Dance

Light, camera, concert

Bharatanatyam dancer Shobana at the live recording in Narada Gana Sabha   | Photo Credit: Srinivasan KV

Sitting in a large auditorium full of empty seats and watching an eminent artiste perform is an exceptionally strange experience for a rasika. In a sense, it is a way to know what it takes to challenge the old and create anew. Understanding how artistes and organisers are grappling with the new normal is especially important today when the classical arts are struggling with a deep isolation and audience disconnect.

December Season is here, but not with its usual excitement. Concerts are being streamed virtually for audiences. They are, however, being performed and recorded in the various sabha halls. We visited one such recording to give you a sneak peek into the mood and setting of these ‘remote’ Margazhi performances.

On December 7, when the city was in the middle of torrential rainfall, inside the Narada Gana Sabha Hall, Bharatanatyam dancer Shobana was busy live-recording a performance that would be streamed as part of the Yours Truly Margazhi festival, presented by a consortium of 13 sabhas .

As we enter the hall, recorded music echoes through the empty stands. It is switched off when the artiste and technicians pause to make some adjustments. Even though the duration of the final performance will be around 70 minutes, the recording stretches to a few hours.

CHENNAI: 08/12/2020---- Barathanatyam Dancer Shobana performence video recording at Narada Gana Sabha. Due to Covid 19 pandemic all the music programmes are set to be telecast online during the Dercember Muisc Season 2020. Photo: Srinivasan KV / The Hindu

CHENNAI: 08/12/2020---- Barathanatyam Dancer Shobana performence video recording at Narada Gana Sabha. Due to Covid 19 pandemic all the music programmes are set to be telecast online during the Dercember Muisc Season 2020. Photo: Srinivasan KV / The Hindu   | Photo Credit: Srinivasan KV

Canvas of emotions

“Are cameras rolling?”calls out Shobana from the stage into the melting darkness of the auditorium. The cameramen signal assent, and the hall once again fills with music as the dancer performs the popular Purandaradasa piece, ‘Jagadodharana’, her face turning into a canvas of emotions.

There are four cameras — two on both sides of the stage, one in row one, and one at the far end of the auditorium. “All cameras are capturing the action as you can see on the monitor,” says R. Sundar, treasurer, Federation of City Sabhas.

Shobana suddenly stops in the middle of the performance. “I have to do that over again,” she says aloud. The cameras stop too. The shoot resumes and the dancer goes back to portraying Purandaradasa’s ecstatic praise of Krishna. Once the piece is successfully recorded, the crew applauds. Shobana gestures that she is going backstage to get ready for the next piece. “It’s a padam,” she says.

A few seconds later, she is back on stage in a beautiful green and maroon costume, looking fresh.

“All cameras rolling?” she asks again, then taking a stance, she hums, ‘Sakhi prana...’, the first few words of the padam. Shobana then transforms into a nayika, complaining to her friend about her lover who has been neglecting her for another woman. The song culminates in another round of applause. The dancer takes another two-minute break before the last item and then, it’s pack up.

CHENNAI: 08/12/2020---- Jayanthi Kumaresh veena performence video recording at Narada Gana Sabha. Due to Covid 19 pandemic all the music programmes are set to be telecast online during the Dercember Muisc Season 2020. Photo: Srinivasan KV / The Hindu

CHENNAI: 08/12/2020---- Jayanthi Kumaresh veena performence video recording at Narada Gana Sabha. Due to Covid 19 pandemic all the music programmes are set to be telecast online during the Dercember Muisc Season 2020. Photo: Srinivasan KV / The Hindu   | Photo Credit: Srinivasan KV

Visual appeal

The next day, Jayanthi Kumaresh is sitting on the Narada Gana Sabha stage, veena in hand, waiting for recording to begin. The backdrop with golden pillars and lamps, resembling a temple entrance, is a visual treat. Add to that perfect audio and excellent pakkavadyam — Bangalore Arjunkumar on mridangam and Pramath Kiran on morsing/tabla — and you know an enjoyable concert is at hand.

Jayanthi begins with the Kalyani raga kriti ‘Ganapate’. Softly addressing the (unseen) audience, she says, “It’s a different kind of season.” She then moves on to play the alapana of Kanada, for the kriti, ‘Sukhi Evvaro’.

Her veena frets shine brightly on the camera monitor. As the concert progresses with more pieces, bringing out Jayanthi’s artistry to the fullest, the eerily silent auditorium resounds with the soothing notes from her strings. With a few pauses here and there, the shoot continues uninterrupted as the artistes get deeply entrenched in their music; an RTP in Behag follows and then a ragamalika swaraprasthara and tani.

Jayanthi Kumaresh at the live recording of her performance in Narada Gana Sabha

Jayanthi Kumaresh at the live recording of her performance in Narada Gana Sabha   | Photo Credit: Srinivasan KV

As you walk out of the hall, you realise that the artistes are fairly unflustered by the change, giving full expression to their art even in the empty halls. The organisers too are trying to offer the best virtual experience. For the rasikas, though, what’s missing is the joy of sitting in a sabha and keeping the beat, and nodding their heads with many others.

The writer is a trained classical musician

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 6:44:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/light-camera-concert/article33354320.ece

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