Of copyright, choreography and the way forward

Domain experts deal with the topics at Dakshina Chitra’s Utsavam festival

Published - March 12, 2020 03:54 pm IST

Devina Dutt, Sangita Iswaran, Revathi Ramachandran and Hanne De Bruin in conversation

Devina Dutt, Sangita Iswaran, Revathi Ramachandran and Hanne De Bruin in conversation

Deliberations on Day Two of Dakshinachitra’s Utsavam 2020 covered topics spread over three sessions. There was an interesting divergence in perception between the panellists on ‘Sustainable Futures in Dance and Dance Theatre;’ while for Revathi Ramachandran it meant the challenge of sustaining the spirit and aesthetics of Kalakshetra's founder Rukmini Devi despite its institutionalisation, for Hanne De Bruin of Kattaikkuttu Sangam, Kanchipuram, it was a question of visibility outside rural India, accessibility to training and to audiences, lifting the stigma attached to the dance-theatre form as belonging to the lower castes, the recognition of its literary value, and the bread and butter question of economic sustainability, amongst others. The issue of educating sponsors so that they are better informed to evaluate proposals was also discussed. Sangeeta Isvaran, a Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awardee, who uses art for community development, spoke from an autobiographical angle to the Kalakshetra students about the need for curiosity, inclusivity or community, communication, compassion and change. The session was anchored by Devina Dutt.

The session on ‘Art and Law’ with Prabha Sridevan, former Judge, and senior Intellectual Property lawyer M.S. Bharath explained the laws protecting an artiste’s right not to be copied. The fundamental clause being, ‘The person who creates it, owns it,’ they advised registration of the copyright. There is a moral right, right to be recognised as owner, and an economic right, a right to royalty or a right to sell. Copyright laws can protect your work for your lifetime and for 60 years after. If it is a joint production, each owns their individual contribution; the period of copyright will be 60 years from the date of release. As per the Berne Convention, if it is uploaded on the net, it is protected for the same period without registration. But for uploading, permission needs to be sought from artistes, else it will be a criminal offence. And in the case of a violation, the onus to enforce his rights rests on the owner of the copyright. The case of Lalgudi G. Jayaraman and Others vs Cleveland Cultural Alliance was cited as an example of the Copyright Act that protects the creator.

Creative journeys

The third session on ‘Shaping the Future — Emerging Dance Choreography’ presented by Thilagavathi Palani (Kattaikoothu), Veena Basavarajaiah (contemporary dance theatre) and Masoom Pamar (Bharatanatyam), featured their creative journeys. Thilagavathi, the first female Kattaikkoothu dance-theatre artiste spoke about how she reframes performances to fit into tight urban schedules, promotes the concept of co-ordinated group dances and adds relevant social messages within presentations. Masoom’s journey on the other hand was autobiographical — how he had to own up his identity, of Islam-Zoroastrian descent performing an essentially Hindu temple dance, Bharatanatyam. He spoke of his production ‘Aaj ke Naam’ in which he re-created the Tisra Alarippu with symbolism from Islam, layering the presentation of traditional sollus with the namaz, after synchronising the tisra sollus and chatusra namaz. He found similarities in the three levels of Alarippu — sama pada, araimandi and muzhumandi with levels of standing straight, bending forward and kneeling during prayer. An audio-visual excerpt was presented to enhance his points.

Veena’s artistic journey began with Bharatanatyam but she found the tradition binding and could not deal with the ‘baggage in its history’; she moved on to train in contemporary movement art, Kalari, ballet, and worked with Jayachandran Palazhy's Attakkalari, Bangalore, and Shobana Jeyasingh, London. She presented some of her research work on re-creating the Indian sculptures exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum as she ‘asked questions about Indian culture from a distance.’ She did her Master’s in South Asian Studies under Avanti Meduri and subsequently moved into dance theatre with non-dancers. This meant she had to throw “fifteen years of training out of the window.”

The panel urged young dancers to expose themselves and to experiment without fear of failure and to break the rule only on a ‘need to’ basis. The illuminating discussion was moderated by Utsavam 2020 curator Shreya Nagarajan Singh.

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