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A bouquet of classical Manipuri dance
- Tapati Chowdhurie
Photos courtesy: Poushali Chatterjee

May 7, 2024

On 26th April 2024 Manipuri exponent Poushali Chatterjee and group of Nandanik Movement Arts presented a bouquet of classical Manipuri dance at the Satyajit Ray Auditorium, Kolkata, under Horizon Series Programme, organised by ICCR.

The program commenced with Mangalacharan, a dedicatory piece to Lord Krishna, hailed as the protector of the three worlds, the destroyer of demons and a dancer par excellence, who mesmerises Radha and the Gopis with his forceful yet graceful tandava. Poushali Chatterjee facilitated the rasikas to see Radha and Krishna as two parts of a whole, who together protect the three worlds. The Bhakta - who is the dancer in this case - asks for strength from Sri Krishna who is "Kripa Sindhu" to be able to represent his leelas. Through song and dance, the Bhakta orchestrated her surrender to Lord Krishna and Radha, in the living tradition of Vaishnavism prevalent in Manipur. The recorded music and lyrics by the legendary Manipuri Guru Bipin Singh, vocalised by Draupadi Devi, with Oja Birmangal Singh on the pung and the dance composed and performed by Poushali Chatterjee created a prayerful atmosphere.

Nandanik ensemble
Nandanik ensemble

The next composition described the ethereal beauty of Vrindavan in each of the six seasons in the rich syntax of Manipuri dance. The first part of the composition described the flora - the beautiful flowers and trees of Vrindavan swaying gently with the soft breeze that seem to touch the divine feet of Radha and Krishna. The second part described the fauna - the cuckoo, peacock and other birds that sing and dance along with Krishna, Radha and the Gopis. It was again a composition of Poushali Chatterjee, the rhythm of which was arranged by RK Upendra, with the vocal support of Romila Devi and music support of Debashish Ghosh. The performers Malabi Choudhury, Priyanka Talukdar, Sriparna Sarkar, Moumita Hazra, Tanmana Roy, Suvra Bhowmick, Ankita Ghorai and Ratna Majumdar were like divine souls descended from heaven.

The presentation of Hari Sayol Tara of Jayadev's Dasavatar in Meitei language composed by Poushali Chatterjee had a flavour of its own. It was unique in its presentation. Music composition of Y. Bhumeshwor Singh, vocals by Phurailatpam Umashankar was beautifully synchronised. Before the presentation, Poushali Chatterjee demonstrated the postures of the different avatars and narrated the stories connected with each of the avatars. Performers Poushali, Malabi, Priyanka, Sriparna, Tanmana, Suvra, Ankita, Moumita and Riya gave life to the presentation.

Poushali Chatterjee
Poushali Chatterjee

Pung Vadan displayed the skill of playing Pung or the Manipuri drum, the soul of Manipuri dance. The dancers played a short composition on the Pung, using intricate rhythm patterns based on Taal Dashkosh of 7 beats and Taal Tanchep of 4 beats. It was a composition of Guru Bipin Singh, performed by Poushali, Malabi, Tanmana and Suvra.

Nongi Ithin was an exploration of rhythms and rain - both found in abundance in the valley of Manipur. It was a meandering story of water and rhythm cycles - explored and danced with movements from Jagoi Raaslila, Nata Sankirtana, Thang Ta, and other ritualistic, social and harvest dances of Manipur. Nongi Ithin provided glimpses of mythology, where ancient divinities brought rain, while some divinities even danced with the rains. From children's gleeful play to the worship of the gods, from gathering harvest to breaking embankments made one feel the pulse of Manipur. The beats of the rhythm of rain was conceived and explored mathematically. It showcased the different rhythm patterns associated in the dances performed in Manipur related to the rains. It included the dance of the goddess of thunder, a harvest dance, Krishna and Radha rejoicing in the showers, Krishna lifting Govardhan to shield the world from torrential rains and finally the destruction that is brought regularly by torrential downpours - visualised tellingly by the choreographer - when embankments break and floods occur.

Concept and script was by Poushali Chatterjee and Debanjali Biswas, while Poushali and the senior artistes of Nandanik Movement Arts did the choreography. Music by R K Upendro, vocals by T. Lansana Chanu and O. Kalyan Singh, sarod played by A Shashikumar Sharma, violin by T Sandip, flute by T. Nanao, pena by H. Tomba and narration by Poushali Chatterjee was a big help in providing accompaniment in unfolding the magic of the piece.

Light designer Gopal Ghosh and set designer Haru Sarkar played their cards excellently. The performers Poushali Chatterjee herself along with her students Malabi, Priyanka, Sriparna, Moumita, Tanmana, Suvra, Ankita, Ratna, Dr Tania Chakraborty, Dalia Karmakar, Pallabi Chakraborty, Rishika Pal, Riya Kar, Aditi Dhali, Rimi Das, Jayita Mandal, Tithi Mandal, Rina Naiya and Urvi Sengupta Dutta provided a brief peep into the life of the Manipuri people - centring around the rains - through Manipuri dance. It was a neat and involved presentation.

Tapati Chowdurie
Tapati Chowdhurie trained under Guru Gopinath in Madras and was briefly with International Centre for Kathakali in New Delhi. Presently, she is a freelance writer on the performing arts.

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