REVIEW It was a busy week, with tributes to a late guru and celebrations ushering in the New Year. Leela Venkataraman

It was a week where the old were remembered with reverence and alongside was the spirit of Baisakhi, the New Year ushered with celebratory fervour. For its 25th Guru Pranam Utsav, paying homage to the contribution of the late Guru Srinath — suddenly snatched from the scene in 1987, through an accident — Vaishali Kala Kendra with very frugal photographic material managed to create an aesthetic, nifty video presentation on his life and work. The invocation by students of Vaishali Kala Kendra, led by Jyoti Srivastava, in the homage to Ganapati in “Tandava Nritta Hari Gajanana” (after the Panchadeva namaskar) presented commendable group discipline with well-trained students Rahul, Isha, Varsha, Suchira, Ranjeeta and Deepshika. The only point that needs more work is the changeover from multiples of seven syllables to eight syllables in the tala, when the footwork was a fraction of a shade earlier than warranted by the tempo set by the music. Rahul, otherwise a dancer with presence and control, must pay attention to the foot contact rhythm, which tends to go a little fast. In the Sabhinaya Pallavi, the Saveri Ektali Pallavi in the Dhyana Shloka — with the arohana-avarohana visualising the Ragini as a tribal (Sawara) with snakes draped round her — gives scope for imaginative visualisation. Neat in the group arrangements, the abhinaya for the concluding part, “Chhadi de Kanha jibi mo Jamuna” by Jyoti, was convincing.

What a treat Abhinna Sundar Gotipua Nrutya Parishad from Raghurajpur turned out to be! One has seen enough Bandha Nrutya not to get carried away by it. But the acrobatics began right from the “Gurur Brahma” hymn. And what was most enjoyable was how dramatically “Ahe nilo sailo” was presented. Each appearance of Vishnu — astride his Garuda for deliverance in Gajendramoksha, or perched atop the human pyramid to create never-ending yards of cloth to save Draupadi’s honour, or emerging from inside a human closet to fell Hiranyakashipu to save Prahlada — was conceived creatively. As for the acrobatics of Bandha, there was no end; like drinking water, the youngsters went from one asana to another.

Guru Banamali Maharana was chosen as the fitting awardee for 2013 by Vaishali Kala Kendra. A busy performance schedule meant seeing only part of the two-day festival.

Kuchipudi ‘Krishna Smaranam’

Being a professional with a post graduate degree in Business Administration does not seem to stand in the way of T. Reddi Lakshmi in pursuing a career in Kuchipudi, as a disciple of Vanashree and Jaya Rama Rao. The evening at India International Centre in New Delhi presented a programme away from the oft-done repertoire. Devoted to the Krishna theme, “Swagatam Krishna” as an invocation saw the nayika calling out her welcome to the enchanting Krishna, whispering his manifold names like “Govinda”, “Damodara” and “Madhava” to the pet parrot as the messenger who would deliver her message to the deity. In a different mood was the Meera Bhajan based on the music in Desh by the late Ravi Shankar, where Meera’s love was played out amidst the Rana’s attempts at trying to eliminate her because of her Krishna obsession. With Sudha Raghuraman’s vocal support, which while classically very strong is not in the strictly conventional Kuchipudi mould, the dancer managed to keep rhythm and mime in sync with Tanjavur Kesavan on the mridangam, the guru conducting and Raghuraman providing melodious flute accompaniment. Lakshmi is a dancer with both nritta and the interpretative aspect under control. Her abhinaya, while underplayed, is still intense.

In the Tarangam in Reetigowla with ragas like Kalyani and Suratti coming in later, Lakshmi’s dance while balanced on the rim of the brass plate was immaculate. Also, with Jaya Rama Rao’s spirited nattuvangam, the rhythmic combinations were a refreshing change from the usual patterns. And Sudha Raghuraman’s own Tillana creation in Brindavan Saranga, with an Abhang as finale, brought down the curtain for the evening.

New Year celebrations

Baisakhi celebrations assume different regional forms with Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Punjab ushering in the New Year according to the Hindu calendar, each in its own way. For the entire Bengali population, no matter what the faith, this is a time for bonding and festivities. At a time when cultural expressions in the Bengali language abound, both Bengal and Bangladesh share the bonhomie. Bangladesh High Commission presented a pleasant evening of music, of narration of Tagore’s “Hathaath Dekhai”, and graceful free-style dance based on Bengali lyrics portraying shades of love and togetherness. Impresario India’s two-day festival at King’s Plaza in the IIC had Kankana Mitra Roy Chowdhury in her Padavali programme, showing the shared joy literature and music in the regional language provides for Bengalis of all denominations. The regional variations in narrating the Radha-Krishna interaction are reflected in the poetry where Radha, when challenged on why there is no water with her to prove that she has been at the Jamuna all day, replies that the proof is in the water of her tears — copiously shed when Krishna has departed for Mathura. Dreams are wonderful for the gopis for they enable them to experience with vividness the delight of being with Krishna.

The singer, though not sur-perfect, had emotion, and despite the too loud khol (which was otherwise competently played) and flute not always in matched sur, her presentation was loved by the audience.

The Kathak visualised by Jaikishen Maharaj and presented by Kathak Kendra was in both rhythm and music very competently led by the former. The male dancer displayed excellent virtuosity. The female dancers gracefully presented the Devi Durga Stuti, the reverence and rhythmic clarity needing more of the power of Shakti in the attitude of the dancers.

The nine-matra Vasant tala presentation was excellent, and Jaikishan seems to have cultivated a flair for this tala. Tarana in Pooryadhanashree was followed by the production “Ritu Vasant”, where both abhinaya and nritta combined to portray the connection in seasonal changes in nature and how they influence the agonies and ecstasy of sringar. Despite a very large crew of musicians and the sound system demonstrating occasional disturbances, music was disciplined.

Bimbavati Devi, daughter-disciple of the late Guru Bipin Singh and wife Kalavati Devi, has now stepped into her own in Manipuri. On the medium-sized stage mounted by Impresario India, her large troupe — even while looking like one too many at times — gave a very enjoyable rendition of Leichand, visualised by Bimbavati in an interwoven mesh of all the ritualistic dances of Manipur. Bengali Padavalis, Meitei lyrics, and Ashtapadis from the Gita Govinda were all strung together along with the Cholom dances to produce variety.