USHA RK, art consultant and the main person behind this festival.
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Veejay Sai is Indian classical music/dance critic and Special Correspondent of www.artindia.net. Veejay Sai can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org Copying this interview in part/full without the written permission of www.artindia.net is against law.
Lord Ramas dancing army
a very smart selection of keertanas, avoiding the over-sung over-popularized
and stereotyped ones, and working with a set of different dancers, Ushas
idea is as fresh as the paanakamu one partakes during the Sri Ramanavami
celebrations. The evenings program presented five Bharatanatyam
and one Kuchipudi dancer.
The next dancer turned out to be a master of bad timing. Unnath Jain, from Hassan district, needs far more polishing to even be a part of this, rather experienced, group of dancers. He danced to one of the best and most popular keertanas of Ramadasu Ikshvaku Kula tilaka messing it up beyond recognition. Zero-choreography and poise in his dancing was exasperating to watch. Even though the keertana was beautifully rendered by Srivatsas soulful voice, the dance on the stage was out of sync. The next two keertanas were presented by Gururaju in Kuchipudi style, breaking the monotony of the Bharatanatyam dancers. Weak as a patient, just out of the ICU, Gururajus nervousness were evident from his very entry. He did try to enact a scene from Jataayu moksham in the Ramayana, but he himself was dancing like a frail wingless bird without confidence. This was followed by a corpulent Somashekar performing Sita rama swamy ne chesina neramu yemi. His only neramu was his lack of rhythm which slowed down his entire dance. Once a dancer with an excellent slender and fit body, it was sad to watch Somashekar out of shape.
To enact abhinayam in Bhakti rasa is extremely difficult. However it is not impossible with a good concentrated effort and smart choreography. This aspect came forth in the last item of the evening which Bangalores best male Bharatanatyam dancer Sathyanarayan Raju performed. Dancing to Ye teeruga nannu daya choochedavo in Nadanaamakriya ragam, rendered in the heart wrenching voice Srivatsa, Sathya presented the keertana in interesting sancharis. Taking the story of the boatman who ferries Rama across the river, Shabhari who feeds Rama berries out of her devotion and Hanuman : Ramas loyal and devoted servant, Satyas smart usage of his angavastram as a prop fit aptly to the sahityam he was enacting. His clear lines, graceful hastas and expressions added the spectacular effect needed for the keertana. May be it is his clear understanding of telugu language that helped him in bringing some amount of freshness in his choreography. If improvised a little more, he can certainly add this keertana as a brilliant solo to his existing repertoire. The evening ended with a trivial group dance which looked it came straight out of old black and white mythological films where rows of girls make formations behind the heroine.
With all the arrangements made for the evening, one could sense the genuine intention which organizers like Usha had. She certainly did create history by introducing Ramadasu to the world of dancers. Except for Sathyanarayana Raju and Sheshadri one felt the other dancers werent taking anything serious and it was just another routine dance recital for them. The Ramayana is filled with numerous stories of bhakthi shown to lord Rama. Almost every other character in the epic has immense bhakthi in their narratives. Then why was it so difficult for these dancers to choose from such a large canvass and depict the rasa in ample measure? None of them portrayed the anguish-ridden devotion of Ramadasu, which was the most important feature of his bhaavam in most of his writings. The sense of betrayal by his god that he had which he expresses in those keertanas, was translated to nonexistence on stage by the dancers. A little bit of seriousness and much more grounding work would help them a long way especially because there are zealous entrepreneurs like Usha backing them believing in their art.
However the evening clearly belonged to dedicated and passionate Usha. Event organizers must take a lesson or two from her in how to be a perfect comparer. From making an exciting fresh script to gracefully presenting it Usha might just be Bangalores most experienced comparer for cultural events. Vocalist Srivatsa, Shankutala Prabhat doing the Nattuvangam, violin by Dayakar and Mridangam by Lingaraj made for an excellent orchestra. Venugopals flute did go off the track in bits and pieces. One needs to take their example from a duo like GS Rajan playing flute to Rama Vaidyanathans sancharis and understand what it means to have the musician-dancer thoughtfulness and chemistry on stage. They complement each other and dont compete unlike most other musicians who want to race with dancers.
A packed Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium, with the citys whos who turned up for the event, inspite of there being at least half a dozen other events, across the city on the same evening, thanks to the good will Usha holds with everyone. With the launch of this new organization spearheaded by a genuine art lover and a seasoned consultant like Usha, Bangalores cultural scene just got richer! May her tribe increase!
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