Sai Nrityotsav featured wonderful dancers
- Vijay Shanker
November 12, 2023
Leading lights designer of Bengaluru, Sai Venkatesh of Sai Arts International organised the 150th Sai Nrityotsav on 1st November at the JSS Auditorium, Bengaluru. This one of its kind festival featured several dancers from various parts of the country in different styles. Over 198 dancers participated in this unique festival that started around 9am in the morning and concluded after 9pm with the performance by renowned dancers Durga Arya from Germany in the Kathak dance style and Bharatanatyam by Chennai based Roja Kannan.
Prof M.R Krishnamurthy being honored
On this occasion, Prof M.R Krishnamurthy, veteran mentor, who was among the foremost disciples of Rukmini Devi Arundale, was felicitated with the Kala Ratna award for his distinguished and invaluable contribution in the field of Bharatanatyam for several decades. Krishnamurthy joined Kalakshetra as a student and soon became the leading male dancer in major dance productions of Kalakshetra and toured several countries. He said in Kannada, "I joined Kalakshetra when I was hardly 15 years old and it was compulsory for us to learn classical Carnatic music and Kathakali too. It was a lifetime association with Amma who was such a great and scholarly person. I also had the privilege of learning Padams from the veteran mentor Gowri Ammal. I served as a faculty member from 1955 to 1972 and was completely shattered when she left us in 1986." He established Kalakshiti Academy in Bengaluru and has trained several aspirants. It is strange that Prof Krishnamurthy is yet to receive the SNA award or the Padma Shri.
Bharatanatyam dominated the morning session, with some flashes of Kuchipudi, Kathak and Odissi. Some of the dancers were really good, dancing with lot of enthusiasm and 'angashuddhi' (clarity of movements). There were group presentations, duets and solos as well. The dancer teachers whose disciples performed were Rekha Satish, Urvashi Madhusudhan, Chitra Vinod, Tejaswini, Sannidhi Reddy, Aruna P, Keshava Raja, Kashmeera Trivedi, Suma Nagesh, Soundarya, Shubha Dhananjay, Sindhu Nair, Sohini Bose for Odissi. The afternoon session featured disciples of Guru Suparna Venkatesh and Shweta Venkatesh, Rajashree Holla, Suma Rajesh, Minal Prabhu and Sheela Chandrasekhar.
Roja Kannan and group
The highlight of the programme was the performance by veteran dancers like Roja Kannan and Durga Arya. Roja commenced her performance in praise of Lord Nataraja in "Neelakanta Mahadeva" accompanied by four talented disciples, and followed with the elaborate Varnam "Inda velayil" depicting the virahot khandita nayika as she suffers from the pangs of separation and is smitten by Cupid's arrows. Roja succeeded in interpreting the restlessness of the nayika in the varied sancharis with her natural command over expressions and wonders as to when her Lord would turn up. The audience was thrilled to watch the seasoned dancer, dancing the varied musical interludes with intricate rhythmic patterns, culminating in the precision of the teermanams. Roja concluded her performance with a complex Thillana, winning the appreciation of the audience. To watch such accomplished dancers is always a pleasure as they dance with effortless ease, revealing their proficiency in the execution of distinct and complex patterns of movements. Roja's performance was indeed elevating.
Prior to her performance, Durga Arya said, "I am not a speaker, I do not know what to say but it is the dance that speaks." Watching Durga Arya dance was sheer pleasure. It was the aesthetic quality and the precise execution of rhythmic patterns with nazakhat and complete teyyari that underlined her performance. Unlike the usual Kathak performances that gives emphasis to varied rhythmic movements and several circular movements, Durga created a lasting impression with the serene quality of her performance that reflected her expertise and her devotion to her chosen form of classical dance. Besides the tatkaar and other pure dance pieces, Durga interpreted the thumri "Hato jawo, mohe chedo na Shyam" that depicted the playful and romantic Krishna in a relationship with Radha. The typical movements and the glance of Radha reveals her pretentious anger coupled with her love for Krishna when he falls at her feet and Radha is really embarrassed. Durga Arya received a standing ovation for her enthralling performance.
Another thumri was presented in the baithak (seated) style by accomplished dancer and disciple of Durga Arya, Anurekha Ghosh from Kolkata. Anurekha interpreted the popular thumri "Kahe rokat dagar pyare" (Why do you stop my way?) with fine netra and mukhaja abhinaya revealing the plight of Radha, as she is unable to move forward with the obstacle being Krishna. In spite of performing in the seated position, Anurekha did complete justice to this number with the typical movements.
Sai Nrityotsav is a dance festival which was started 150 months ago with the vision of Sai Venkatesh to promote Indian classical dance and showcase talented artistes .This festival was inaugurated by the veteran Kathak mentor Guru Dr. Maya Rao, director of Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography. Maya Rao discovered her own dance statement and was among the pioneers to initiate group choreography and dance drama productions. Several of her disciples have become professional dancers and teachers.
Sai Nrityotsav has been conducted on the first of every month for the past 14 years. At this platform, 5 slots are provided with 5 teams for 30 minutes duration to present their art. There have been numerous solo, duets and group performances presented at this platform. Artistes from all over the world have been a part of Sai Nrityotsav. Renowned Gurus and artistes have performed as well as presented their disciples at the festival. This platform has also showcased all the 8 Indian classical dance forms.
Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.