Concluding the review of the Kathak Mahotsav
In stage presence, grace and elegance, Swati Sinha’s recital showed excellent training under Rajendra Gangani. After a reposeful invocation showing the devotee pleading with Shiva to grace her house in the Rajasthani lyric “Padharo Rangila Shambho” in Pilu, the Kundanlal Gangani Ganesh paran, a composition from the legacy of Jailalji Chakradhar, Holi kavit, unusual gat bhav, the one-legged chakkars in the pakhawaj composition learnt from Purushottam Das and the jugalbandi showed a fully proficient dancer. Does talented tablist Yogendra Gangani have to be so aggressive in his tabla playing, taking away from the tonal musicality of this instrument?
It was all in the family for the charming mother/daughter Marami Medhi and Megharanjini with Jaiprakash Medhi as vocalist. Their Kathak had grace and simplicity, evoking winsome appeal, the abhinaya conclusion providing a blended Meera bhajan and Kamroopi Assam lok geet lyric describing the butter thief Krishna with Yashoda chastising. But the dancers need to develop more depth in their art.
Mukta Joshi of Mumbai brought some vintage Roshan Kumari Kathak into play, the Ektali “Damaru Harahar Baaje” to the Teen tala vilambit, and movements with one hand slicing through the air, and Chaupalli incorporating four speeds and bedam tihai, and other compositions with very neat footwork bearing an identity which is different from the many Kathak manifestations seen.
But the festival highlight was the grandson of Sitara Devi, Vishal Krishna, whose effortlessly explosive Kathak with all the unique flavours of Benarsi culture, from the Shiv vandana with one legged stances showing the tandav Shiva “Varanasim Bhaje Viswanatham” to the squatting in full split on the sama, brought the audience to its feet. Here was a regional parampara in full flow. Like a cherubic little Krishna enjoying himself, his chakkars, the acrobatic poses and the insouciance of rhythmic brilliance projected another Gopi Krishna who, hopefully, will be carefully nurtured by the family.
All the Misra biradari were accompanists — Kaushal Krishna on tabla, Brijesh Misra vocal, Anand Misra on sitar and Mohan Misra providing padhant. As for the sheer rhythmic variety of Vishal’s “Thali Dance” he could be an inspiration for the Kuchipudi dancer whose ability for new rhythmic combinations dancing in tarangam has dried up.
Another very rewarding recital was by Alpana Vajpeyi from the Raigarh gharana. One congratulates her on the organisation of the sur-filled music, moving in its classical identity sung by Rasika Kulkarni. Srushti Gupta’s padhant and the music came together as allied souls. And what delicacy in the dancer, without a hint of any egoistic self indulgence! The slightest of eye glances could register a sam in the thaat. Typical Chakradhar Singh compositions flowed. The unsolved riddle was about the dadra, “Dekhi Dekhi Nari Bihari”, where one normally has seen the nayika’s exchange with her companion about Krishna’s sporting with the young maidens. But here was a changed accent with the gopi drawing Krishna’s attention to the maidens.
Among the seniors, it was nice to see Prerana Shrimali and Rajendra Gangani, representing the same Kundanlal Gangani legacy, come together in “Khoj” — where intra forms of Kathak and myriad footwork combinations represent a search for cohesion, and inner quiet. Traced through different ragas ending in Malhar, it was pleasing to see two persons with different types of energies bring their respective individual identities while rendering the same compositions.
Uma Sharma showed her mimetic strength as is her wont through Tulsidas’s poetry in “Panchavati”. Thanks to the late hour, one missed the entire performance.
The best part of the two sisters Saswati Sen and Vaswati Misra combining, from what one saw, was in the varied “Ta Thunga Taka Thunga” combinations. Both were in great form. Saswati in her nine-and-a-half matra tala was a delight. She also mimed the Doha “Kaha karan Saundar Nayi Abla Haath Jale” When Vaswati started her nritta she was in full cry with daughter providing good padhant and a fine tablist found in Mukund Dev.
Geetanjali Lal brings a dignity of bearing to her Kathak along with a fine sense of layakari, the crisp rhythmic flourishes she improvised to fit into the metrical cycle having nothing of pre-structured arithmetic. One saw the poetic charm of “Chanchal Nayan Chipe Na Chipaye” showing that unlike the moon going into hiding on amavasya, the sun hidden behind clouds, the butterflies hiding in the flower, the fish diving deep into the waters, the frog deep inside the well, the peacock out of sight during phagun, beautiful eyes cannot hide or be hidden. Charmingly mimed (though the abhinaya could have had more elaborations), this was one of the rare pieces not seen in Kathak performances today. With Jwala Prasad’s voice now back in its rich form, his singing of the Surdas pad “Chalat dekhi Jasumati Sukha paye” with Geetanjali providing abhinaya was regaling.
It is over 15 years since one saw the sisters Nalini Kamalini perform. With their individualistic style, the much younger fleet-footed dance of those days, with the two standing in tandem doing Jhap tala sequences had a certain verve which is now missing. But what one cannot fathom is the aesthetic logic of what the sisters perform, which seems completely different from what the rest of the Kathak clan does.