While Udgamam afforded an opportunity to young talent, Tagore through the eyes of folk artistes was an interesting presentation.
Dancers and cultural activists, Jayaprabha Menon heading International Academy of Mohiniattam and Kavita Dwibedi of Odissi Academy, jointly mounted Udgamam, an annual event to project young talent. Anjali Krishnan's Mohiniattam providing the curtain raiser for the evening at the Stein auditorium, had in the clarity of movement, technique and expression adequate proof of correct training under Jayaprabha, whose disciple she has been for three years. The playful Ganesh who rides the mooshika or mouse (“Prana mooshikan mel eri vilaiyadum”) was invoked in the opening item set to Arabhi, with a precursor in Nattai (of which mention was omitted). Next was mukhachalam, a pure rhythm and technique-oriented item, set to a ragamalika in the Sopanam mode of music, the Nattai, Mohanam and Neelambari passages set to indigenous Kerala talams spaced differently from near equivalents in Carnatic music.
The dancer of the evening was Bhavana Patnaik, an Odissi disciple of Kavita Dwibedi. Her batu nritya, one of the finest items of the Odissi margam with the most lilting mardala ukkutas, which seems to have gone out of vogue today, was performed with perfectly isolated torso movements, never jerky, and clean ‘chauka' and ‘tribhangi', the main stylistic concerns of Odissi movement technique. With an attractive and relaxed stage presence, this 15-year-old, in rhythmic grasp and movement already has a foundation she can build on. An intelligent choice for a young girl, “Kahin gole Murali Phunka” the popular Banamali song describing the nayika, searching for the one who plays the flute in different bodily attitudes (“vibhanga bhangire murali bajayi”) enchanting the young women (“yuvati rasiya kamini”) was charmingly communicative.
Kathak had its new face in Asavari Sood, a disciple of Malti Shyam. She started with the Hamsadhwani invocation, very abhang in musical style, with a kavit woven in, well enough. But in the chakkars, and oh-so-soft footwork to the music set to Jog, well choreographed by Malti, rhythmic assertion was missing and the entire recital lacked weight. From a dancer whose introduction cited training in several dance genres, (perhaps divided attention dilutes in-depth focus) including Ballet, what was presented seemed curiously light.
The disappointing Bharatanatyam conclusion, despite live music for a prolonged programme, featured Snigdha Menon of Bombay, a disciple of Gayatri Subramaniam. Tautness and geometry of Bharatanatyam's linear dimensions, tightness of rhythm, and the way the Shankarabharanam varnam “Karunai seidida vaaraai, undanai naadinen” (attributed to Rajee Narayanan) was interpreted, left much to be desired. With the knees awkwardly bent front instead of sideways (nata instead of kishipta) in the araimandi, with smudged ‘tattumettu', ‘sarukkais' at a speed where balance could not be maintained, and total absence of elaboration or sanchari even from the first musical line, the dance had too many areas with rough edges. And a varnam with almost the entire musical structure an imitation of “Manavi cheko na” the Tanjore Quartette varnam in muktaipu and charanam solfa passages, seemed to lack an integrated feel and a central nayika motif — barring a vague one of bhakti/with sringar hinted at. And suddenly like a sore thumb sticking out was a passage mentioning the dashavatars, set to Revati. Tillana in Brindavani Sarang concluded what was a very mixed-up recital, despite fair musical support.
Unusual in concept and design, Impresario India's evening at Stein auditorium focussed on Tagore through the eyes of folk artistes, eminently fitting part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the poet laureate. The evening began with Jhumur dance and song with typical feathered headgear and dancing on stilts by girls from Mahila Karam Akhra Swanirbhar Dol (Purulia 1 village Chakra) to tunes of Rabindra Sangeet, Bhasker Ray singing to translation in Kurmali language by Purulia poet Sunil Mahato. Very interesting was the “Patachitra Gaan”, with Manimala and Rani Chitrakar from Naya village singing a ‘Pater gaan' narrative explaining the Patuas or paintings of traditional scroll painters of Medinipore, pertaining to the life of Rabindranath Tagore from birth to death.
“Chitrangada Sambad” in Purulia Chhau style by Binadhar Kumar Chau Nritya from Bamnia village, based on Tagore's “Chitrangada” was an inventive creation, the male Purulia Chhau dancer as Chitrangada having certain advantages in portraying the martial princess who yearned for feminine grace on losing her heart to Arjun. True, the singing at times became raucously out of tune. But this did not detract from the vitality of presentation. The best part of the evening comprised the excellent music of the Bauls of Nadia Arjun Khypa (ektara, vocal) and Nikhil Biswas (ektara, vocal), with the Rabindra Sangeet by Riddhi Bandopadhyaya and Bhasker Sen from Kolkata, the interaction reaching a peak in “Ekla Chalo Re”.