There is more lec-dem than full-fledged performance when it comes to senior Kathak artistes; so much so that we have begun to believe that Kathak is all about spelling out the bhol and enacting on the footwork. Call it ‘adakari’ (abhinaya) or ‘layakari’ (rhythmic execution), it has no continuity if that’s what you are looking for in a dance performance. And when it is none other than the world renowned Guru Birju Maharaj’s son, your expectations are soaring even before the curtains are up.
Arrayed in bright costume and make-up, Deepak Maharaj zoomed on to the stage to announce an Arthanareeshwar in raag Bhopali. First in the vilambit and then to the druth, the accompanist was fine doing his bit, but Deepak’s hastabhinaya was within a narrow radius that made us feel a sort of restriction on hand gestures while his eyebrows flew at the drop of a hat whether it necessitated such an expression or not. The delineations of the tandava and lasya aspects were there to see but his style of execution seemed to gloss over all gestures before it sank into the audience mind and vision.
After this, it was a lec-dem in actuality. He wanted to demonstrate a few ‘upaj’ set to teen taal about gopis approaching Krishna, their abode of moksha. This as well as the bandish he rendered vocally and then went into a jugalbandi with the tabla — either of the two did not get translated with clarity through dance.
Exaggerated facial expression of gopis with covered heads moving around was all that we witnessed. The language of the anklet bells should be able to convey the thought and action that was spelt out before undertaking the exercise. The only place where his footwork impressed was in the demonstration of ‘layakari’ where the bhol got translated with vigorous dance supported by an equally energetic percussion. At times, Pranshu Chaturlal (tabla) overshadowed the artiste with his excellence.
Tori mai na maanoongi…, a thumri, his father’s composition, was lost with a lack of flow in expression and a continuity that makes for full appreciation. However, Deepak Maharaj proved to be a good singer with an attractive tone at that. The ‘Mayoor ghat’ (peacock gait to rhythm) did not gel with his body kinetics and sorry to say, it just fell flat. Some descendents of maestros may have been born to teach and not perform and perhaps Deepak Maharaj falls into that slot.
The dance was part of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival under the aegis of Srjan at Ravindra Mandap.