Bowing to the beauty of Orchha

Memorable festival: A glimpse of heritage

Memorable festival: A glimpse of heritage  

The debut edition of ‘Namaste Orchha’ celebrated art and heritage in a quaint setting

Contemporary art is best appreciated in the context of our rich heritage. The Madhya Pradesh government took care to showcase several magnificent monuments and spots during its two-day extravaganza, Namaste Orchha.

The festival started with a commissioned contemporary dance drama by the Delhi-based Sadhya group. The story, they projected, was how Orchha came to be Lord Rama’s kingdom. The 30-minute beautifully choreographed piece narrated the story of the Orchha Queen, who insisted on going to Ayodhya to bring back Lord Rama to Orchha.

The depiction of Lord Rama was an ingenious conception, using a puppet to depict the Lord, with a masked face of gold. Aesthetically conceived, the image had a lasting impact. Another lovely touch was lighting up the entire fort wall, which was the backdrop, when Lord Rama is ensconced in the Rani Mahal.

The use of light and musical imagery (flute to remind one of Lord Krishna) was interesting; one wished the dance movements had a bit more variety as, towards the end, they tended to be repetitive. This beautiful introductory act, with elegant costumes, set the tone for the festival.

The next act was a brief audiovisual on the history of Orchha. It, again, brought out the story of Lord Rama in Orchha. Made by Delhi-based Springbox Films, the audiovisual touched upon the rich musical tradition of Madhya Pradesh, with the Gwalior Gharana (vocal) and Maihar Gharana (instrumental), reminding the audience of the state’s contribution to the classical tradition.

With graphics combined with paintings, old photos, newly shot visuals and powerful music, the audiovisual was a grand spectacle, screened on the huge walls of the Jahangir palace in the Orchha fort. One hopes it will be shown to tourists who visit the fort, as a one-time screening would be a waste.

Yasmin Kidwai, who conceived the project, said, “We hope MP Tourism uses this work in the future too.”

Shubha Mudgal in performance at the festival

Shubha Mudgal in performance at the festival  

The next evening’s cultural performances started with Shubha Mudgal accompanied, as always, by Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla and Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium. Disciple Shivangini Yeashu Yuvraj with her clear tuneful voice provided vocal accompaniment. With a time slot of only 30 minutes, which Shubha stuck to with her usual rectitude, the presentation was not one of her best, but one had to admire the perfection of her repertoire — the opening piece in Raga Aiman was dedicated to Lord Rama, the ruler of Orchha. The composition was of her Guru Pt. Ramashreya Jha, ‘Jab Hari dhanush dhare’. The next piece was as appropriate, as the concert was on the Betwa river ghat, a piece, ‘Laao nayeeya’ composed by 19th century Bharatendu Harishchandra, linking the story of the ‘kewat’ of Lord Rama with the softly flowing river behind. Tuned by Aneesh Pradhan, the piece was based on raga Madhukauns, a conscious effort by Shubha to try to sing thumris in ragas other than the commonly prevalent. The last piece was a Hori , ‘Aaj khelen Holi Kanhaiya ghar’.

Aditi Mangaldas and her troupe presented ‘Uncharted Seas’. The music was by Shubha Mudgal, interestingly all in raga Bageshwari. With Aditi’s excellent, muted coloured costumes, and her creative energy, the performance was high on aesthetics. Aditi’s solo act, moving only her ghungroos, in agitation, then in calm, to depict her search, was masterly.

The concluding performance was again by Sadhya. Titled ‘Maha Arti’, it simulated an aarti on the river. Using conches and bells, fire and movement, and the Bengali dhuna, all the three senses were invoked subtly in a memorable presentation; without resorting to the obvious. The piece in raga Des on the sitar by Suhel Sayed Khan was haunting.

The concluding entertainment acts were rock bands Mrigya, (Bhopal-based sitarist Smita Nagdev joined them), Indian Ocean (Shubha Mudgal and folk singers Kaluram Bamaniya joined them) and the French megastar Manu Chau. The diversity of the performances in the richly endowed Orchha, made the festival memorable.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 8:39:19 AM |

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