Offbeat Art

Black, white and in between

Anil Srinivasan.  

Where does the Grand Piano feature in the Chennai ‘kutcheri’ Season? Turning that question irrelevant and making its way through typical listener expectations, the ‘Festival of Parallels,’ hosted by Aalaap, wowed audience with its first performance of the Season, ‘Black, White and Grey,’ at Kalakshetra, a few days back. The festival has been conceived and curated for the third consecutive year, by classical-contemporary pianist, Anil Srinivasan. Using parallel perspectives to Indian classical music from other genres and traditions, the Festival of Parallels attempts to expose audiences to the unfamiliar using familiar (parallel) ideas.

‘Black White and Grey: Shades of Feminine Divine,’ the first dialogue of parallel perspectives, was struck with award-winning mythologist and writer, Devdutt Pattanaik. Following Anil Srinivasan’s rendering of ‘Shri Chakra Raja’ that placed the feminine divine energy at the vertex of all thought triangles in the room, Devdutt Pattanaik steered the audience towards the story of Sati/Dakshayani. He dramatically articulated the distress of Sati caught between the husband who does not care and the father who cares only about himself, leading to throw herself into the ritualistic fire. She is later born again as Paruvatha Rajakumari/Parvathi, who brings Siva from ascetic seclusion to happy domestication.

“Would you consider coming down from the lofty heights of the Himalayas to the busy city of Varanasi? Is your peace so important that others have stopped to matter? Come as a groom with your relatives carrying gifts,” is Parvathi’s plea to Siva, originally and beautifully scripted by Pattanaik. “So Siva brings relatives, his ghosts and goblins, carrying skulls as gifts, in a wedding procession,” he said, layering his narration with contextual humour.

The steep ascent of Siva to the Himalayas and his descent to Varanasi was reflected in the musical notations that resembled the form of the mountains, explained Anil Srinivasan. From the white of snow-clad mountains in the daylight to the dark forests at night, the audience was taken to the Raas of the Gopis around Krishna.

Pattanaik pointed out some interesting perspectives. In the ‘Raas,’ a circle/chakra, Krishna, the centre, is equidistant from every Gopi. Each end of the spoke is different with respect to each other. However, in a wheel, what is up goes down and what is right goes left. It is about the individuality in balance and not the stagnant equality. Moving forward, he delineated Radha, Rukmini and Satyabhama, rarely portrayed in the context of female goddesses, creating a beautiful contrast of characters around Krishna.

Anil Srinivasan played and later explained a cyclic structure in the music of the Raas, followed by ‘Kaatrinile Varum Geetham’. The momentary stopping by at the verse ‘Padmanabha Tumhari Leela’ from Swati Tirunal’s Dhanasree Thillana and the return to the Ashtapdi ‘Lalita Lavanga’ added depth to pining of the heroines in the stories. The Sankeerna Nadai (cycle of 9 beats), demanding as it is, was used to depict the same aspect of Satyabhama. It was led by B.S. Purushottam on the ganjira, highlighting his skill, after understated accompaniment to the rest of the concert.

Anil Srinivasan and Devdutt Pattanaik predictably took turns and outdid each other. “The idea of Black and White (the colours of the Piano keys) put forward by me, grew to a beautiful format with Devdutt Pattanaik’s process-driven approach and commendable knowledge, over a few months of work,” explained Anil Srinivasan.

On December 28, 10a.m.-12 noon: Parallel streams in “Strings in the Wind” (Veena, Classical Piano and Flute), inspired by visual imagery.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 10:39:43 PM |

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