A festival of dance from across India was a feather in the cap of the Bengaluru-based organisation Nupur
Even as diabolical rumours spread panic amongst some in Bangalore city, Nitya Nritya, mounted by Nupur, a 35-year-old institution headed by Lalita Srinivasan, (Bengaluru’s well known senior practitioner of the Mysore Bharatanatyam style of Guru Venkatalakshamma), celebrated a three-day dance event with Northeastern Sattriya and Thang Ta sharing the performance platform to standing applause, with Kathak and Bharatanatyam. This festival, started 25 years ago but stalled in between with sponsorship scarcity, generously hosts pan-Indian dance forms featuring established and upcoming talent. This year yet another slot presented college performers. Coinciding with the announcement of the prestigious Shantala State dance award for Lalitha Srinivasan, the festival, using three venues JSS auditorium, Ravindra Rangashala and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, held consecutive morning academic deliberations with writers and art personalities on art criticism.
Anita Sharma’s nifty Sattriya lecture/demonstration, introduced by Dr. Sunil Kothari, was a clean winner, the Oras (Purush and Prakrti), Rajaghariya Sali, a few Mati Akharas, Nadubhangi and the springy Ula, and the Bhaona entrance and exit for kingly characters, and for a gopi — all executed to perfection by her and the disciples. Madhavadeva’s Jhumura from “Pimpara guchuwa” with the gopi/Krishna interaction was lively. Most evocative in expressional delineation was the Bhatima rendered by Anita. The evening performance of Nandi from Sutradhari in Kalyan and Ek tala, Ramdani with Melar Nach incorporating Mati Akharas, and Gitor Nach in Chutkala, Sutal and Ek tala and Uma/Rudra Samwaad by a comely, aesthetically costumed group gave the audience a telling introduction to Sattriya.
The Huyen Lallong Manipur Thang-Ta Cultural Association group led by G. Biseshwor Sharma with sword (Thang-Chungoi Yannaba), spear (Thang-To Chainaba) and stick (Cheirol Jagoi) martial art play thrilled the audience with slick professionalism and expertise, the springy graceful movements demonstrating an ideal springboard for Manipuri dance.
Urmila Satyanarayanan’s Bharatanatyam in the centrepiece, paying homage to manifestations of Devi, was very communicative, whether depicting “Karunakari Kambukanthi Kathyayini”, or Bhairavi or Pandya Kumari Madhurapurivasi Meenakshi, the interpretative passages embellished by the ragamalika singing of Swamimalai Suresh. One wished the teermanams in the vigorous, cleanly profiled movements had, at finishing points, more immaculate rhythmic exactitude. Urmila’s abhinaya exulted in depicting the courtesan in the Shanmukhapriya padam “Yaradi Vaasalil” followed by the directly opposite tone of the untried, innocent girl in the Behag “Tottu tottu pesinaan”.
The other senior dancer Chitra Chandrasehar Dasarathy, despite competent musical support, still under the hangover of fever, seemed tired, her presentation of Moolaveedu Venkataswamy Nattuvanar’s Natakurinji varnam “Chalamela jesevaiyya” having a surfeit of ‘karuna rasa’ without lacings of a more demanding nayika challenging Lord Ranganatha if her love for him was such a burden to bear “Nannu brova neeku bharama”. The too fast teermanams saw unfinished movements. In the Todi “Thaye Yashoda” abhinaya, after a tame start, the second half from “Anda Vasudevan evandaan” with the realisation that the young trickster the gopi is complaining of is the great God himself, was brilliantly expressive, showing the true prowess of the dancer.
Of the younger dancers, Radha Sridhar’s disciple Aishwarya Nityananda, in the Kharaharapriya varnam “Sringara Chaturane”, the nayika requesting the parrot to act as messenger and fetch her Lord Madanasundara, impressed in both nritta and nritya. Vocalist Balasubramani Sharma and nattuvangam by Pulakesi Kasturi were supportive.
Yamini Muthanna’s, pliable bodied Navagraha revelled in contortionist Yogic postures. Set to ragamalika music, neither theme nor presentation method with English introductions to each planet, encouraged rasa build-up. Having a refrain connecting all the passages in ragas like Revati, Kapi, Hindolam, etc., would enable an integrated rather than fractured presentation.
Preeti, disciple of Padmini Ravi, dances with uninhibited abandon, the openness never aimed at shallow prettiness. She successfully sustained the mugdha image of the unsophisticated hunter’s daughter Valli very well in the varnam, which converted even teermanams into narrative passages very intelligently. But all this bubbling energy without lacings of repose and inner quiet, becomes exhausting for the viewer. Lakshmi Ravi Khanna’s nattuvangam was most impressive.
Kathak couple Hari and Chetana, blessed with stage presence and synchronised movements, can afford to make their costumes less loud, without the orange outfit for a male. The white costume was fine. They need to fine tune their dance with more subtlety in aspects like thaat, and internalise emotion, which a stint under a reputed guru could provide guidelines for.
“Tat Tvam Asi” by Nupur, with nritta in the Mysore style vocabulary, illustrating the inner journey of the micro jeevatma yearning to be united with the macro Paramatma through the Gita Govinda ashtapadis, had its moments, though one would have preferred an animated male dancer as Krishna. An ashtapadi like “Priya Charusheele” expressing Krishna’s love for Radha not being included was strange. For this critic the Sutradhari who became occasional Sakhi was the most communicative dancer. Music too loud had one raga too many. A ragamalika setting for “Pralaya Payodijale” with Dashavatar manifestations fits in. But in ashtapadis where every verse is in another raga, mood evoking becomes difficult.
Mayuri Upadhyaya’s Contemporary Dance lecture with visuals, though different from the original programming of dance presentation by the group, clearly grounded in the Indian sensibility, was most informative.
Discerning viewers look forward to the more detailed version of Dr. Pappu Venugopal Rao’s Powerpoint presentation on Gita Govinda in literature, dance, music and films, after being treated to the edited version with its staggering, mind boggling statistics and visuals. An inclusive festival accommodating so many facets of art is a feather in the Nupur cap.