Friday Review

In memory of a dance guru

Bharatanatyam exponent Janaki Rangarajan   | Photo Credit: 09dfr kothari2

Consistently for the past 25 years, Mumbai-based celebrated Kathak dancer Uma Dogra, in memory of her late Guru Pandit Durgalal organises a dance festival featuring artistes of different dance forms, besides Kathak. Under the aegis of her institution Samved, Uma had recently featured in Mumbai renowned dancers including Swapnasundari (Vilasninatyam), Janaki Rangarajan (Bharatanatyam), and also Manganiar musicians. She had performed Kathak with her senior disciples.

Repeating the festival in Pune and Thiruvananthapuram, she planned the festival in Delhi, where she had studied under Durgalal at a very young age. After his sudden demise when he was barely 42, she was heartbroken. She gave up performing for some time, but instead of drowning in unhappiness, she started performing and teaching Kathak when she moved to Mumbai. Not only that but also she started organising two festivals – one promoting young dancers and other presenting senior dancers.

In Delhi she enlisted the support of the Sangeet Natak Akademi for the festival. The venue was air-conditioned Meghdoot auditorium. An exhibition of rare photographs of Durgalal was mounted which evoked happy memories of Durgalal.

Uma began with Siva vandana creating images of Lord Shiva in his various manifestations. The mood was devotional. She warmed up by performing pure dance, the salient feature of Durgalal’s style. Kali Prasad on tabla displayed a flair for his Banaras style. The aamad dha taka thunga was performed with elan. Also few of the chaals, gaits and a few numbers of Sunderprasadji, revealed Uma’s range of Kathak repertoire.

However, instead of performing there, or bhava, Uma chose ashtapadi from Gita Govinda, Dheer sameere, Yamuna teera, where Sakhi, the confidante, asks Radha not to delay and go to the bower where Krishna was waiting for her, preparing a flower bed, watching the path from where she would appear and meet him. Generally ashtapadis are not seen in Kathak. Uma’s attempt to expand the repertoire is welcome, but her interpretation and depiction of Sakhi’s love for Krishna did not register clearly. It seemed the ashtapadi was left incomplete. She would do well to interpret it more clearly.

The other two dancers were Bharatanatyam exponent Janaki Rangarajan who now divides her time between Washington and India, and Delhi-based Ranjana Gauhar, who presented Odissi.

Janaki is a rising star in the firmament of Bharatanatyam and has won critical acclaim for her scintillating performances. Trained by Padma Subrahmanyam, she has moved away from performing the karanas, the dance units which Padma has revived based on her study of the Natyasastra. Whereas Janaki’s nritta is dynamic and brings out architectonic beauty of Bharatanatyam, she often laces it with occasional karanas, like Katichhinam, moving hips in a circular manner, or taking leaps like Harinplutam karana, jump of a deer.

Purists raise eyebrows for such inclusion but it does not detract from the overall beauty she creates in Todi Varnam in praise of Rajgopala. The separation, intense desire for union, the agony caused by Kamadeva’s flowery arrows et al Janaki depicted with great artistry registering expressions in a telling manner. In ashtapadi Kuru Yadunandan, wherein Radha after blissful union with Lord Krishna, requests him to place ornaments on her waist, do the hair, apply chandan paste, Janaki in alternate roles of Radha and Krishna used netrabhinaya, as it were speaking through eyes, which audience could see on account of the proximity of the dancer. With her vibrant Bharatanatyam she received an instant applause. Here is a dancer to watch.

Ranjana Gauhar in her leisurely explosion of Odissi had her customary approach to the two numbers she selected. Of the two, Kuruyadunandan ashtapadi offered audience to see the contrast as seen in Janaki’s abhinaya and Ranjana’s was more of angikabhinaya, describing various activities, whereas Janaki had relied more on mukhajabhinaya, expressions through face. While selecting items, the three dancers showed preference for Gita Govinda ashtapadis. Though it provided stylistic differences, it would have been more enjoyable to watch different expressional numbers.

Despite parallel major dance event taking place simultaneously next door at Kamani, the audience turnout was heartening. It also was indicative of reverence for Durgalal by the discerning audience.


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 1:59:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/in-memory-of-a-dance-guru/article7738974.ece

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