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Updated: September 3, 2009 18:33 IST

Art without artifice

LEELA VENKATARAMAN
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Touching simplicity: Alpana Vajpeyi.
Touching simplicity: Alpana Vajpeyi.

Alpana Vajpeyi’s Kathak dance touched a chord with the audience while Jyoti Srivastava stood out in the Krishna ballet.

As in all facets of life, in dance too cleverness rather than the genuine article is more common. All the more reason why Alpana Vajpeyi’s Kathak art at the IIC, without any hint of artifice, struck one as coming from the heart.

A disciple of Kartik Ram and Ram Lal of the Raigarh gharana, her dance, by standards of today’s Kathak, would be considered very old world. But it is precisely this simplicity with no guile that touched the audience chord. Following the “Vakratunda Mahakaya” prayer, “Prathama Sumeera Sri Ganesh” vandana was followed by a neat Teen tala demonstration comprising Raigarh gharana bandishes.

If one was looking for something more spirited and forceful, it came in the Jhap tala sequence. Raja Chakradhar Singh who borrowed freely from both the Jaipur and the Lucknow streams of Kathak, produced out of the syncretism a gharana with its own distinct identity.

Full of onomatopoeic sounds, every bandish has parmelu-like bols, reminiscent of nature’s chirping birds, crashing thunder, lightning, etc. The tabla overture for the Jhap tala sequence by Vishwakarma projected restrained aesthetics far from the aggressive loudness in percussion playing today. Kavits like “Chandrabadani Mrigalochani” the abhisarika nayika portrayal in the gat nikas and gat bhav section, the tabla/pakhawaj joda, the dal badal paran, Guru Ram Lal’s compositions with Roshan Kumari type chakkars and Shiva Tandav and Lasya knitted into nritta items in the Lachhu Maharaj fashion were all executed with finesse. But what this critic found quite fascinating were the crisp, fleeting rhythmic creations of the guru Ram Lal — fitting into just one avartan, like flowers strewn at random.

If the Shiva item in Bhopali seemed rather tame in mood, the thumri finale “Ghir ghir ayi badarva” in its underplayed refinement and sensitivity more than made up. Srushti Gupte’s parhant was clear and spirited. Rachna Sharma sang tunefully with Kamal Khan on sarangi and Vidyadhar Apte on flute providing suitable accompaniment.

The Krishna resonances

Revisiting the production Krishna choreographed by her late Guru Srinath Raut, Jyoti Srivastava and her disciples performing before an involved large audience at Gurgaon’s Epicentre visualised the prankster, butter thief and romancing cowherd aspects through a synchronised performance, with Jyoti and the older Krishna Rahul Varshney standing out as solo stars. The action of the ballet at two simultaneous levels saw the narrative unfolding as per the lyric, with the outside observer/devotee Jyoti, in evocative abhinaya marvelling at the scene.

Despite uneven abilities of disciples, the group combined well with Dasavatar, the kavit-type sabda/swara patha descriptions of Madhusudhan Balyachitram, the Tarijham Vasant pallavi very effective. The Gita Govind “Chandanacharchita” needed more than one gopi with Krishna as Radha looked on admiringly. The letdown came from three instrumentalists on violin, flute and sitar — sounding raucous in parts and out of sruti alignment, and singer Prashant Behera whose performance in the second half faltered.

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