What happens when senior artistes think differently about `tehzeeb' in art? Tabla player Aneesh Pradhan and dancer Aditi Mangaldas strike up an interesting exchange about pupils, tradition and more
They represent the contemporary generation of Indian artistes - suave, intelligent and ever questioning to find a new path and explore unknown vistas. Their worldview is rooted in the Indian ethos and yet totally global in its myriad manifestations.Alka Raghuvanshi brings together tabla player Aneesh Pradhan and dancer Aditi Mangaldas, who have worked together in the past and share a comfortable camraderie, to talk about the arts and their positioning in it.Aditi: Why are you called `Munshiji' by your friends?!Aneesh: Never mind me! Why are you called `Munshiji'?!Aditi: Perhaps because I keep filling up reams of registers about what needs to be done in my production! Unfortunately it doesn't extend to the rest my life! Now your turn to own up!Aneesh: It was a fallout of my PhD training. All the meticulous research methodology stayed with me!Aditi: How does a trained academic deal with the hypocrisy of the art world?Aneesh: When I am asked whether I relate to all the formalities of the music world like feet touching and ijaazat etc., I find it difficult to answer, for at one level I relate to it and am comfortable doing it, but when my students do it to me, I feel ridiculous for in a way they are putting one in the same category as the gurus and that makes me really uncomfortable.Aditi: Initially feet touching and all used to bother me a lot. But as I grew older I realised that it was a relationship not only between me and the guru but also between me and society. But when my students do it to me I find it a bit silly, but I suppose it has more to do with your self-perception. My family was very close to J. Krishnamurthy and I remember, he would just sit down on the floor when someone touched his feet!Aneesh: But on the other hand when I am teaching, it is not only the tabla that I am teaching - it is about personality development the tehzeeb that goes with it and sharing all the aspects of what I have learnt. For it is part of the desire to pass it on to somebody with a contemporary perspective.Aditi: I have lots of very lively discussions with members of my company for I don't want to create clones like some senior gurus and they are free to learn from whoever they want.Aneesh: Exactly! None can be a complete original but I'd rather they were bad originals rather than wonderful clones!Aditi: How do you deal with stylistic complications of students who have been learning from another guru?Aneesh: I tell them to seek permission but at the same time I don't see them as my property. I want them to be convinced for I am happy to explain my logic as to why I play a certain piece the way I do. Teaching has been a major education for me as well.Aditi: Students come to me wanting to learn only `items'. I find that very distressing, for dance is a process not a mere collection of `items'!Aneesh: After all, we are living in the age of the Indian idol! You have chosen to express yourself in an idiom that is rooted in Kathak, but doesn't strictly adhere to the traditional format. What triggered off this journey?Aditi: I have been dancing since I was five, but there came a point when I started feeling that some part of me was not dancing. My guru Kumudini Lakhia then sent me to Delhi (from Ahmedabad) to train under Guru Birju Maharaj. Here too after nearly six years I started feeling that some part of me was not dancing. I think it was my involvement with women's issues that provided the conviction - besides I was fed up of feeling (emoting) shy, getting drenched at the panghat!Aneesh: How did the traditionalists respond?Aditi: The tug of war continues! They thought I was irreverent! But the lec-dem format was just not me.Aneesh: While I'm not caught up in the sound competition, there are accompanists who don't want to play with a vocalist for they say theka bajana hota hai - little realising that the restraint that exists in playing the theka is phenomenal - only if they play it intelligently - and that is the real toughie!