Kathak Kendra's realisation that old masterpieces choreographed by legendary maestros should be revisited by succeeding artiste generations to enrich their academic and aesthetic understanding, is all to the good. Chetana Jyotishi Beohar, the Director, has revealed acumen in designing an evening at the Kamani by the Kendra's Repertory, constituting reworked versions of old choreographic presentations.
Apart from the impressive group discipline, a point the Kendra's individualistic dancers have of late generally shown scant regard for, the neat musical accompaniment, with the singing mercifully sur-conscious and tuneful, was heartening. Jaikishen Maharaj's “Kramshah”, a recent work with an immaculately trained group of male and female dancers, pleased both in rendition and costume aesthetics.
Pandit Birju Maharaj's old composition “Naad Gunjan” based only on percussive tonal music, with Jaikishen resetting the revival, was another fine offer. The other very old Maharaji creation “Ghungroo Sangeet” where the solfa passages are based on raga Bhopali, with each pair of ghunguroos representing each of the “Sa Re Ga Pa Dha Sa” notes, brought back nostalgic memories for some who had seen this item of the raga dancing through the six pairs of ghunguroo-clad feet, in a Kendra festival years back. Birju Maharaj's “Anamya” has an autobiographical tone of a piece of iron lamenting its bloody history as a sword it was cast into by the blacksmith into whose hands it fell. How fortunate was its fellow iron made into a temple bell pealing its eternal peace message! Again Jaikishen Maharaj's recasting in showing the contrast between dancers in red and gold tops dancing to temple bells, and the aggressive sword fight steps, overdid the idea, spilling beyond the optimum point thereby losing the urgency of message.
A winner in its showmanship, and vivacious dancing to 10- and 16-beat cycles by the red and white clad, supremely graceful, female dancers gliding in swirling skirts was “The Spirit” (Atman would be a better title) by Geetanjali Lal. Geetanjali's “Andaaz-e-Tarannum” in Darbari, catching the Moghul era flavour in Raks, Andaaz, Sher-o-Shayari, Salami and Tarana, had four male dancers in white with red ‘anchal', revelling in showing off their drut ‘peir ka kamaal.” Prerana Shrimali's “Sampada” with all the main aspects of Kathak incorporating the improvisational element in a group work, was unique and well performed by the Repertory. The Kendra's nritta aspect is known. It is time now for the institution to think of serious new themes using the Kathak idiom.
It was more Kathak by the Rag Virag Educational and Cultural Society Kathak festival at the Shri Ram Centre, featuring a blend of established names and duets by juniors and seniors. A more time-conscious start and a less late realisation by the effervescent AIR compere to shake off her high heeled shoes on stage would have been appreciated. When Deepak Maharaj took the stage on the first evening, it was beyond 9 o'clock, and one stayed back to take in his upaj brilliance, graceful thaat, composition showing the uncannily placed ‘dha' at various points, the deft ‘kalai' use, and the absolute command over the “Takita Takita Dhin” variations. Singer Santosh's mellow singing, Jaikishen Maharaj (pakhawaj), and Ambika Prasad's fine tabla interventions added.
Rajendra Kumar Gangani's disciple Tripti Sanwal's fine feel for movement, her stage presence and joy in dancing, along with Ajay Kumar's correct but less ebullient partnership, went on endlessly when so many others dancers were still to follow. Barun Banerjee (whose padhant and nritta lacked that razor sharp adroit quality), partnering the established graceful disciple of Jaikishen Maharaj Punita Sharma , seemed low-key lacking in vitality. Garima Bhargava and Neha Verma presented neat Jaipur gharana bandishes. Alluringly redolent of clarity, grace and finished movements with perfect space understanding in the 12,10, 14 and 16 matra presentation (with Deepak Maharaj's singing on tape), were Jaikishen Maharaj's two disciples Madhusmita Handique and Shakshi Kumar. Notwithstanding fine compositions, Muzafar Mullah's Pancham Savari of 15 matras with Vidyagauri looked hurried in the hand movements.
Rajendra Kumar Gangani's mellow recital of vintage Jaipur with Anuradha Pal's tabla accompaniment, in improvisational upaj ched/chad, “Na Dhin Dhin Na”, and kavits showcased unique Kundanlal Gangani bandishes.