the level of poetry
- Dr. S.D. Desai

November 14, 2022

An intelligent approach to her themes and a lyrical quality she is capable of giving to her Kathak performances set Aditi Mangaldas apart as a dancer. With a creative conception and imaginative stage presentation, her hour-long Widening Circles at the Karaanaa Dance Festival to live music (Mohit Gangani: tabla, Faraz Ahmad: vocals on harmonium, Ashish Gangani: pakhawaj, Kamaal Ahmed: sarangi; vocalist Samiullah Khan pre-recorded) at the magnificent Natarani amphitheatre on Day Two with its three eminently viewable segments take on hues of tender poetry.

Widening Circles by Aditi Mangaldas

Aditi slips in to soft tunes, flows to the other end udgreeva, her visage radiant with the oorja of soft orange, offers arghya getting one with the drone of Om sooryay namah hands folded in utmost humility. She moves in a wide circle in the centre, returns and to Namostubhyam Adityay her fingers suggest opening petals of a lotus. Discerning viewers are reminded that Aditya is the most luminous of Mother Goddess Aditi's children. The dancer sits in meditation motionless. She rises and gives a feel of the Sun's chariot, elegantly drawn by seven horses. The mridanga accompanies, the ghunghroo turns barely audible.

This is but a glimpse. A full verbal paraphrase of the original cannot replace a creative audio-visual and extrasensory experience. The artiste has the rare sensibility for it. A perceptive viewer shares part of it. With multiple images the dancer portrays life on the earth - the joyously dancing peacock, the leaping circumspect deer, the buzzing Madhumakshika and all - and goes on to depict the silently throbbing nocturnal life on it in wide-eyed vismaya (wonder). All this comes to a Kathak dancer pretty naturally, more sensitively to this dancer.

What distinguishes Widening Circles is the dancer-choreographer's sensibility. She perceives interconnectedness between the Sun, the Earth, the Moon and her being, tiny in appearance but having within an infinite microcosm of the pulsating universe. In the centre right in front with a luminous focus on face she picks up a book, its pages illumined ('Love Poems to God' ?) and reads Rilke: 'I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. / ... I circle around God, around the primordial tower ...' Life is not linear, beginning with birth, ending with death. She turns to another book, pages aglow (Tagore's Gitanjali now) and reads: 'On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying ...' A blooming lotus signifies inner awakening.

Widening Circles by Aditi Mangaldas

Poetic imagination has the eternal longing during night evoked with the dancer's visage illumined in the dim light of a diya - later another brought - finds a touching expression in an adaptation of Kishori Amonkar's vocal rendering: Main birahini baithi jaagun jagata saba soye ... In the work replete with dhwani (suggestion), the creeping in of the literal where the birahini portrayed has her head droop in drowsiness is a minor case of rasakshati, happily overlooked.

It is rarely that a dance performance is raised to the level of a poetic composition.

Dr. S.D. Desai
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.

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