by GS RAJAN
GS RAJAN is a music composer, classical flautist and arts administrator. He has been a dance critic of The Statesman and music critic of The Hindu national dailies. For more information visit: www.malabarian.com
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'season' is always the best time of the year in Chennai for classical performing
artists. And every year it brings pleasant surprises as well as setbacks to the
creative expressions of musicians and dancers being featured in various festivals
by the sabhas and other cultural organizations.|
This year I made it point to attend as many performances of music and dance as possible during my month-long stay in Chennai. I will restrict my (strictly personal) views and comments to only those few dance performances I could attend in a season where more than 800 dance recitals were held. (The music review will follow soon)
One of the first performances I attended on reaching Mad-Ras was not of Bharata Natyam but an outstanding Odissi recital by Ayona Bhaduri at Karthik Fine Arts. She took the audience to great heights with her abhinaya completely soaked in shringara-bhakthi. This presentation can be termed as a perfect blend of teamwork with superb musicians highlighting every aspect of the dance.
|Priyadarsini Govind continues to be the unchallenged diva while a good number of soloists showed that they are ready to take the responsibility of continuing the tradition with more vigour. Janaki Rangarajan with her sheer hard work and dedication is one of the best today. I wish to see her getting featured in main slots including the Music Academy's dance festival next year. Of course there are many more deserving dancers such as Lavanya Ananth, Navia Natarajan Menon and others. Lavanya's concert at Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and Navia's performance at the Music Academy were highly appreciated. Rukmini Vijayakumar of Bangalore should get featured in Chennai. She is just out of the world.|
Ragini Chandrasekhar of Delhi (Brahma Gana Sabha) made a promising comeback while Vidhya Subramanian (Bharat Kalachar), Meenakshi Srinivasan (Brahma Gana Sabha), Sulakshana Jayaram (Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan), Jyotsna Jagannathan (Narada Gana Sabha) and Kuchipudi duo Kishore and Padmavani Mosalikanti (R.K. Swamy Auditorium) declared that they are here to stay. Sulakshana is to be congratulated for her ability to manage with musicians making blunders even in jatis and teermaanams. The biggest asset of Meenakshi Srinivasan is her stage presence. She just needs to come and stand on stage. Her abhinaya, movements and the poses and spaces she creates are commendable. She should however work on her lines and adavus if she is serious about dancing and perhaps avoid that 'look at me' syndrome.
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|COSTUMES||Dancer-teacher Indira Kadambi's institution Ambalam organised a series of workshops conducted by maestros and performances by talented dancers and musicians in a park near Luz Church road which attracted a large number of rasikas. This attempt to organise a festival in a park also took classical arts to hundreds of uninitiated spectators who came along on their evening walk. Two performances I could attend here were of the Bharata Natyam duo Ranjith Babu and his wife Vijna and of Praveen Kumar from Bangalore. While Praveen has received recognition from Sangeet Natak Akademi for his dedicated work, Vijna and Ranjith are a duo that can easily conquer if they continue their work with dedication. Needless to say that they are under the guidance of veteran dancer C.V. Chandrasekhar.|
Parvati Ravi Ghantashala presented one of the best productions I saw this year with superb choreography, light design and music by Rajkumar Bharati. However Bharati's music for Alarmel Valli's concert at Mylapore Fine Arts was not impressive. Another production that I attended was presented by Urmila Satyanarayana. It was amazing to see Urmila looking like a teenager and easily blending in with her students.
Veteran Sonal Mansingh presented her production 'Nayika' both at Karthik Fine Arts and Brahma Gana Sabha with people who matter in the audience. It was perhaps the only production dedicated to Tagore during the season. The evergreen Vyjayantimala (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan) danced with beautiful anga shudham.
|Ganesh - Kumaresh|
|Priyadarshini Govind||Mohiniattam enthusiasts organised a national seminar at Chandralekha's Spaces on Elliots Beach Road, Besant Nagar. Organisers managed to get a good number of senior as well as established artists from the field to speak, demonstrate and conduct interactive sessions. While all participants contributed, two of them made a mark with their presentations. They are the eminent exponents of Mohiniattam, Neena Prasad and Gopika Varma.|
|Shanta Rati Misra|
|Sunil Kant Gupta|
Another senior dancer who makes fewer appearances in Chennai, Shanta Rati from Singapore, gave an excellent Kuchipudi performance at Bharat Kalachar. Some others I took notice of include Bhargavi Gopalan (Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan), Murugashankari (R.K. Swamy Auditorium), Anita Sivaraman (Narada Gana Sabha), Nrithya Pillai (Brahma Gana Sabha), Kavita Ramu, Umaa Namboodiri and Gayatri Balagurunathan (all three at Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan).
I was lucky that the last concert I attended was of high quality and I totally enjoyed every bit of it. Neena Prasad proved that she is the best interpreter of Mohiniattam, and the music and singing by Madhavan Namboodiri was outstanding. It is still ringing in my ears.
One important aspect I have noticed is the lack of rehearsals. During the season musicians are in high demand and dancers sometimes get just one practice with the orchestra. This actually spoils the show, however good the dancer may be. Dancers should also try to cut down on number of concerts and instead do a couple of performances with quality.
|Parul Padhya Dhar|
|Suphala||The best managed festival was 'Mad and Divine' organised by Karthik Fine Arts with Anita Ratnam as convener. Most of the lectures and presentations were educational. However, performances by Malavika Sarukkai, Preetha and Anita Ratnam, Rama Vaidyanathan and Mythili Prakash were particularly enjoyable for the way their classicism coupled with innovation. The best presentation among the four was by the Preetha and Anita combine. I would like to term 'Andal Andal' by Preetha and Anita as the best-packaged product of the season in terms of dance, choreography, movements, music, presentation, lights and stage design. Malavika as usual took the audience to a different world of trance while Rama Vaidyanathan made her mark in unique choreography and fresh approach to new themes. She is known for taking up challenging themes and knitting them beautifully to Bharata Natyam. Rama leaving the stage for almost 15 minutes to change costume however spoiled the continuity. Another dancer who took the stage by storm was Mythili Prakash with her superb ideas and neat choreography. Kudos to Anita Ratnam for her thought process and bringing together the best, which paved the way to a highly successful festival cum seminar. I only wish the entire exercise had less glamour and more simplicity.|
|Enakshi Das Sinha|
|Enakshi Das Sinha|
|Sahana Banerjee||A popular individual invited to inaugurate festivals seems to be Leela Samson. Is it because she is holding multiple responsibilities in key institutions? The Nalli group continues to be the biggest sponsor of events during the season while the title of best-organized festival in terms of audio, lights, discipline, etc. goes to the Music Academy. The Hindu newspaper continues to be number one in covering season concerts even though it has stiff competition from Times of India, New Indian Express and others. However artists in general have lots of complaints against the choice of critics from The Hindu who are biased and some allege that students of a particular senior guru write after taking mean advice.|
|ArtScape||It is heartening to note that a good of number fantastic solo dancers made their mark this year. Female solo Bharata Natyam dancers as usual took the limelight, but some of the male solo dancers also shone. These include A Lakshmanan (R.K. Swamy Auditorium), Navtej Singh Johar (Brahma Gana Sabha), Ajith Dass (Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan), Shankar Kandaswamy (Brahma Gana Sabha), Bhawajan Kumar and newcomer Kasi (a student of Viji Prakash) among others who showed their individual style and approach to dance. Lakshmanan's concert was highly satisfying with Mridangam Kannan giving his best. Navtej with his simplicity captured the mind and heart of the audience.|
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