The festive fervour of the Capital's cultural scene
- Manjari Sinha
November 18, 2023
The cultural climate of Delhi reverberates with music, dance and dramas during the festive season from Navaratri to Vijayadasami, Deepavali and beyond. The two programs that drew the Capital's rasikas the most, were 'Shri Ram', the annual Ramleela of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) and 'Indradhanush Dilli 2023' the multihued festival of SUNAINA (Society for the Upliftment of National Arts of India).
Inaugurating 'Shri Ram', the spectacular dance drama of SBKK by lighting the ceremonial lamp, Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, congratulated Shobha Deepak Singh, the present Director and Vice Chairperson of the SBKK and said, "The iconic Ramleela of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra was conceived and presented in a dance drama format for the first time by the visionary founder of this institution Sumitra Charat Ram in the year 1957, and it has continued being presented annually non-stop ever since. It is a spiritual journey to the era when virtue prevailed. We all get inspired by the divinity of Ram, the epitome of dharma, every time we watch it."
This was the 67th edition of 'Shri Ram', the annual fiesta of SBKK, carried forward enthusiastically by Shobha Deepak Singh, who reiterated "the intent of 'Shri Ram' is not merely to carry on a legacy created by my mother the Late Sumitra-ji, but also to ease the percolation of a heritage that is unique to India and extensively rich in moral values that are pertinent even today." No wonder the two and half hours long astonishingly engrossing presentation pulled large crowds at the open air stage of SBKK from 15th October to 5th of November on a daily basis.
Based on Sampoorna Ramayana depicting the story of Shri Rama from his birth to the Rajya Abhisheka, the dazzling dance drama embellished with original soundtracks, captivating choreography, elaborate costumes and make-belief set up, incorporated a variety of dance styles ranging from Bharatanatyam, Kalaripayattu, Mayurbhanj Chhau to folk dances of North India and several Hindustani ragas according to the demand of the dramatic situations.
The storyline has also evolved over the past six decades with new inputs like the digitally designed LED backdrops. However, the tulips felt out of place in the greenery of the Pushp Vatika Prasang with the Ramcharitmanas Chaupayi "Girija poojan sakhi sang aai / Siya sukumari nayan nihaari" composed in the melodious swaras of raga Gorakh Kalyan.
SUNAINA's Indradhanush Dilli 2023
Photos: Innee Singh
Guru Kanaka Sudhakar, the versatile dancer, teacher, researcher, author, curator and mentor is also the founder director of SUNAINA established in 1994. This charitable non-profit organization is dedicated to the cause of propagating the cultural heritage of Indian dance, drama and music through presentations, training and research in the therapeutic and beneficial effects of Indian classical dances on the mind and body of the learner.
The 'Indradhanush Dilli - Festival of Arts', a brain-child of Guru Kanaka Sudhakar was initiated by SUNAINA in 2008 as a three day youth festival. The festival growing steadily over the years became 'Bal Kala Utsav' in 2011 including painting and then a festival of young artistes in 2014 that merged music, dance and fine arts under a broad umbrella with six sections with three generations of artistes participating at multiple venues. The theme of Indradhanush Dilli 2023 held simultaneously at Nehru Youth Centre and Triveni Kala Sangam was 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' this year.
Supported by Ministry of Culture, India tourism and Sahitya Kala Parishad, Indradhanush Dilli 2023 was presented on 3rd and 4th November at the Amphitheater of Triveni Kala Sangam. The Guru Samman and Nritya Rachna were the main attractions on both the evenings, where deserving dance exponents were honoured with the prestigious 'Guru Samman' followed with their performances and other artistes' dance works. There was also 'Nritya Samvaad' (Dialogues in dance), a symposium on Indian classical dance on the inaugural evening.
Pasumarthy Vithal & Bharathi Vithal
The Kuchipudi exponents Bharathi and Pasumarthy Vithal were felicitated with the Guru Samman on the 3rd of November. The Paras Mani Samman was conferred upon Sanjay Arya, the CEO of Shubhi Publications the same evening. This was followed by the Nritya Rachna segment that showcased original choreographies by young professionals. 'Padharo Mhare Desh' was a captivating Kathak choreography performed by Praveen Parihar and troupe and 'Swarakavya' in Bharatanatyam by Anil Iyer.
Praveen Parihar and troupe
A short film about the awardees and their contributions were screened on both the evenings before the elaborate Guru Samman ceremony. The Guru Samman on the 4th of November was conferred upon the noted Odissi exponent Sharon Lowen, the American disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra from mid-seventies, who has preserved and carried forward the authentic style of her Guru to the next generation with utmost sincerity. The other Guru Samman awardee this evening was Shashidharan Nair, the well-known Chhau and Kathakali dancer/choreographer and educator.
Kanaka Sudhakar & Shashidharan Nair
This was followed with an Odissi performance by the Guru Samman awardee Sharon Lowen. Opening with traditional Mangalacharan with an invocation to Matangi, the goddess of learning; Sharon presented the ashtapadi "Pashyati dishi dishi rahasi bhavantam" from Jayadeva's Geeta Govindam with great sensitivity. Her subtle abhinaya of an abhisarika nayika intact with the slightest details in the immortal choreography of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with the original music composed by Bhubaneshwar Mishra was a delight to watch. Sharon concluded her Odissi performance with Moksha.
The Nritya Rachna segment this evening interestingly opened only with 'Moksha' by Dipjyoti Das and Dipankar Arandhara, the brilliant dance duo from Assam. Based on the prayer "Brahma adi kori jibo jato" written by Madhavadeva, it was an extract from the Namghosha. The poet prays, "Oh Lord, salvage us from the illusion the way you saved Gajendra from the Graha. Light up our path towards peace and help us attain moksha." The concept and choreography of Moksha was enhanced by the soulful music composed by Bhupen Nath Kusha Mohanta.
'Raghunatha Charanam' was an abhinaya piece based on the Borgeet "Huno huno re" (suno suno re) written by the great Vaishnavite saint Shrimanta Shankardeva that depicted sancharis like Sita Haran, Setu Bandhan and Ravana Vadha. Music for this dramatic choreography by Bobbyrani Talukdar and Deepjyoti-Dipankar was composed by Bhaskar Jyoti Ojah. Absolutely perfect coordination between the two agile dancers in the invocatory number and abhinaya in the second item enthralled the audience from beginning till the end.
Nritya Rachna segment ended with 'Krishnamayi: the Eternal Dialogue' by Namrata Mehta from Mumbai. Talking about its concept, Namrata said, "Radha-Krishna have been a part of Indian poetry, music, drama and folklore from time immemorial. 'Krishnamayi' is a choreographic imagination of conversation between Radha and Krishna when they meet in heaven. The conversation beautifully penned down by Surdasa ends with Radha telling him, 'You lifted Govardhan hill on your little finger nail, but I carry you, the lifter of Govardhan in my heart.'" The dance reached its climax with Raas depicting the Ardhanari union, a divine imagery for the devotee. The delicate grace of Namrata combined with the mesmerising music by Manoj Desai and Vinay Tembe, and rhythm by G. Ramprasad brought to life the concept and choreography of Namrata Mehta signifying the allegory of human soul urging to unite with the divine, under the mentorship of Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi.
Tara Singh (Odissi 1st prize)
Oishee Bhattacharya (Narthana Mani)
The week-long festival had opened with 'Bal Kala Utsav' (Festival of Young Artists), at Nehru Yuvak Kendra as a unique part of Indradhanush 2023. The objective being promotion of talent in young practising artistes, this segment had children between age groups of 5 years to 18 years participating in 16 different art forms from eight states of India, Malaysia and Japan. The day-long Bal Kala Utsav was held from 2nd to 5th November from 9am to 9pm, featuring Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kathak, Kuchipudi, semi-classical, folk and Bollywood dances, Hindustani and Carnatic classical music, melodic and rhythmic instrumental, light music, mono act and one act drama including painting as well.
The prize distribution on the last day included many inspirational awards also. These came under the umbrella of Saroja Awards of Excellence, comprising Narthana Mani, and Sangeet Mani, the star performers of dance and music in memory of Late Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan. These outstanding awards were in addition to the first, second and third prizes. All participating artistes were judged on marks with percentile basis.
Anishritha Reddy Kunduru
The last segment was Kala Dhwani, presenting young child prodigies in the age group of 10 to 14 years who performed and received the 'Bal Nritya Kala Samrat' award. The winners this year were Kuchipudi artist Anishritha Reddy Kunduru from Warangal, disciple of Guru Himanshi, and Mohiniattam artiste Anaswara Ashok, a disciple of Jayaprabha Menon. The Saroja awards were sponsored by Ganesha Natyalaya and were presented by Kamesh Vaidyanathan. The Nritya Kala Samrat Awards were presented by Guru Swapnasundari.
Manjari Sinha has an M.A. in Sanskrit and Music, and trained in vocal, tabla, sitar and Kathak dance. She has regular columns in national dailies as a music and dance critic.