The highlight at Ranjana Gauhar's ‘Unbound Beats…' was the Manipuri dance Bande Mataram.
The Manipuri “Bande Mataram” curtain-raiser on the second evening of the annual two-day festival “Unbound beats and rhythms of India” at India Habitat Centre, was the success story of Utsav's event marking over two decades of activity under Odissi dancer Ranjana Gauhar. Guru Singhajit Singh has conceived a gem comprising an evenly balanced male/female participation with ten dancer/cymbal players (in the traditional vein of Manipuri Sankirtan Nata Palas and Nupi Palas performing Kartal-Cholom) evoking the motherland, as invocation.
Inspired by Manoharsai Keertan, the choreography with talas and ways of playing the cymbals, blending forceful energy with grace and delicacy, had eye-catching group arrangements. This triumph of visual aesthetics with a meditative involvement had no dull moment from start to finish. Music had Bina Devi's vocal support with Mohammad Alim on violin and Guru Singhajit Singh playing on the large drum. The specially designed Pung Cholom with four drummer/dancers was another highpoint of Manipuri aesthetics and finish.
Kuchipudi by Prateeksha Kashi, daughter/disciple of Vijayanti Kashi and Odissi by Sanchita Banerjee trained under famous names like Kelucharan, Ratikant, Sujata and Sharmila, showed good technique justifying the selection. Prateeksha's “Jayajaya Durge” Tarangam was a change from the much rendered Krishna, and less frequent Shiva Tarangams. Bharatanatyam by four foreign disciples of Saroja Vaidyanathan and Mohiniattam by Bharati Shivaji's students projected predictably well-rehearsed synchronicity.
Kathak artistes Anna Pattens and Sanedhip Bhimjee from Mauritius (with stints under Durga Lal, Gitanjali and Birju Maharaj) presenting “Kathas” underlined a transplanted art form acquiring cultural sensibilities suiting the ambience it functions in. Delightful western music soprano singer, guitar and drums, fused with tabla and sarangi while Sanadeep like a Viking with his lady love, performed Kathak ‘chakkars' and freezes full of dramatic power, presenting “Three facets of Love” - the classical Kathak grammar convincingly adapted to the thematic situation.
As a curtain-raiser on the opening day Kathakali Purappadu would have been ideal if only the performer Shime Mahdavi commanded full grasp over tala and technique. Not all the adjustment of Chenda player Unnikrishnan could hide the glaring inability to fit movement into the time slot, and to attempt Ashta Kalasam, one of the really difficult nritta sequences, was unwise.
A simplistic Odissi dance-drama “Dhammam Sharanam Gachhami” by the Ghoshal couple Ashok Kumar and Bandita had sringar narration throwing out of reckoning, the purported accent on the ever faithful and uncomplaining Yashodhara, the wronged wife of Siddharta who later emerges as Enlightened Buddha. The saving grace was the emoting ability of both dancers, plus the fine musical crew of Suraj Sethi (vocal), Prafulla Mangaraj (mardal), Jeevan Prakash Das (sitar) and Srinivasa (flute).
Sushma Ranganathan's Bharatanatyam fetched old world vibes from Balasaraswati's repertoire. Despite mobile mukhabhinaya, in the tricky mood of the Pantuvarali Padam “Adarkulle en inda padattam” wherein the nayika who has promised herself to Subrahmanya, asks for more time, warding off his impetuous ardour, the ‘padattam' or nayaka's impatient desire was insufficiently suggested. Commendably correct in the demanding rhythm of the Tanjore Quartette Kapi Tillana with its tattumettu corvai-s in all the five jatis, Sushma however lacks linear tautness in dance profile.
Abhimanyu Lal and Vidha Lal make a winsome duo, their Kathak virtuosity having all the ‘dhamaka' enthralling audiences. “Andade Baksh” was a nritta spectacle, its sringar inputs through the ghazal, expressed not through elaborate abhinaya but in interactive postural tableaux. Laudably controlled was Abhimanyu's Avarohan/footwork in a backward arithmetic from combinations of eight to the smallest denominator.
A king's dilemma
Anvesha Dance Theatre joining the Aman movement for eradication of ragging, mounted in the Habitat lobby, a grim tableau – a copper-coloured seemingly lifeless body, wrapped in layers of plastic sheet, slowly rolling to unravel heart-rending charcoal scribbles decrying the horrible death of Aman Kachroo from ragging.
On stage Sangeeta Sharma's choreography of the story of Aknandun, popular in Kashmiri Dastaan narration, revolved round the dilemma of a king and queen, who after several daughters are blessed with a son through a sadhu, who turns up after 12 years demanding that the son be handed over to him as promised. The Kashmiri music was melodic and melancholic in turns and Sangeeta's dance theatre in both sombre and light moods, blended her own creativity with unmistakable images inherited from her guru Narendra Sharma.