What it means to be a Kumudini Lakhia student

Celebrated guru and choroegrapher Kumudini Lakhia with her student at NCPA, Mumbai   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It was a proud moment for Kathak guru Kumudini Lakhia. Seated in the first row of Tata Theatre, NCPA, she watched her disciples present 'Designs of Space and Time' followed by a solo by her celebrity disciple Aditi Mangaldas. A career spanning 70 years, mentor for three generations of students under the Kadamb umbrella, much-loved choreographer, who has created marvels in both traditional and contemporary idioms, Kumiben, as she is fondly addressed, was being honoured that evening. “NCPA is an inspiration,” the legend acknowledged.

“We feel proud to premier our new productions here,” said Lakhia. The opening Upaj (a trio by Rupanshi Kashyap, Mitali Dhruva and Rohit Parihar), had movements to electronic music and Indian classical music in Raga Misra Gara, Teentaal, set to music by Atul Desai. ‘Samanvay’ by five female dancers (Mansi, Kuhuk, Nirzari, Maahira and Vaishnavi) was set in Misra Bihag and Teentaal.

Dancers entered one after another executing movements, both in tune and in contrast with the music. Traditional tukdas, tihais of Kathak, with a modern approach in choreography, led to a crescendo in a tihai. Five male dancers of Jaipur gharana of Kathak (Rohit, Mukesh, Abhishek, Mohit and Sanjeet) showcased parans, intricate footwork and fast pirouettes purely based on rhythm — without any usage of ‘lehra’ or any other string instrument. Music by Bernhard Schimplesberger was set in Teentaal.

‘Ban ban dhoondan jaaoon,’ a bandish in Brindavani Sarang, original composition by Devaki Pandit and Pt. Ronu Majumdar, was presented as solo by Rupanshi Kashyap. Mother Yasoda searches for little Krishna in the wild, on the streets, in the outskirts and then finally finds him. The presentation rose to a crescendo with a ‘laggi’ on the tabla.

Kadamb students at a tribute performance to their guru Kumiben at NCPA, Mumbai

Kadamb students at a tribute performance to their guru Kumiben at NCPA, Mumbai   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The concluding Tarana based on Raga Kedar ushered in the mood of celebration through a scintillating bandish composed by Madhup Mudgal, woven with the traditional Kathak tukdas, parans and footwork. The male dancers leapt and bounced, their female counterparts, slender and graceful, clad in free-flowing ivory white gowns, were a picture of fluid lasya. Ten dancers traversed the stage, dancing at specific positions, then moved in straight lines and circles to create beautiful patterns. They communicated joy and energy to the audience with their chakkars and clapping to the rhythm.

“Aditi came to me when she was just five,” remarked the guru while the disciple bowed in reverence. The second half of the evening showcased Aditi Mangaldas, presenting solo extracts, from her ‘Footprints on Time.’ Donning aesthetically designed, three different costumes, Aditi seamlessly guided the viewers through three seasons, Varsha, Sharad and Hemant. Suitable lyrics were sourced from Kalidas and Hitomaro and Dr. Jeevan Pani and music composed by Shubha Mudgal.

Aditi Mangaldas at NCPA, Mumbai

Aditi Mangaldas at NCPA, Mumbai   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In ‘Saawan maas aayo sajni,’ the delineation simulated small drops of rain, one step for each drop, rain falling in pitter patter, mitigating the heat and then in heavy bursts with thunder and lightning. Circling round the stage, Aditi lands under focus light, utters the bols, emoting the ecstasy or rain. The sky is changing colour, dark blue clouds majestically moving, the sky splits in half and rain pours to dampen everything. She jumps over the puddles and drapes her wet dress. Full moon floating in the sky, rainbow, graceful gait of the peacock shaking its head in sync while soaking in the rain, the brisk paltas and chakkars, all celebrated rain, the element of life.

Ritu samhara of Kalidas was used to describe Sharad. Everything is white — the sparkling snow, spangled sky, shiny clouds and abundant flora, so well showcased by Aditi. Hemant was the climax conveying a philosophical message through Haiku poems of Dr. Jeevan Pani. “I love Haiku as it packs so much meaning in so little words,” said Aditi. The autumn leaves cover the land and the mind alike. “Mand mand Pathjad se bhar uthe.” Aditi recited the lyrics even as her fingers followed the falling leaves. “The leaves never know which of them will be the first to fall. Can anyone stop it? The leaves have covered the mound, the paths are hidden, how can I find my beloved? The end is a positive message — the tree stands stripped of leaves but through the branches are visible a million stars. The very title ‘Footprints on Water’ explained the transient nature of life at large.

The orchestra in uniform black blended with the stage. Their presence was palpable through the music, the brief interludes when the dancer changed the costume , the eloquent silences and tapering music which underlined the punch lines and bols by the dancer, all added to the auditory delight.

“I am honoured to present my dance in the presence of my guru. What more can I ask for,” said Aditi, thanking her gurus Kumudini Lakhia, Birju Maharaj and her family who were with her in her journey.

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Printable version | Oct 9, 2021 4:15:43 AM |

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