The week gone by brought Kathak in its many aspects to the fore.
So much of Kathak today has become just wizardry of rhythm with the aesthetics of the style drowned in virtuosity. Which is why it was so refreshing to watch Sushmita Ghosh, a senior disciple of Guru Munna Shukla, perform at the Alliance Francaise auditorium in “Aavaahan” — the poise, grace and finished elegance of her recital epitomising Kathak artistry in all its subtlety, without any of the loud razzmatazz. The quality of excellence spoke out in the very starting invocation to Shiva “Damaru Harkar Baje”, the elaborations woven round just bols “Da dhi da di da dhi na” bringing out the complementing Shiva/Parvati contrasts on two sides of the body, evocatively communicated without words. The iconography of Shiva as Vrishabhavahana(Nandi-mounted), or Pinakadhari came out in fleeting postures, full of impact, the dancer in brevity catching the dignity and power of the deity in full. The Jhap tala nritta presented was one of the best seen in recent times, its unusual quality starting with the pulse of the lehra refrain of sarod musician Pritam Ghoshal, with the tabla percussion of Shivshankar Ray, a blended delight highlighting the theka without fanciful flourishes, with impeccable rhythm and tonal music of the highest quality — a truly inspirational melodic base for the dancer. Thaat with just “Thei Tat Ta” was an artistic delight, softly reposeful, the impeccable ‘sama' with subtle griva sanchalan appearing each time like the self-completion of a flowing rhythm, without any sense of display or needless effusiveness. The small bandishes inherited from training under Guru Munna Shukla, and the rhythmic combinations woven into the 10-matra tala showed how within the strict laws of classical grammar and rhythm, there is so much scope for originality. The entire recital was proof of internalised rhythm, its unarticulated fractional points in the metrical cycle counter pointed with accented points to create delicate patterns.
One had to appreciate the dancer's efforts at getting such a good musical team. It was a pity that the musical interlude with the sarodist playing Durga got terminated abruptly with one of the strings snapping, percussionist Shivshankar Ray taking over to provide some rich moments of rhythm. The first half of the recital was charming with the dancer's students, mostly tiny tots of Akriti Foundation, trying to come to terms with the movements and grammar of Kathak. Sangamitra S. Dash sang the Desh thumri “Aavat Shyam lachak chale, mukut dhare” melodiously as the students gave a simple rendition. But in the Janasamohini tarana, the singing lacked sur control.
It is strange that dancers like Sushmita do not get as many chances to perform as they should.
It was Kathak again at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations' Azad Bhavan auditorium featuring Anjana Jha, initiated into Kathak under Sukhdevsingh Kushwaha, before coming under the tutelage of Rajendra Gangani at the Kathak Kendra. Starting with Shiva Stuti in Chatur tala of 12 matras and then presenting the main nritta segment in Ashtamangal of 11 matras, the dancer went on to Chakradhar paran and intra forms in Dhamar and tarana in Malkauns set to Jhap tala, with a concluding portion in Teen tala, presenting a gamut of all basic talas in her recital.
With a fine sense of rhythm and clarity of footwork, Anjana obviously has a sound foundation. As she evolves, what is now pleasing correctness and neat lines will develop a more definitive character. More of thehrao and a greater quality of repose contrasting with the drut laya would make her Kathak more appealing. In the paran amad in Tisra gati and Chakradhar paran in Ashtamangal, the speed for this critic took away from the beauty of movements, in the hurried flurry of hands. The Shiva imagery in the invocation, and the devotee as dasi calling out to Krishna to sanctify her home with his presence, based on a Rajasthani bhajan, with internalisation and evolving, will give the abhinaya aspect too, greater sharpness and interpretative variety. Mohit Gangani on tabla, Vijay Parihar the singer and Ayub Khan on the sarangi provided neat wing support. Padhant was not heard.
There is nothing wrong in settling for Hindi compering with neat introductions, instead of struggling with very poor English which only confuses.