Art is a reflection of life

Speaking from their positions Praveen, Shobha Narayan and Madhu  

The pattering rain last Friday added charm to the conversation between practitioners of two major Indian classical dance forms at the Bangalore International Centre. Despite the uncompromising rain, the hall was full, with an eager audience waiting to witness the dance demonstrations by Bharatanatyam dancer Praveen Kumar and Kathak danseuse Madhu Nataraj, moderated by writer Shoba Narayan.

The conversation began with a typical set of questions -- history, evolution of the dance forms, in the North and South respectively. With other nuanced matters coming into the discussion, Madhu was asked about the challenges of depicting a particular rasa, even as its beauty is kept. Madhu Nataraj recalled an incident from her early life: moments after a terrible break up during her college years, she had to perform on stage. “How on earth could she deliver in such a mental make-up,” she thought anxiously, to herself. After the show, however, “my mother, the late dance guru Maya Rao came to me and whispered ‘do you know your abhinaya has improved?’ I was shocked, but that is how it works. Abhinaya is just a reflection of your experiences in life. The vast canvas of your experience determines the depth of your abhinaya.”

Art is a reflection of life

“As the medium of expression for dancers is not something outside the body, anubhava becomes a crucial aspect of their work. Hence, life is not a separate parcel for dancers,” said Praveen. “Any stone can be turned into an idol but unless it ensues divine energy around it, it will not be worshipped. Likewise, if a dancer does not imbibe an innate charm, the audience will not enjoy watching her,” observed Madhu, who was quoting the legendary Sonal Mansingh.

Therefore, it is ‘manodharma’ that becomes a deciding factor for a dancer. She added, “it is not sufficient that a student chooses dance, but the art form also has to choose the dancer!”

The later half of the session was exclusively on Sringara rasa, the grandest of all rasas. Praveen stood out in his portrayal of the shringara rasa from a man’s perspective which is rare in classical narratives. He demonstrated a javali where Krishna is charmed by a beautiful, but unyielding girl. Here Krishna tries his best to win over her while in the typical narrative it is the nayika who would be waiting for him. Krishna boasts of how women long for his attention, even as his longing for the nayika was subtly depicted. Praveen needs to be applauded for the choice of the piece, however one felt that the expression for various sangatis could have been tried out more differently.

Art is a reflection of life

Madhu danced gracefully to a thumri Abke Saavan Ghar Aa, sung by Sangeetha Katti, depicting Sringara rasa. Just as the rain brought charm to the environment, Madhu with her iterations on dance and demonstrations of sringara rasa transported the very place to a magical sphere.

Such is the power of sringara rasa, that it can have various forms but how it stands out separately is what makes for its charm. Referring to the vachanas by saint Akka Mahadevi, Madhu said, “Akka’s vachanas, though deeply spiritual, have an erotic overtone to them. Thus sringara need not always be expressed as a romantic love, but as a yearning for any kind of union.” Praveen thinks that Sringara rasa has a wide gamut which includes a baby longing to hold on to its mother, or when moonlight falls on a lake with lotus blooms.

The discussion was remarkable in the way it engaged with the audience most of whom were not adept at classical dance.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 6:33:50 PM |

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