Sarngadeva Samaroh festival attempts to bring arts together

The aim of Sarngadeva Samaroh is to facilitate discussions and Parwati Dutta does it with earnestness

During her training in Delhi (late 1980s-mid 90s), dancer Parwati Dutta got several opportunities to read various critical writings on performing arts and interact with scholars, which inspired her to think about the need to establish a dialogue between the written and performed. Since the inception of Mahagami, the arts institution she founded in Aurangabad, visits of scholars and thinkers have been a regular feature. Sarngadeva Samaroh (Jan 19-22) created and conceptualised by Parwati Dutta is an earnest attempt to facilitate discussions around the performing arts and bring critics, performers and audiences in close proximity. Excerpts from an interview:

What are the challenges of hosting a festival at a relatively small place like Aurangabad?

There are many challenges — the first being lack of interest in discussions and research. Initially, we couldn’t even find a receptive audience that could welcome insightful talks and performances of the lesser known arts. Many feel that our performing arts have totally changed in the past centuries and there is nothing to be discussed with reference to ‘granthas.’ Though Aurangabad has limited connectivity and bringing artistes and scholars, especially the elderly are a challenge, it is also a global tourist attraction and many want to visit the world heritage monuments. I have been constantly worried about the financial support for the festival. With no outside grants, it is the biggest challenge to smoothly organise the four-day event.

Sarngadeva Samaroh festival attempts to bring arts together

Tell us about the curation of this year’s festival. You have included instruments like Kinnari Veena, Ravanhatta and also Marga Natya. How did you come to make this selection?

For curation, my guidelines are Sastra, Prayog, Parampara and Anusandhaan. Morning sessions (named Sarngadeva Prasang) explore the above. I want to present the complete definition of ‘Sangeet’ as enunciated by Sarngadeva — ‘Geetam Vadyam tatha Nrittam trayam Sangeetam uchyate.’ I have invited experts on vocal music, vadya, nartan and natan. Sessions are on any kind of research on a Shastra, at least two sessions address some aspect of Sangeet Ratnakar. Others will focus on an ongoing search to establish a dialogue between shastra, prayog and parampara (deshi or margi), reconstructions/revival. There is also a talk by an expert of arts or a commentator.

Sarngadeva Samaroh festival attempts to bring arts together

I have always endeavoured to present a rare tradition. This year, we are presenting Kinnari Veena (Kinnera) from Telangana and a Ravanhattha ensemble from Rajasthan. Marga Natya is a reconstruction of some elements of Natyasastra. In the past festivals, we presented vadya from many regions. This year we will start the festival with an ensemble of Kerala percussion instruments. I will present a short performance of Dhrupadaangi Kathak. Ramli Ibrahim, one of the senior most proponents of the Debaprasad Das gharana of Odissi, will present some rare compositions of his Guru.

The seminars are a highlight of your festival. Do you think there is a complete lack of dialogue within Indian arts and artists?

Yes. Most artistes feel that they have nothing to do with texts now and that their art has changed/evolved a lot from the time a particular text was written. I agree — like languages, art forms have changed but it is interesting to observe this gradual transformation or change; to search and discover the fine thread with which it is still connected with the oral tradition. We had many interesting revelations while exploring Sangeet Ratnakar with Kathakali, Koodiyattom and Manipuri artistes.

Sarngadeva Samaroh festival attempts to bring arts together

It is important to be able to dwell in the virtual world of imagination and contemplation created by the granthakaar and internalise concepts in order to gain an insight. It is my opinion that a performing artist with a thinking mind and good understanding of concepts reaches out to the audience with more depth and intensity. The reason why we have often failed to appreciate the existing and accepted content and renditions in today's performances is of course because of the lack of dialogue within arts, traditions, between the written and performed and its assimilation.

There are festivals galore — both music and dance —but what should an ideal festival do?

I think an ideal festival could be one that accords justice to the art forms through proper selection of artistes and facilitates enrichment of everyone involved — the artistes, organisers, rasikas, patrons and media. There are some festivals that are organised simply to showcase a few performances or to utilise funds. People forget them immediately after it is over. But there are some that linger in the minds of people for days and months. That according to me is an ideal festival.

Sarngadeva Samaroh festival attempts to bring arts together

During Sarngadeva Samaroh, I have seen the audience giving standing ovation to a 15-minute sanchaari of an abhinaya passage; observe an intense nava-rasa exposition with pin-drop silence, our 10-year old kids making notes in morning sessions with absolute involvement! In 2011, the next day after the festival was over, a few journalists came to Mahagami and requested if they could spend some time in the library and read Sangeet Ratnakar! That to me is an ideal festival.


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The writer teaches literary and cultural studies at FLAME University, Pune, and writes on art and culture

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 8:09:29 PM |

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