The Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar festival revealed some fine talent

It was very reassuring to be in town to witness at least the last evening of dance performances by the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awardees, the presentations making one feel that Sangeet Natak Akademi’s choice for 2011 certainly could not be faulted. With aesthetic aharya, the Yakshagana enactment of the Panchavati scene with Vidya Kolyur as Shoorpanakha, projected a highly skilled performer who with her entrance exuded an energy which transformed the presentation which had begun with a staid Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in a convivial threesome till Shoorpanakha in her original form enters smelling human flesh and soliloquising, smacking her lips about “bhujiyas” and pickles made from it. It was a unique experience of Yakshagana, without the eloquence of Kannada prose, set in colloquial Hindi which the Bhagavatar sang in typical Carnatic ragas of Nattai, Reetigaula, Shanmukhapriya, Hamsadhwani, Mohanam, Madhyamavati, and so on. The entire effect was a little strange. But Shoorpanakha’s advances made to Rama who puts her off by sending her to Lakshmana who also rebuffs her declarations of love, were communicated through high spirited dancing and the most malleable of facial expressions and spoken dialogue. The entire narrative had its rib tickling moments. Reputed for male roles too, Vidya Kolur’s versatility as a performer was there for all to see. In the end the parading of all the characters was like a ‘oddologa’ where characters introduce themselves.

Nobody watching Sonali Mohapatra doing the Chakravaka pallavi in Odissi, the music composed by Nirmal Kumar Mohapatra, could have guessed that the impeccable chauka, bhramari and laya were by a severely aurally impaired dancer. There is a natural sensuality about Sonali’s dance, which, however, in pure nritta could perhaps curtail the over exuberant mukhabhinaya, reflecting a range of emotions — though the joy of pure movement in a dancer is always welcome. Unlike the slow opening out of the body through minimal bodily genuflexions to really fast movement as happens in most pallavis, Durgacharan Ranbir’s choreography which brings in many tones and variety, seems to start at a rigorous pace. The jugalbandi part of movement capturing the mood of music and rhythm was well done. The Odiya lyric “Kede chhanda janilo sahi Nandarajaro tiki pilati” choreographed by late Debaprasad Das, presented with great involvement by the dancer, surprisingly enlarged on each musical line elaborately — a feature one did not associate with the late guru’s straightforward non-sanchari abhinaya. With Durgacharan leading a good set of musicians, the dancer had the right support.

The evening could hardly have wished for a better ending than what was provided by Kathak dancer Namrata Pamnani trained under Bharati Gupta and Jaikishan Maharaj at the Kathak Kendra. Rarely in this day does one experience a dancer performing for the personal joy and thrill in the art form, rather than for an audience. Starting with the dhrupad “Poojan chali Mahadev” sung soulfully by Aditi Sharma a trained Dhrupad singer, Namrata, with her ati vilambit homage to the Lord, was in a private world. In the nritta part, weaving movements into the lehra refrain, Namrata from the thaat to kavit with intra-forms revelling in the meend of long drawn syllables, remained a very centred dancer — all movement seeming to come from an inner stillness. The interpretation of “Mora saiyan bulaye” where the beloved, braving the storm tossed waters of the river, an old boat and a not willing boatman, will cross to reach the other bank to answer the call of love in the middle of the night was unusually moving. Inspired by the wonderful singing, with evocative instrumental support, Namrata’s abhinaya had that quality of the nayika lost in love, oblivious to all else. This dancer, who has made the dance language her own, will go far. And one appreciated the way she, while performing, invariably moved naturally to the front of the mike when needed, instead of walking towards it.

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Window on society September 19, 2013