Artograph Vol 03 Iss 01 (2021 Jan-Feb)

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artograph A NEWNMEDIA™ PUBLICATION

2021 JAN-FEB | VOL 03 | ISS 01

A BI-MONTHLY, BILINGUAL E-MAGAZINE FOCUSING ON ARTS | PUBLISHED BY NEWNMEDIA™ FROM KERALA, INDIA | 2021 JAN-FEB VOLUME 03 ISSUE 01 | PAGES: 40 | HTTPS://ARTOGRAPH.NEWNMEDIA.IN

Frames that

matter

In conversation with veteran dance photographer Avinash Pasricha.

The formidable actor Sreevalsan Thiyyadi discusses the illustrious career of Kathakali exponent Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody, the recipient of the KSNA fellowship 2020.

Making it happen A write-up on the 2021 edition of the ‘Evam’ festival, one of the noted classical dance festivals in the country.

An ode to Sunil Kothari A journey through the life of art historian and scholar Sunil Kothari, through his words.


CONTENTS

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02

Vol 03 Iss 01

The formidable actor 06 Sreevalsan Thiyyadi

WATCH OUT

RAADHAKALPA DANCE COMPANY

An ode to Sunil Kothari 10

Frames that matter 12

Grabbing the attention 19

Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra One of the shots from a live stage show featured as the cover of a small booklet on the dancer by Roli Books in 2001. PHOTO: AVINASH PASRICHA

Ashwathi P.G.

Hareesh N. Nampoothiri Priyanka B.

STAGE

SHANMUKHADAS KALAMANDALAM

Making it happen 26

നാടകാന്തം കവിത്വം 34

Hareesh N. Nampoothiri Theertha E. Poduval

TALKING FRAMES

SHALINI P.S. A NEWNMEDIA™ PUBLICATION

LEAD PHOTOGRAPHY: HAREE FOTOGRAFIE DESIGN & LAYOUT: NEWNMEDIA™

SHARED UNDER

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 THE ORIGINAL RIGHTS OF THE TEXTS AND THE PHOTOGRAPHS RESERVED TO RESPECTIVE OWNERS. THE CC LICENSE IS VALID ONLY FOR THE E-MAGAZINE IN ITS EXACT FORM.

DISCLAIMER: THE OPINIONS AND VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THE WRITE-UPS ARE THOSE OF THE RESPECTIVE AUTHORS AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE OFFICIAL POLICY OR POSITION OF THE MAGAZINE.

CONTRIBUTORS

EDITORIAL TEAM

TEXTS

CHIEF EDITOR

Ashwathi P.G. Priyanka B. Sreevalsan Thiyyadi Theertha E. Poduval

Hareesh N. Nampoothiri

PHOTOS

Meera Sreenarayanan Navya Raj Sneha Sasikumar Vani Sankar

Amit Pasricha, Avinash Pasricha Innee Singh, Jayadevan S.P. Pawan, Rajan Karimoola Sejas Mistry, Sreedhar Vaidya Wikipedia/Augustus Binu

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Priyanka B. MEMBERS

WEBSITE https://artograph.newnmedia.in FACEBOOK https://fb.me/artograph.mag INSTAGRAM https://instagr.am/artograph.mag SUBSCRIBE https://agsub.newnmedia.in FEEDBACK https://agfdbk.newnmedia.in E-MAIL artograph.mag@newnmedia.in


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03 EDITORIAL 2021 JAN-FEB | VOL 03 | ISS 01

Running another lap

I

t’s yet another year and one more volume completed. Though we all faced the pandemic crisis, last year wasn’t that bad, as far as Artograph is concerned. The magazine received the ISSN number and also got approved in Google Play Books. Both add a lot of value to the publication, and the authors also get the benefit of the platform. And for the readers, it’s an assurance that we will not be compromising on the content or quality of the presentation. Moving ahead, we plan to take the scope of the magazine further. One aspect would be to have a research section, allowing to publish academic articles and papers. We will be adding more pages to the website, giving a better representation of the contributing authors. However, if the magazine is not reaching a wider audience, all these efforts hardly make any sense. One humble request to everyone is to help the magazine reach more people, especially those who love Indian classical arts. While the magazine managed to do well, it wasn’t very easy for those who worked behind. And it’s only because of the generous support from the editorial team, the contributing authors, and photographers it became possible. And of course, all those readers who took the magazine seriously and supported it during the period. Thank you all.

Moving ahead, we plan to take the scope of the magazine further. One aspect would be to have a research section, allowing to publish academic articles and papers.

We look forward to yet another volume, hoping for all your support in the coming year and wishing you all a great time reading the Artograph. ●

Hareesh N. Nampoothiri

EDITORIAL TEAM

Priyanka B. Associate Editor Meera Sreenarayanan

Navya Raj

Sneha Sasikumar

Vani Sankar


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TIMELINE

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MARCHING AHEAD (JAN - FEB)

After completing six issues in the first volume, Artograph stepped into the second year of its publication. The first-anniversary issue covered flagship events like the Nishagandhi Dance Festival of Kerala and 'Dancejathre' of the Shambhavi School of Dance. The interview with Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi and her daughter-disciple Prateeksha Kashi was another highlight. The dance journey of Guru C.V. Chandrasekhar and the stigmas faced by artists became topics for discussion. 'Talking Frames', the column for photographers became a dedicated segment. With freshness in look and feel attributed to the new layout, the total number of pages crossed the thirty mark.

RIGHT ON TRACK (JUL - AUG)

Notable Kathakali events that went online post the pandemic got discussed in detail. Articles on Guru G. Venu, Alarmel Valli and interview with dance vocalist Bhagyalakshmi Guruvayur were the highlights of this issue. Musings on Navarasa Sadhana acting workshop and everyday dance spaces were insightful. For the first time, the number of pages touched forty.

A MILESTONE: ISSN National Centre, the

nodal agency for assigning International Standard Serial Number for print and online publications in India, gives Artograph the serial number 2582-6662. BEING LIVE: 'Previously in Artograph', the segment featuring a write-up from past issues of the magazine started. NEW FRONTIERS: The publication got the approval of Google Play Books, making the magazine available across Google Play Books and Google Books in addition to Issuu and Scribd.

Visibility is the total number of impressions that each issue of the magazine received across different platforms, as of 2020 Feb 28. Avg. visibility for this year is 1579.

FIGHTING THE ODDS (MAR - APR)

The nationwide lockdown imposed on the 23rd of March 2020, halted all public performances. The artists took to virtual spaces, and this issue featured a handful of such events streamed across various online platforms. The revival of Desi Mohiniyattam by Guru Nirmala Paniker got explored. Interview with Margi Vijayakumar, humorous anecdotes from Kathakali stages, and the review of 'Subhadraharanam' play came as a delight to Kathakali enthusiasts. Joining the fight against the pandemic, Sreedevi N. Nampoothiry discussed safety protocols for artists, on and off the stage.


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05 TIMELINE

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MOURNING LOSSES (SEP - OCT)

Many artists left us in the meantime, and the issue paid obeisance to Kapila Vatsyayan and Shobha Naidu. Insight into the lives of Guru Nirmala Paniker and Mathoor Govindankutty, review on 'Prakriti - The Nature' dance festival and an overview of 'Lāsya Mukharika', the three-month-long virtual conversation series on Mohiniyattam brought liveliness.

GAINING MOMENTUM (MAY - JUN)

Journey through the lives of Guru V. Jayarama Rao and Malavika Sarukkai, an in-depth analysis of the first online international seminar on Kuchipudi hosted by the Shambhavi School of Dance - it couldn't have got better than this. Adding to the usual reports were write-ups on stage lighting and 'Nritha Samanvayam', the Bharatanatyam-Kuchipudi Jugalbandi. 'Watch Out', a segment featuring YouTube channels that promote classical dance and musicrelated content was introduced from this issue onwards.

ODE TO LEGACY (NOV - DEC)

The last edition in volume two celebrated the legacy of deceased maestros Melattur S. Natarajan and T.N. Krishnan. Conversation with Carnatic vocalist R. Vidhu was a refreshing read. Konark Dance Festival, T.M. Krishna's experimentation with Sree Narayana Guru poetry and Kapila Venu's 'Sreekrishnacharitham' Nangiar Koothu attempt received a fair representation. With the number of followers crossing over the thousand mark, Artograph proudly steps into a new year of its journey. TEXT: PRIYANKA B. / GRAPHICS: HAREESH N.


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INSPIRE

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actor The formidable SREEVALSAN THIYYADI

I

n one of his masterpiece roles, Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody used to profile a sequence of key mudras in ways that still stand distinct from other maestros of Kathakali. Enacting the protagonist in the play ‘Nalacharitham Nalam Divasam’, his Bahuka would not spread out his hands while throwing a set of questions laden with self-deprecating sarcasm. On the face of it, all the posers are for the lady messenger from his wife. Deeply inside, they aim at Damayanti, who he believes is now poised for a second marriage amid rumours of Nala having vanished virtually from the earth. “Olivil undo illayo vaan…” (Is he in the hide or not?) is a stanza amid an ensuing gestural conversation based on background songs. Capitalising the dramatic value of the situation, the trend on stage is to unfold the arms to a frame beyond the conventional norms while essaying queries such as ‘undo’ and ‘illayo’. “The technique does have an added charm, but I will not resort to it...”, admits Vasu Pisharody. Instead, the artist goes by the essence of his style built on the economy of space. By employing less area, hand-gestures of Vasu Pisharody often look much taut than that of his contemporaries, or even the forerunners of the body-centric Kalluvazhi school. In the above instance from ‘Nalacharitham’, the restrained conduct accentuates the gloom of Bahuka. Leaving flamboyance, it continues to highlight the introspection of the character. In Kathakali parlance, the ‘sthayi bhava’ (standing mood of a character) is kept intact. Restrained conduct If Kathakali has been a spinoff from its antecedent Kutiyattam known for the signature thrust of the eyes and limited use of the space, Vasu Pisharody best exemplifies these. Several styles across its homeland Kerala have enriched Kathakali since its birth four centuries ago as a dance-drama. Among these, the Kaplingadan stream, which acquired

Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody presents Bahuka in 'Nalacharitham Moonnam Divasam' Kathakali during a staging organized by Kaliyarangu in 2009 Nov. PHOTO: HAREE FOTOGRAFIE

If Kathakali has been a spinoff from its antecedent Kutiyattam known for the signature thrust of the eyes and limited use of the space, Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody best exemplifies these.

SREEVALSAN THIYYADI is a cultural enthu-

siast and the launching editor of India Art Review, a dedicated digital journal on arts and culture. A freelance writer for more than two decades as a journalist, he follows the cultural forms of Kerala, primarily classical dances and music.


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07 WATCH OUT 2021 JAN-FEB | VOL 03 | ISS 01

FEATURED

RAADHAKALPA DANCE COMPANY

Rukmini Vijayakumar is among the few classical dancers who best utilise the digital medium to reach out to more people.

STATISTICS: NOXINFLUENCER TEXT: PRIYANKA B.

Joined on

Average Video Views

Subscribers

Total Videos

2007 MAY 16 145K

27.73K 87

Total Views

11.39M

* Data as on 2021 Feb 28.

T

he Bengaluru based Raadha Kalpa Dance Company was established in 2009, by the acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer and actor Rukmini Vijayakumar. Hailed for her innovative approach in redefining the set formats of classical repertoire, Rukmini had her foundational training in Bharatanatyam under eminent gurus. The expertise in ballet, modern dance, and yoga has added to her style, characterised by a blend of traditional and contemporary elements presented with utmost conviction. Rukmini Vijayakumar is among the few classical dancers who best utilise the digital medium to reach out to more people. Joined on YouTube as early as 2007, the initial videos focussed on excerpts from recitals of the dancer. However, the sharing of videos was a random choice, not following a regular pattern. Glimpses and promo videos of dance productions always lured viewers to watch them live or in complete duration across digital platforms. Joining the playlist is a series of informatory videos, in which Rukmini discusses the practical aspects of the Raadha Kalpa Method, a comprehensive training program for Bharatanatyam devised by herself. The sponsored video productions enjoying the support of the Center for Soft Power went off the charts as they explored the numerous possibilities of dance and multiple skills of the dancer. Videos entitled ‘Namami Yoga’ and ‘Yoganiyoga’ highlighting the importance of yoga, and Nāḍi conveying the philosophy of Ayurveda, add to the list of most viewed videos. Light-hearted conversations in which the dancer shares her musings add vivacity to the channel. The channel registered an active presence last year, with many focussed videos conceived solely for the online audience. The choice of the dancing space, costumes, and refined cinematographic techniques made these videos stand out from the rest. This approach enhances the reach of the channel and makes it popular, even among the naive audience. ● Channel link: youtube.com/dancinruks

THIS SEGMENT FEATURES YOUTUBE CHANNELS THAT PROMOTE CLASSICAL DANCE AND MUSIC RELATED CONTENT.


artograph popularity down the state, often retain some elements of Kutiyattam. The acting of the septuagenarian never displays a touch of Kaplingadan style even though he gets equally recognised in Kathakali circuits deep south of Kerala. His mudras bear a taut feel, irrespective of the character. Be it ‘pacha’ representing virtuousness or ‘kathi’, the antihero with the stylised moustache - all stand as a hallmark. Even the woodsman or the Brahmin, known for their propensity to freak out with a dash of realism-laced lokadharmi, go by the signature tightness of movements. Equally, Vasu Pisharody developed a more thoughtful approach to Kathakali. It is a defining base of his artistry, acquired from Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair (1909-81), who taught him. Not to be forgotten, the youngster subsequently went on to receive advanced classes from Kalamandalam-trained stalwarts such as Ramankutty Nair and Padmanabhan Nair. As a young boy, he was initiated into art by Balakrishnan Nair, who lived in Ottapalam, 25 kms southwest of Kongad in Palakkad, the birthplace of Vasu Pisharody. Much of the prime time of Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody got defined by a healthy professional rivalry he had with Kalamandalam Gopi, an all-time great actor six years older. For instance, when Gopi won applause for his stately postures struck in ‘undo’ and ‘illayo’ for the aforesaid Bahuka, Vasu effectively took an inverse approach. From the audience point of view, the two masters graced Kathakali with contrasting styles that helped balance the practical side of the art form. A break and the comeback In 2005, the world of Kathakali received a rude shock when Vasu Pisharody, at the peak of his career, began to retreat from performances. It was around the time he went to Delhi to receive an honour from the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi. What started as knee pain worsened and forced him to go on rest. At one instance, the medication appeared successful, facilitating his return to the stages in the summer of 2009. It was with a show in his home village. Days later, at the pilgrim town of Guruvayur, he donned his favourite character, Bahuka, from ‘Nalacharitham Nalam Divasam’. The comeback instilled hope in colleagues and well-wishers of the actor. The scene was a happy contrast from the previous year. Kathakali chronKalamandalam Vasu Pisharody reprising his role as Bahuka on the first major stage after his comeback at Guruvayur in 2009. PHOTO: JAYADEVAN S.P.

INSPIRE

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Vasu Pisharody developed a more thoughtful approach to Kathakali, a defining base of his artistry, acquired from his guru, Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair.


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09 INSPIRE

■ RAJAN KARIMOOLA

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Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody was born to T.P. Rakhava Pisharody and M.P. Lakshmikutti on the 15th of August 1943, in Palakkad, Kerala. After primary lessons in Kathakali from Balakrishnan Nair at Kerala Kalanilayam, he furthered his training under maestros Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, and Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair. Following postgraduate studies in Kathakali Vesham, he specialised in the Kalluvazhi style, aided by a Govt. of India scholarship. He served as Head of the Department of Kathakali Vesham in his alma mater Kerala Kalamandalam and rose to its vice-principal before retiring in the year 1999. Equally known for virtuous, villainous, and minor roleplays, he won acclaim for the portrayals of characters like Nala, Bahuka, Ravana, Keechaka, Narakasura, Parasurama and so on. He is the recipient of several laurels, including the Kerala Kalamandalam Award (1998), Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award (2003), Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2004), and the most recent KSNA Fellowship (2020). ● Additional text by Priyanka B.

icler N.P. Vijayakrishnan remembers the poignancy around a 2008 episode where a recuperating Vasu Pisharody was taking slow rounds at his neighbourhood temple one morning. “Outside, I was interviewing Kathakali musician Kottakkal Madhu for a television show. By coincidence, he sang a famed verse where Nala wonders if anything was being heard about him around. It was the “Nalane aar kandu bhootale...” (Who has seen Nala around?). It was like a live commentary on the existence of Vasu Pisharody.”, recollects Vijayakrishnan. Six years later, the master brought out ‘Ranga Naishadham’, a performance manual on Nalacharitham. By then, he had withdrawn much from the stage even as the Govt. of Kerala honoured him with the prestigious state award for Kathakali in the year 2012. A knee replacement surgery happened meanwhile. Of late, till COVID-19 dulled Kathakali a year ago, Vasu Pisharody appeared on and off in roles that required less strain and time. The mishaps apart, Vasu Pisharody is cheerful as in his heyday. The master lets no Kathakali buff leave his house before a long chat. Loud laughs punctuate the spirited conversation that invariably centres around Kathakali. Earlier this year, the actor-dancer completed 77. The following month, in February, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi honoured him with a fellowship (2020). YouTube has a slice of Kathakali performance dating back to 1956, featuring Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair among other titans of Kalluvazhi. It shows the master, as Bhima in the classical ‘Kalyanasougandhikam’ play, seeking blessings from Hanuman after realising that the ‘old monkey’ is his elder brother. That bit of body language is enough to assess the source of style, Vasu Pisharody inherited on stage. Connoisseurs wish they watched more of its updated beauty. ●

Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody presenting the Brahmin in 'Rukminiswayamvaram' play, organized by Drisyavedi, T'puram. PHOTO: HAREE FOTOGRAFIE


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An ode to

SUNIL KOTHARI ASHWATHI P.G.

MEMOIR

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“If you are fortunate to identify what interests you most and will give you satisfaction in your work, go and pursue it. Whatever difficulties you face, you will get the energy to overcome them...” - Sunil Kothari [1]

W

ords born out of wisdom gathered over years of nurturing the passion for Indian classical dance, he was much beyond being an acclaimed dance critic. An artist himself who created art out of another artist, the scholar did it all with sensitivity and integrity. However, such esteem did not come without years of test and toil, proves the journey of Sunil Kothari.

A classical odyssey The interview in Narthaki [1] offers a gist of his life, artistic journey, and associations Sunil Kothari had with stalwarts in the cultural realm. Born into a Gujarati family, he showed keen interest in the teachings of tradition that his family equipped him. “When I was four years old, my parents took me to Sree Nathdwara near Udaipur, Rajasthan. My mother taught me the ‘Yamunashtakam’ in Sanskrit by giving me one copper paisa with a hole per shloka, and I thought I was richer by eight paise! Mother used to laugh and say; being a Bania, he thinks of money but does not know that Sanskrit will stand by him for life...’’ - this is how Sunil recollected his childhood in that interview.

■ WIKIPEDIA / AUGUSTUS BINU

Even as a child, he enjoyed dancing to temple songs. Bhava flowed through him with ease. “My face became a playground for various emotions, and I expressed them rather well. My body fell into graceful poses. I loved all that. Parents and elders showed off my talents before guests...”, he once told The Hindu daily. [2] But as many men at the time, he was ridiculed for pursuing his passion for dance due to the prevailing misconception that dance is a female art form. Only those who could tolerate the questions of stereotypical gender norms could pursue it. Also, since Sunil was already a qualified chartered accountant, he received warnings about letting go of a stable occupation for a life that may buy him only stories to tell than security. “You must have abiding faith in what you do...” his words affirm firm resolve. [1] Soon his faith earned him the position as a dance critic, and in time, his stories became the most sought after. Sunil Kothari made it a practice to learn various dance forms and embody movements himself in his critique. “When I saw Bharatanatyam dancers


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MEMOIR

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artograph Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini… I fell for it and decided to learn it from traditional Guru Kalyanasundaram Pillai, son of Kuppaiah Pillai…”, he remembers his college years. From a glance at his writings narrating his journey, one may identify that he played the role of a learner and the learned at the same time. The association of Sunil with eminent artists like Rukmini Devi Arundale, Balasaraswati etc., is a testimony to his quest for knowledge. Further, his role as a learner also highlights his openness to having his work criticised despite his own expertise as a critic. The care and sensitivity he put into his work defined his role as the learned. When dance criticism was viewed as a negative evaluation, evoking fear, he practised informed spectatorship and careful commentary. His method proved to be useful for the dancer as well as the reader. Thus, he seamlessly shifted between the roles of a learner and learned, yet maintaining congruence.

An artist himself who created art out of another artist, Sunil Kothari did it all with sensitivity and integrity. However, such esteem did not come without years of test and toil, proves his journey.

Being an art critic A paper presented by Sunil Kothari on the topic ‘constructive dance criticism’ at a seminar hosted by Lalit Kala Kendra, Pune, is a testimony of his deep insight into the art of criticism. Later he published an article with the same title in Narthaki. [3] “When a dancer deviates from the norm, the aesthetic principles and seems to violate the spirit of the dance tradition, a critic is bound to draw attention to it...”, opines Sunil, who considered constructive criticism as the duty of a critic. He also believed that for a critique to be of value, proficiency in arts is mandatory. Given the rich usage of symbols and suggestions, Indian dance inherently seems quite ambiguous to the regular audience. Thus, the relevance and aesthetic enjoyment of dance are in constant question. Understanding the enormity of the task of a critic in interpreting a performance, Sunil Kothari stresses certain factors. He advocates being adept, not only in the dance form but also in mythology, poetry, literature and language. “He is expected to be well versed in the technique of dance and music, the aesthetic theories governing dance, as well as the poetry, the theme and the content of a particular performance. This is a tall order, but only one who has some knowledge of these matters is really qualified to review dance...”, opines Sunil. Only with a nuanced combination of the above ingredients did he believe that a dignified work of criticism gets crafted. Sunil also highlights the sensitivity of sharing art and the caution for holding sincere criticism for it to be ‘constructive’. “When a critic earns reputation as generally being fair in his assessment, he earns credibility...”, he believed.

ASHWATHI P.G. is a clinical psychologist in the making. As a Bharatanatyam dancer, poet, and writer, she has been a loyal companion of arts from a young age. She aspires to explore the role of arts in the therapeutic realm.

He spoke of the dynamics of the relationship between the dancer and the critic, which often blurred the boundaries of objectivity and confused the reader about what to expect from criticism. “In India, dance critics and dancers mix with each other, visit their homes, accept their hospitality, become friends, meet socially and in general develop bonhomie. The distance necessary between dancers and critics is not maintained...”, his observations go on. Treading his path It is his mastery of viewership as well as the expression that aided him in sailing through the many struggles in his CONTINUED ON PAGE 33 ►


COVER STORY

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ART COLLOQUY

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Frames that

matter HAREESH N. NAMPOOTHIRI

T

hink of photographers who’ve traveled the length and breadth of the country, covering Indian classical dance and music events and artists; there won’t be many to list down, and in the top comes the name of Avinash Pasricha. Born to Fateh Chand Pasricha and Chanan Devi on the 2nd of August, 1936 in Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, Avinash got initiated into the world of photography through his father’s photo studio ‘Delhi Photo Company’. After completing his schooling at Delhi Public School, New Delhi, he went to St. Stephen’s College during1953-56, and also did his MBA from Delhi School of Economics in 1964 alongside working for the Span magazine at the U.S. Information Service (USIS). Q: How did you get into photography? What was your inspiration? The studio owned by my father had a branch in Mussoorie where I grew up. I saw him work on portraits and attend to the customers. So I played around with cameras and darkrooms right from my tender age. And, I got a Kodak box film camera to begin with, and later a Rolleiflex camera with 120 size square pictures. When USIS started a photo lab, I joined them to learn darkroom work. In 1960 USIS launched SPAN magazine and I became its photo editor. Here also we used two Rolleiflex cameras, one for monochrome and the other for color transparencies in my assignments for SPAN. Gradually, we shifted to Nikon 35mm cameras. And my term in SPAN for almost four decades completed my transformation


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as a photographer. Q: And how did you initiate into dance photography? I did some dance photography for a SPAN feature on Indrani Rehman in 1961, but the results were not very good as in those days we used Rolleiflex cameras with a flashgun. The concept of using the available stage lights alone didn’t strike me then. My first attempt at available stage lights photography was covering a four-day music festival called ‘Vishnu Digambar Jayanti’ at Sapru House in 1966 where I was using Tri-X film pushed to 1200 ASA and processed in Acufine developer. The results were so good that I stopped using flash for concert photography. A Tanpura photograph even won me a cash prize. It was at that time I got acquainted with Madhavi Mudgal who used to dance both Kathak and Odissi, and my first dance pictures turned out to be with her. Since then I have photographed many dancers both in my studio and on stage. Q: Who do you think makes a good dance photographer? The most essential quality of a good dance photographer is not to obstruct the audience or disturb the dancer. Nowadays, I generally choose a suitable end seat in the second row from the front and keep my eyes and camera focused on the stage and click when I see a good picture. The other suggested positions will be from the side wings or the back using good telephoto lenses. The problem nowadays is mobile photography. People just raise their phones above their heads and click or even record video mindless of obstructing the view of people sitting in the rows behind them. And at the same time, in most cases, they won’t be getting any worthwhile pictures or videos. They are just having fun with their cellphones. And coming to the aesthetic part, in my opinion, a dance photographer should be conscious of the expressions on the face, particularly in the eyes of the dancer. Avinash Pasricha during one of his studio shooting sessions; artist featured here is Jyotsna Shourie. PHOTO: AMIT PASRICHA

The most essential quality of a good dance photographer is not to obstruct the audience or disturb the dancer.


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When I started taking pictures of dance performances I became aware of constant movement on stage and tried to show dance movement sometimes as a blur, sometimes frozen, and often as multiple exposures on the same frame, even with my Nikon film cameras where this was not easy to do.

In the case of dance, the light is uneven, so the photographer has to often adjust the exposure to get the best picture. He has to be aware all the time of the technical requirements of a good picture.

Avinash Pasricha turned into a dance photographer teaming up with Odissi exponent Madhavi Mudgal in the early seventies. This is from a studio photo session in 1980. PHOTO: AVINASH PASRICHA

Q: Do you think the camera gear one uses makes one a better photographer, particularly in the context of dance photography? Yes, a fast recording digital camera would capture the best moment, but it is the photographer who has the eye to click at the ‘right moment’ and produce a quality photograph. It depends on what you are looking for, often luck plays a good part in getting an interestingly composed picture. Other than the gear, a lot depends on the dancer’s movement, poses, and expressions which you have to constantly look out for. Be aware and see what will make a good picture worth capturing. Even in a group, the photographer’s eye searches for the better dancer to follow and aim the camera for the picture he wants to capture. Q: Every stream of photography has its scope and challenges... When we think about dance or music photography, it also depends on for whom we are capturing the photographs. Whether it’s for your creative urge, or the performer, or the organizer or a publication. In music photography, the microphones and their hanging wires make it even difficult. One has to find a suitable gap to get a view of the main performer and wait for a suitable moment of hand or face expression worth capturing. For this one has to often sit on the floor near the stage with the camera resting on the edge, and again not disturb the audience.


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A freezed moment from the Manipuri Pung Cholom (top) presented at Triveni in the year 1999, and the girl with the tampura snap taken in 1966 during the Vishnu Digambar Jayanti Music Festival that won Avinash his first prize in a photo competition. PHOTOS: AVINASH PASRICHA

In the case of dance, the light at different parts of the stage is uneven, so the photographer has to often adjust the exposure to get the best picture. He has to be aware all the time of the technical requirements of a good picture. Also, he may choose to get a degree of motion or to freeze the moment. Opening the full aperture and changing the shutter speed or ISO setting as required works best for me. Unlike in a studio, shooting a live performance also means the photographer has no control over the stage lights. One has to be continually aware of stage lights which may be less at some points of the stage or too much at other points. Also, often the light technician may just enjoy playing with lights trying to showoff some effects. Even with all these going around, you still can capture ‘mood’ pictures better if you are aware of what is happening on stage. Nowadays many gurus present group productions where many dancers hold the same pose or try to make group formations. However, it doesn’t interest me. I prefer shooting solos or duets where one can capture facial expressions or interesting poses of the individual or duet. Q: While we have a rich cultural heritage, and many classical art forms, we don’t see many photographers who focus on arts and culture.

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Yes, over the years one notices that the number of photographers at such programs varies. If there is a well-known prominent performer there may be more photographers. Also, there is not much money in covering such performances. Who will pay for such photography? More than photography, people are now more interested in the video coverage of their programs, which they can also use online or put on YouTube. The still photographs they usually want is just for the record or for sending to the sponsors or publications.

Q: What do you enjoy most in your dance photography sessions? Is it the process of photography or the art form itself? I enjoy the process of photography. Seeing whether the dancer conveys a mood particularly in the facial expression and eyes - I try capturing that and I may miss it often! Since I do not know the language of most dance forms or the items presented, I do not follow the story or art form. Of course, I enjoy the music even with my limited hearing while clicking the pictures.

Q: Past and present, the technology of photography has evolved a lot. Does it bring changes in your approach, practicality, feasibility etc. as a dance photographer? To a certain degree, technology has affected stage dance and music performance photography. Earlier one used film cameras for monochrome, for color negatives and transparencies. It recorded instantly what you clicked and the film had limitations. Now with digital one tends to shoot more hoping to capture the best moment. And, then spend much more time editing on the computer, which is good in one way, but time-consuming; and yet you might still miss the best moment.

Q: Shooting dance/music or artists during a performance on stage, and in a studio environment. How do you approach the two scenarios - technically and aesthetically? In the studio, you have complete control over your lighting and the setting. But I find it very difficult to capture a good ‘mood’ as most dancers tend to hold a pose that looks quite static and statue-like. I often have to tell them to move from one side of the pose to another and look here or there or up or down to get an interesting expression worth capturing. I used to do a lot of pre-arangetram photography for the parents to bring out a good brochure and also put up a large blow-up in the foyer for the program. Here again, the guru is often there to do a specific list of poses. On the other hand, on stage one usually has no control over the lighting, and the dancer dances to the accompanying music and tries to fill up the stage with a lot of extra movements. Here a

Photo of M.S Subbulakshmi from her live concert by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1975 at Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi (left) and that of Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair during a demonstration. PHOTOS: AVINASH PASRICHA


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A moment from the Bharatanatyam concert of Vyjayanthimala Bali at ITC SRA Sangeet Sammelan in 2010.

photographer has to continually follow to capture a good moment of the dancer’s involvement and performance.

PHOTO: AVINASH PASRICHA

Q: You’ve shot several artists on and off the stage. Do you have any favorites? No, I do not have any favorites, but yes some artists perform so well that I have enjoyed capturing their mood on stage. Yamini Krishnamurthy, Malavika Sarukkai, Alarmel Valli, Vyjayantimala Bali, Geeta Chandran, Birju Maharaj, Shovana Narayan, Ranjana Gauhar, Shobha Naidu, Raja-Radha Reddy, Swapna Sundari, Kelucharan Mohapatra, Sadanam Balakrishnan, and Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair - the list goes on. However, when I carry my camera to the auditorium, I constantly look for suitable expressions to capture. It doesn’t matter whether it is a novice or an established dancer.

To a certain degree, technology has affected stage dance and music performance photography. Photographers tend to shoot more hoping to get the best moment.

YOUTUBE VIDEO - AVINASH PASRICHA tinyurl.com/ag-avinash

Q: Which one is the favorite image in your collection? My favorite image which also hangs in my drawing room is of M.S. Subbulakshmi. I feel the picture has captured the moment of devotion on her face, I should say, by sheer chance! Q: Your tryst with Kerala... I have traveled to Kerala a couple of times. The first time was for a story in SPAN on fisheries and shrimp exports from Kerala to the USA. The second time was with Bharati Shivaji for her book on Mohiniyattam. We visited several temples to photograph sculptures that the dancers attempt to follow in their poses, and also a few wall paintings. I photographed Bharati in costume at the Mahabalipuram beach and also a few young dancers in costume. The book has recently been reprinted by Bharati Shivaji and has just been re-released again in New Delhi at the Jaipur Literary Festival. The next time I traveled to Kerala was just to see the sights and spend time with friends at the hill stations. We did not see any dance programs in Kerala except the


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Bharati Shivaji in costume at the Mahabalipuram beach in 1981, for her book on Mohiniyattam. PHOTO: AVINASH PASRICHA

Soorya Festival in the palace on the hill by sheer chance. Q: Your exhibitions and their reception... I have not done many exhibitions - one in Chennai years ago, and a couple in Delhi. Have done some exhibitions in the auditorium foyers of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Pandit Durga Lal at the Kamani auditorium. The last exhibition I did was for World Dance Day in April 2019 at the Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi. But, not too many people showed up. It was very small and not well advertised. We are planning to have one new exhibition at the new Museo Camera complex in Gurugram soon. Q: The pandemic unsettled many streams, how do you see the situation? The past year has been not too good for me or the dancers and musicians. No programs in auditoriums and I do not enjoy programs on my laptop or even on the large television screens. Last year there were many videos of their earlier programs being streamed on YouTube. Also a few made without audiences just to keep the organizers and performers in the public eye. However, the performance of most good dancers is much better for a large attentive audience.

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Also, not many newspapers were carrying program reviews. So, the camera is lying in the cupboard. There is an occasional demand for some of my old photographs which I try and fulfill - usually without payment. Q: Future plans... I am now in my mid-eighties and I try my best to somehow digitize over six decades of work that can be saved and be available for posterity. I am not good with the computer, while we hired some young people to do it and help, but with the pandemic shutdowns, the work is on a halt for the time being. Avinash Pasricha has co-authored multiple books on Indian dance with exponents and artists like Sunil Kothari, Leela Samson, Leela Venkataraman, Bharati Shivaji, and Raghava Menon. The Sangeet Natak Akademi honoured him with the title award in recognition of his overall contribution in the field of music and dance in 2018. He has received several other accolades including the Delhi Sahitya Kala Parishad Award (1988), the Lifetime Achievement Award by Natya Vriksha (2018), and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award (2019). Avinash Pasricha married Santosh Manchanda on January 16, 1963, at Barnala (Punjab). Elder son Veenu Pasricha now runs a media firm, and younger son Amit Pasricha is a photographer, interior designer, and cultural activist. ●


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attention PRIYANKA B.

The change in medium hardly hampered the spirit of artists and the rasikas, and the success stories of online events go on, making a difference.

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new year has begun. The field of performing arts has been passing through a stage of reformation since the pandemic outbreak. Whilst sticking to tradition, it has become modern in both thought and approach. However, the change in medium seems not to have hampered the spirit of artists and the rasikas. The receptivity to ticketed events best exemplifies this. Success stories go on, and here’s a look into some, which made a difference. Devi Kamakhya Sanskritik Mahotsav The second edition of the dance festival in honour of goddess Kamakhya, the presiding deity of Kamakhya temple, Assam, turned impactful by the presence of a line-up of exponents. Jointly organised by Kalpavriksh and Muktimangal, the one-day show titled ‘Devi Kamakhya Sanskritik Mahotsav’ was live-streamed across the organiser’s YouTube channel on the 1st of January 2021. Bharatanatyam exponent Rama Vaidyanathan performed in the opening slot of the near four and a half hour event. She began with a verse from Kamakhya Tantra, followed by “Sringara rasamanjari...”, a composition of Muthuswami Dikshitar in praise of Goddess Kamakshi. Delving into the depths of Sringara rasa, embellishing it with grace Bharatanatyam exponent Rama Vaidyanathan performing in the opening slot of Devi Kamakhya Devi Kamakhya Sanskritik Mahotsav 2021. PHOTO: INNEE SINGH


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K

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SHANMUKHADAS KALAMANDALAM

FACEBOOK - KALAMANDALAM SHANMUKHADAS fb.me/kalamandalamshanmukha.das

EXPOSURE: 1/125 | F6.3 | ISO 800 CANON EOS 450D / SIGMA 70-300MM F/4-5.6 DG MACRO

alamandalam Shanmukhadas is a noted Kathakali actor hailing from Ambalappuzha, Alappuzha. Joining at the age of twelve in Kerala Kalamandalam, he was fortunate to be under the able tutelage of eminent gurus like Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, Kalamandalam Gopi, Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody, and Kalamandalam Balasubramanian. Recently he joined as a faculty in his alma mater. Shanmukhadas excels in male and female lead roles alike. Pacha roles such as Arjuna, Nala, Bhima, Bahuka, Daksha, Karna; Kathi roles like Keechaka, Ravana, Duryodhana; and Minukku (female) characters like Damayanthi, different Lalitha roles, Mohini, Panchali - his presentation of these characters in various plays are highly praised by the rasikas all over. He has traveled extensively within and outside the country for performances, workshops, and lecture-demonstrations. He is the recipient of several laurels including, the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, Bhagavathar Kunjunni Thampuran Endowment, and so on.

HAREE FOTOGRAFIE fb.me/haree.fotografie

Among the different characters that he breathes life in the portrayal, a unique role is that of Raudra Bhima in ‘Duryodhanavadham’ Kathakali. A furious Bhima searches for his arch-rival Dussasana in the Kurukshetra to slaughter him and honour the promise made to Panchali. Right from the ‘thiranottam’ or the customary curtain-raiser, the actor has to show a lot of indignancy and sustain it till the end, making the roleplay challenging. Over the years Kalamandalam Shanmukhadas has proved his mettle in presenting Raudra Bhima, and now is one of the most favoured actors for the role. These snaps are of Raudra Bhima by Shanmukhadas, presented more than a decade back, in connection with the ‘National Livestock Show & Food Festival 2010’ at the open-air stage of Nishagandhi, T’puram. ●

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Seasoned artists Madhavi Mudgal (left) and Bharati Shivaji during this year's edition of Devi Kamakhya Sanskritik Mahotsav. SCREEN CAPTURES

YOUTUBE - DEVI KAMAKHYA SANSKRITIK MAHOTSAV tinyurl.com/ag-dksm

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and devotion, Rama Vaidyanathan unfolded the various forms of the goddess of desire. The uniquely choreographed item turned out to be a feast for the eyes as the dancer explored womanhood in every bit of her performance. The recorded music with Sudha Raghuraman in the vocal lent the mystic feel the piece demanded. Following Rama, acclaimed Odissi dancer Madhavi Mudgal performed a couple of items characteristic to the repertoire. The dancer began with an invocation to goddess Lakshmi. It led to an abhinaya piece depicting Radha in conversation with the divine flute, the inseparable companion of Krishna. The ashtapadi “Dheera sameere...”, wherein a sakhi pursues Radha to meet lovesick Krishna followed and, Madhavi concluded with pallavi, a pure dance piece. Vyjayanthi Kashi, who is synonymous with Kuchipudi, made her presence felt with a vibrant performance. After the invocation, she moved on to ‘Sharmishtha’, with characters drawn from Mahabharata. It narrated the tale of Sharmishtha, whose fortunes dwindle at the hands of fate. Her friendship with Devayani, how it turns sour, and the events reducing her from a princess to servant and ending up as the second wife of King Yayati formed the storyline. Representing Kathak, appeared one of the foremost exponents of Jaipur gharana Rajendra Kumar Gangani. Following an invocatory piece, he depicted the melody of the traditional teen taal using a pure dance number characterised by intricate footwork. The dancer then gave way to a group from Kerala who joined with a Kathakali performance. The team presented an abridged version of ‘Kalyanasougandhikam’ play in two acts, with Sadanam Krishnankutty enacting Bhima, Kalluvazhi Vasu as Panchali, and Kottakkal Nandakumaran Nair in the role of Hanuman. Kottakkal Madhu and Nedumpally Ram Mohan (vocals), Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan (chenda), and Kottakkal Ravi (maddalam) offered the musical accompaniment. Manipuri by dancer-couple Sinam Basu Singh and Monika Konjengbam and, Mohiniyattam by Bharati Shivaji were Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi during her Kuchipudi performance at the 2021 edition of Devi Kamakhya Devi Kamakhya Sanskritik Mahotsav. PHOTO: PAWAN


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Avijit Das (from left), Sneha Sasikumar, and T. Reddi Lakshmi presenting Kuchipudi for the 'Natya Keertanam' project. SCREEN CAPTURES

An initiative of SAMPADA, the ‘Natya Keertanam’ aims to make the rare compositions of legendary musicians available for the classical dance repertoire.

PRIYANKA B. is a post-graduate in English

literature and an art enthusiast who enjoys photographing classical dance performances. She currently works as Postal Assistant with Department of Posts, India.

the other two recitals in the event. The Manipuri segment had solo pieces, to begin with, and then the duo came together in ‘Shiva Panchakshara’, hailing Lord Shiva. For acclaimed Mohiniyattam artist Bharati Shivaji, journeying through emotions looked effortless as she presented ‘Ashtarasa’, making it a perfect conclusion for the dance festival. Natya Keertanam An initiative of Silicon Andhra Music, Performing Arts and Dance Academy (SAMPADA), the ‘Natya Keertanam’ aims to make the rare compositions of legendary musicians available for the classical dance repertoire. Culminating a two-year-long effort, the Annamacharya segment of the project released on 23rd and 24th January this year registered an impression by the innovation in thought and execution. Ten songs from the Annamacharya clan were re-rendered as dance compositions as part of the initiative. These got assigned to eleven noted talents who performed them in the dance segment of the two-day event. The first day had a panel discussion featuring the participant artists and the organisers, wherein the former discussed the thought process that went into choreographing the dance

pieces. The dancers opined that the approach adopted here was a drastic shift from their comfort zone, enabling them to experiment and present ideas that explored the various depths of the Annamayya compositions. Coming to the musical part, the songs chosen from different genres of the literature of the saint-poet and rendered by Sriram Parasuram, Seshulatha Kosuru, and T.K. Saroja offered numerous possibilities for dance interpretations. Devotional songs, Sringara padams, and philosophical verses; the dancers portrayed the various facets of these as they came back to back in the allotted slots of nearly fifteen minutes. Avijit Das, in the opening slot, presented “Kandarpa janaka...”, a power-packed piece evoking the numerous forms of Lord Vishnu. Sneha Sasikumar emerged vivacious as she danced to an endearing composition, “Rara chinnanna...” depicting the pranks of Krishna and the effect it brings on the womenfolk. For T. Reddi Lakshmi, the padam “Kadalinte mata...” served as an opportunity to experiment. Originally written from the perspective of the sakhis, who tease the newly wedded goddess Alamelumanga, the dancer adopted a different approach, portraying


artograph Alamelumanga herself and her reactions towards the comments of sakhis on the intricacies of a love-relationship. A composition making use of a similar theme, the padam “Polathi javvanamuna...”, presented by Payal Ramchandani, described the sakhis in praise of beautiful Alamelumanga, likening her emotions to various flowers, as goddess yearns for the union with her beloved. Aparna Dhulipalla appeared in “Purushottamuda veevu...” a composition having deep philosophical overtones. It hails the magnanimity of the divine supreme, who always comes to the rescue of his ignorant and inferior devotees. However, the introspective theme and song structure seemed a real challenge for the performer here. Proceeding to the Bharatanatyam part, the performers were Uma Sathya Narayanan, Divya Ravi, Renjith Babu-Vijna Vasudevan, Kasi Aysola, and Geetha Sirisha. “Nagavulu nijamani nammeda...”, performed by Uma, depicted a confused nayika whose mind oscillates between the temptations thrown in by Lord Venkateswara and the will to resist the same. By shifting the focus from the nritta part, Uma explored the potentiality of abhinaya to convey her theme. Divya Ravi gave life to “Ekkadi manusha janmam...” a composition depicting a seeker contemplating the very existence of life. A theme difficult to work upon, her performance had several interesting elements, particularly the use of recurrent motifs representing the endless cycle of births and deaths that constitute the maya. Annie Sajayan (left) during her opening program and Guru Geetha Padmakumar with her disciple Kalamandalam Sheena Sunil at the eighth edition of 'Lasyotsavam' classical dance festival. SCREEN CAPTURES

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For Renjith-Vijna, “Namo namo raghukula nayaka...”, a song in praise of Lord Rama, offered the opportunity to present a condensed version of Ramayana by touching upon the important episodes. Kasi Aysola, who presented the padam “Iddari tamakamu lituvalene...” attempted to delineate the sensitive ideas involved in it. The item portrayed a sakhi who had come on behalf of the heroine to invite the hero. However, the meeting results in a romantic dalliance with the hero. With the unexpected turn of events, the sakhi feels reluctant to approach the heroine, eagerly waiting for her beloved. To conclude, Geetha Sirisha performed “Namo narayana...” abound in devotion to the lord, expressing complete surrender. While SAMPADA put reasonable effort into maintaining the video-audio quality, the unnecessary graphic should’ve been avoided. Lasyotsavam The eighth edition of ‘Lasyotsavam’, the national classical dance fest curated by Pallavi Krishnan under the aegis of Lasya Akademi of Mohiniyattam, happened online this time. Inaugurated by Kalamandalam Hymavathy, the three-day event held in association with the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, took place from 13th to 15th February 2021. Live-streamed across online handles of the organiser, the one-hour session on each day focussed on two performances. The festival got to a start with the Mohiniyattam recital of the budding talent Annie Sajayan. She began her performance with ‘Shiva tatvam’, a composition of Kavalam Narayana Panicker and Palakkad Suryanarayanan, based on Shiva Panchakshara stotra in praise of the lord. Annie concluded with the oft-performed, endearing Swathi Thirunal padam, “Chaliye kunjanamo...”, portraying


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Kathakali by Kalamandalam Adithyan E.S. and Kalamandalam Vaisakh concluding the eighth edition of 'Lasyotsavam' classical dance festival. SCREEN CAPTURE

FACEBOOK - THE 8TH EDITION OF LASYOTSAVAM tinyurl.com/ag-lasyotsavam

the courtship of nayika and her beloved Krishna. The next item in the slot brought together two artists representing two distinct dance forms. Rakesh Sai Babu in Mayurbhanj Chhau and Priya Srinivasan in Bharatanatyam tried to bond the drastically different repertoires without losing the essence of each of them. The duo performed unitedly in pieces ‘Samagam’exploring the musicality and technique of both the dance styles and ‘Shringara’- based on the theme of Radha-Krishna love. In solo pieces ‘Nataraj’, hailing Lord Shiva, and ‘Yoddha’, the acrobatic war dance involving swordplay, Rakesh Sai depicted the vitality and vigour of Chhau. The second day featured Odissi by Shashwati Garai Ghosh and a Kuchipudi group performance led by Guru Geetha Padmakumar. Shashwati chose to present ‘Gativilas’, an item in which she described the attributes of a performer by making comparisons with certain birds and animals. She then moved to ‘Poorna’, a padavali in raag Kalashree, depicting a matured woman in love, conversing with her sakhi. Conceptualised by herself, the item seeks inspiration from the

idea of the growth of an artist who learns to live with the art, embodying every aspect of it. The choice of items made her performance engaging, but inadequate lighting somewhat limited the experience. One could only wish to have more of the next performance of the day led by Geetha Padmakumar, accompanied by her senior disciples Kalamandalam Sheena Sunil and Kalakshetra Ponny Anurag. The group began with an invocatory piece, “Sree Rama Saraswati sevitha...”, a composition of Muthuswami Dikshitar in praise of Goddess Lalithambika. It then gave way to a solo piece featuring a vibrant Geetha Padmakumar in the Annamacharya composition “Paluku tenela talli...”, describing Goddess Padmavati who sleeps after spending a blissful night of union with Lord Venkateswara. The group concluded with the tarangam, “Alokaye sree balakrishnam...” depicting various episodes from the life of Lord Krishna. The final day had a Kathak recital by Nepal-born Leena Malakar Vij and Kathakali featuring two young talents. Leena, who specialized in Jaipur gharana began with ‘Omkara’, conceived as an

invocation to Lord Shiva. She continued with a pure dance piece in teental and ended up in ‘Krishna leela’, based on little Krishna. The festival concluded with a Kathakali performance by Kalamandalam Adithyan E.S. and Kalamandalam Vaisakh. The duo enacted the ‘Gita Upadesha’ episode, taking place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, with Adithyan in the role of charioteer Krishna and Vaisakh as the perplexed Arjuna. Though streaming took place in 1080p, some participants could not ensure good quality videos, which marred the impact of their performance. Except that, the festival was topnotch with leading artists delivering performances par excellence. And among the rest of the events that happened, ‘Arpanam’, a classical dance festival, curated by Mohiniyattam exponent Sunanda Nair completed nine editions in five months, and is still ongoing. For Margi, T’puram and Nepathya Centre for Excellence in Koodiyattam, it was another two months of registering their online presence. Of course, these weren’t all, and it is only a snapshot from many that were organized during the period. ●


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making it happen HAREESH N. NAMPOOTHIRI

R

asaBodhi Arts Foundation, founded in 2011, initiated their flagship event ‘Evam’ in 2015, and the following year through Wishberry, organized the first crowd-funded classical dance festival. The festival gained recognition with each edition premiering some of the best dance productions featuring exceptional artists. This time was also no different, except that it happened online. Presented through the Shaale digital platform, RasaBodhi made it happen, that too, in a laudable manner. The founder and curator Keerthana Ravi mentioned in her opening statement; “Good quality art needs to be presented with sensitivity and sensibility,

Dakshina Vaidyanathan as Rani Rudrama Devi presented as part of 'Veerbala' on the opening day of 'Evam 2021'. SCREEN CAPTURE

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FACEBOOK - RASABODHI ARTS FOUNDATION fb.me/RasaBodhiArtsFoundation

Poorna Acharya as Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi in 'Veerbala' on the opening day of the 2021 edition of 'Evam'. SCREEN CAPTURE

and hence we chose not to undersell our art form...” - a bold statement indeed and something which is a need of the hour to make the art sustainable. However, production and streaming quality must match the expectations of the global audience. And it is in this aspect, ‘Evam’ really made a difference. As envisaged by the team, the four-day long virtual program turned out to be a benchmark for online classical dance events. The essential quality of the audio, video, and streaming maintained throughout the festival assured an experience well delivered.

As envisaged by the team, the 2021 edition of ‘Evam’, the four-day long virtual program turned out to be a benchmark for online classical dance events.

Portraying valourous queens The opening day of the festival featured three young dancers. They took the roles of brave Indian queens, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Rani Chennamma of Kittur and Rani Rudrama Devi of the Kakatiyas. Poorna Acharya, Shivaranjini Harish, and Dakshina Vaidyanathan adopted the stories of these queens to dance, and the curation was by Usha R.K. The lives of Rani Lakshmibai and Rani Chennamma are not so different. They both became widows at a young age and had to take care of their adopted sons alongside ruling their land. Presented in Kathak, Poorna excelled in converting those bols to dance sequences, mainly displaying the martial skills and fight portions, often using some props. Performed in a little over fifteen minutes, Poorna had to rush through the narratives. However, she managed to give a snapshot of the conflicts of her character. One area where Poorna should’ve done better was taking proper care of the light and smoke effects. It was all awry in certain portions. The camera and editing also lacked finesse, and continuity problems could’ve avoided. Shivaranjini Harish took slightly over twenty minutes to bring Rani Chennamma back to life. In the opening three minutes, she danced with her back to the camera and probably made the viewers wonder what the dancer was trying to achieve. Apart from this, the dancer put the rest together nicely. Shivaranjini’s storytelling was more composed with subtle facial expressions that made the act convincing and a compelling watch.


artograph Though the medium was Bharatanatyam, a few elements like the vachika and some jathis - the dancer seems to have taken inspiration from Kuchipudi, which worked well. The choreography showcasing the queen’s combat skills using the sword and shield was also impressive. She could successfully highlight how the tale of Chennamma could inspire the women of present times. Avoiding unnecessary lighting effects and keeping the video recording simple made the show easy on the eyes. The on-stage music support by Ramya Janakiraman (nattuvangam), Debur S. Srivathsa (vocal), S. Lingaraju (mridangam), and Mahesha Swamy (flute) was also ample.

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A different tale Compared to the other two, the story of Rani Rudrama Devi takes a distinctive route. And very aptly, Dakshina Vaidyanathan presented it as the tale of a grandmother bringing up her daughter’s son to be brave and proficient in warfare to defeat the traitor and win back the kingdom. In the short span, the character goes through different phases of her life. She’s brave, seeks revenge, sad about the fate of her country, and also an affectionate grandmother. Dakshina was on a roll throughout, making it an enticing near twenty-five minutes presentation. Bringing the flag of the realm as a metaphor, Dakshina proficiently illus-

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trated the warrior’s dedication to the country. Her technique - both abhinaya and dance - shone as she presented Rudrama’s life in a nutshell. Dakshina has shown Rudrama imparting the knowledge of warfare to her grandson, alongside certain other aspects of being a ruler - a thoughtful inclusion that made her Rudrama commendable. The well-arranged recorded track with music set by S. Vasudevan, soulfully rendered by Sudha Raghuraman, was also remarkable. The multi-camera video, with hardly any light effects, also served fine. Immaculate to the core Rama Vaidyanathan started where Dakshina concluded the other day, quite literally as it was the same floor, setting, lighting - the only difference being the inclusion of live music. The ninety-minute concert with alarippu, varnam, padam, and thillana, packaged as the ‘Now Margam’, was special in multiple aspects. Though a lot of dance events happen online, full-fledged recitals are not that common. It hardly matters whether it is a ‘now margam’ or simply the ‘margam’. When presented by a dancer of calibre, as Rama Vaidyanathan did here, it always makes the audience awe. Mayur Alarippu is something in

Shivaranjani Harish presenting Rani Chennamma, the second queen in the 'Veerbala' production and her team of musicians (right). SCREEN CAPTURES


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Rama Vaidyanathan during her Bharatanatyam recital titled the 'Now Margam' as part of Evam 2021. SCREEN CAPTURE

the dancer’s repertoire for many years now, and it still looks fresh. The charm of the recital was the varnam. Using Shyama Shastri’s composition in Ananda Bhairavi, “Sami ni rammanave...” Rama brought to life a heroine, totally devoted to the Varadaraja Perumal of Kanchipuram. One notable aspect of Rama Vaidyanathan’s presentation was the thought process and how she approached her character. The emotions were genuine, and the viewers could relate to each situation with ease. Take, for instance, the heroine giving clues to her sakhi to make her understand the name of her beloved or telling her that the time is precious and not to waste it. In another part, she portrayed the heroine as a child and then as a young

lady trying to make the way and get a glimpse of the majestic procession of Varadharaja. The lighthearted approach, in the right proportions, made these even more lively. The way Rama Vaidyanathan launched the dance sequences in between each passage was flawless. Thanks to S. Vasudevan for his free-flowing jathi renditions complementing the dancer. Moving on to the charanam “Maruni banamulu vemaru...”, the heroine challenges the god of love, shows how she’s dismayed by the flower arrows and tells him to stop troubling her. Rama was in the best of her elements here, and when it comes to the varying sentiments of the nayika, she got the viewers engrossed. Sudha The accompanying team for Rama Vaidyanathan; Manohar Balatchandirane (mridangam), S. Vasudevan (nattuvangam) Sudha Raghuraman (vocal), and G. Raghuraman (flute). SCREEN CAPTURE


artograph Raghuraman’s singing echoing the mood in each situation, along with the mridangam by Manohar Balatchandirane and flute by G. Raghuraman - all provided the dancer support in abundance. Rama Vaidyanathan moved on to a Kshetrayya padam, and in the intro, she mentioned that the lyrics hint at the lost opportunities, dishevelled plans, and discontentment that we face now. Set to music by the singer Sudha Raghuraman herself in raga Dharmavati, and Misra Chapu tala, “Taruniro punya paapamu...” was on a philosophical course. The heroine was very mature, and the whole piece centred around the idea of accepting whatever comes into our lives, irrespective of whether it is favourable or not. It could be flowers or thorns, and there could be union or separation it all makes no difference. Once she realizes this, Rama’s nayika found contentment, and so did the viewers. The concluding piece was a thillana based on Skanda Sashti Kavacham, musically adapted by Sudha Raghuraman. With more lyrical portions, it was like a keerthanam and thillana mix. While the combination worked, for the most part, it felt unrefined in a few places. However, both the singer and the dancer could conclude it on a high note, paying obeisance to Lord Kartikeya. Laments of Krishna ‘Venugaan’ - hearing the title, one could easily connect to Krishna. However, those who imagined it as the usual happy going tales of Krishna were in for a surprise, or rather a shock. They were not A scene from 'Venugaan' - a Sankhya Dance Company production, featuring Vaibhav Arekar. PHOTO: SEJAS MISTRY

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artograph wrong either, as Vaibhav Arekar started with “Akhilam madhuram...” praising and touching upon the virtues of Sree Krishna, with some fine-tuned acting and dance sequences. The inclusion of this particular piece, in the beginning, was deliberate, and it became clear as the dancer moved on to the crux of the production. It reminded the viewers how Krishna is seen mostly - as somebody who knows it all, powerful, and as the one who has a solution for everything.

For the finale, RasaBodhi joined hands with UK based Darbar Festival and streamed a recorded live from their archive. One thing that immediately caught the attention was the stage and light setting.

Vaibhav Arekar then took the role of Sree Krishna in his last day of life to present the character in an entirely different light. The production was a dance theatre, and as mentioned by the artist, it had dialogues dissolving into movements and vice-versa. The light arrangements, shadow and smoke effects, camera movements, edited inserts, intriguing background score - these all came to the dancer’s aid to create that sensation of abstruse realms. One unique aspect of the production would be the way Vaibhav used the medium of Bharatanatyam. A section of alarippu fused in the initial scene, and the use of different adavus in the dancing portions that followed - all these were noteworthy. A series of monologues, scripted by Vasant Dev, was the backbone of the production. For each passage, dance found the scope as Krishna’s thoughts wander to his past. Where’s Radha? How did I end up killing Kamsa? Why am I not able to hold my bansuri anymore? All this while, whether I was the one playing or was it like I was being played? Krishna asks these and more to the supreme god but in vain. The concluding scene was the last moments of the protagonist, hinting that he goes back to his mother’s lap. Strikingly different For the finale, RasaBodhi joined hands with UK based Darbar Festival and streamed a recorded live from their archive. The show was a collaboration between the Bharatanatyam dancer Mavin Khoo and the acclaimed Carnatic vocalist O.S. Arun, which took place in November 2017. Taking positions on either side of the stage, D.V. Prasanna in the nattuvangam, Easwar Ramakrishnan on the violin, and Manjunath B.C. on the mridangam formed the rest of the team.

O.S. Arun in the vocal (from left), Easwar Ramakrishnan on the violin, D.V. Prasanna in the nattuvangam, and Manjunath B.C. on the mridangam formed the musical team of Mavin Khoo. SCREEN CAPTURES

One thing that immediately caught the attention was the stage and light setting. Something that the organizers from here can consider. The hanging filament bulbs covering the whole roof, which seemed like just a curio initially, were brought down later. While it is doubtful whether it contributed something to the performance, it had a visual


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Whatever minor flaws one might find, Mavin Khoo made it all fade away with his atmost dedication and ended his recital impressively.

Mavin Khoo presenting Bharatanatyam on the Darbar Festival stage in 2017; streamed as part of 'Evam 2021'. SCREEN CAPTURE

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appeal. The video recording used multiple cameras, from different angles, with zoom and pan movements also coming into play. When these feeds got edited together, the output had a beauty of its own. But at the same time, the edits, especially when switched between ultrawide and extreme close shots now and then, was more distracting than helping to convey the mood the dancer was trying to create. Now about the performer and the performance, Mavin Khoo’s approach to Bharatanatyam differs considerably from what the rasikas at large are so used to. In dance portions, he danced to perfection, focusing heavily on technique and precision. Coming to the part of the sentiment, he has a visual expression of his own. There was a voice-over by Pia Zammit, helping those who are not familiar with the dance form to understand the character and the context. The near sixty minutes performance was a combination of multiple compositions. And Mavin moved from one to the other without taking any pauses in between. He began with a portion of the varnam “Sami niveyani...” in Kalyani. After presenting the heroine uniting with his beloved, Mavin Khoo swiftly moved on to “Aaj jane ki zid na karo...”, a ghazal composed by Sohail Rana. Nayika from the varnam continued here, insisting the hero not to leave today. And Mavin made it an earnest appeal in his portrayal. The story continued showing the nayika waking up to find she was left alone. Death comes untimely and in portraying the grief Mavin was at his best. Then came the fierce Kali part, where the dancer seemed in a trance than dancing. The vigour, dancer’s style of all those well-defined movements, some display of his acrobatic abilities - like the extended one-footed spin, all made it so sensational. Whatever minor flaws one might find, Mavin Khoo made it all fade away with his utmost dedication and ended his recital impressively. The dancer and his team received a very well deserved standing ovation at the end from the viewers, that time in the auditorium and probably now in their living rooms. O.S. Arun’s rendering was melodic, and at the same time, filled with emotion. He modulated his voice to match the mood each time. The rest of the team also made their efforts count, and they made it captivating altogether. The first three shows were streamed on consecutive dates starting on the 15th of January, and the last one was on the 7th of February. The event was available to subscribers for a few weeks afterwards on the Shaale platform. ●


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journey as a critic. In the late nineties, when leading newspapers had stopped print media publication of reviews, Sunil turned to electronic media to continue his task. When no Indian training institutes were imparting the art of critiquing or organisations supported the practice, he took it upon himself to raise awareness on the topic. He set an example by showing what it means to critique and how one can cultivate it. He also often encouraged the idea of having a formal educational course on art criticism in premiere institutions. Considering his expertise and invaluable contributions, he was honoured with several prestigious awards including Padma Shri and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Considering his expertise and invaluable contributions, Sunil Kothari was honoured with several prestigious awards including Padma Shri and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Throughout his professional career, he bravely clashed against many hurdles. Even in his last few days, he remained true to his spirit. Sunil fought vehemently against the order of the central government, asking artists to vacate the government-allotted homes. “At such a fragile age, it’s humiliating that we have to fight for our dignity.” said the octogenarian scholar when the press asked for his response. [4] Though his end marked his grit and determination, the art community deeply mourns the loss of a treasure to the dance field. “Whatever they might say, moksha is in your work, and you can achieve nirvana...” the words of Sunil reverberates even after he has left the stage. [1] In the practice of his craft, Sunil Kothari lived an immortal life of salvation. ● References

■ AVINASH PASRICHA

1. Arora, S. (2018, September 22). Watch dance, it will give you joy: Dr. Sunil Kothari's life in dance. Retrieved Feb 28, 2021, from http://www.narthaki.com/info/intervw/intrv206.html 2. Iyer, A. (2016, December 16). Immersed in the world of nritya. Retrieved Feb 28, 2021, from https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/ dance/Immersed-in-the-world-of-nritya/article16841558.ece 3. Kothari, S. (2014, September 13). Constructive dance criticism. Retrieved Feb 28, 2021, from https://narthaki.com/info/gtsk/gtsk104.html 4. Ara, I. (2020, November 18). Eminent artistes receive eviction notices to Vacate government housing in Delhi. Retrieved Feb 28, 2021, from https://thewire.in/government/ eminent-artistes-receive-eviction-notices-vacate-government-housing-delhi

Sunil Kothari (1933 - 2020) born to Dahiben and Manilal Kothari on the 20th of December 1933, is one who opened new frontiers in the field of art criticism. Trained in Bharatanatyam and Kathak, this chartered accountant by profession completed his doctoral studies on the dance drama traditions of South India and Natyashastra in 1977 from M.S. University, Baroda and was conferred D.Litt. by the Rabindra Bharti University. A Sangeet Natak Akademi fellow, he had held the Uday Shankar Chair in Rabindra Bharati University and taught in the Dance Department of New York University as a Fulbright Professor. He played a pivotal role in establishing the School of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He also served as a member of the International Dance Council of Unesco and World Dance Alliance Asia-Pacific. Sunil started his writing career with the Times of India group of publications and has authored more than twenty books including, ‘Sattriya: Classical Dance of Assam’, ‘New Directions in Indian Dance’, and ‘Kuchipudi: Indian Classical Dance Art’, to name a few. For his unparalleled contributions, he received several laurels including, Padma Shri (2001), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1995) and Life Time Achievement Award of the Dance Critics Association, New York, USA (2011). ● Additional text by Priyanka B.


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നാടകാന്തം

കവിത്വം തീർത്ഥ ഇ. പ�ൊതുവാൾ

നാ

ടകത്തിന്റെ അവസാനഭാഗം, ശ്രീരാമന്റെയും സീതയുടെയും പട്ടാഭിഷേകം. സർവ്വാഭരണ വിഭൂഷിതരായി രാമനും സീതയും വേദിയുടെ മധ്യത്തിലെ രാജകീയ സിംഹാസനത്തിൽ ഉപവിഷ്ഠരായിരിക്കുന്നു. അരികിൽ രാമന്റെ പരമഭക്തനായ ഹനുമാൻ, സഹ�ോദരന്മാർ, അങ്ങനെ ഏറ്റവും ഒടുവിൽ ഗന്ധർവാപ്സരസുകള�ോട�ൊപ്പം നൃത്തച്ചുവടുവെച്ച് ഞാനും... പെട്ടെന്നാണ് കണ്ണുകൾ തുറന്നത്. എല്ലാം ഒരു സ്വപ്നം. തമിഴ് നാട്ടിൽ, വിശിഷ്യാ ചെന്നൈയിൽ, നൃത്ത സംഗീത വേദികൾ സജീവമാവുന്ന മാർഗഴി മാസത്തിന്റെ സ്വാധീനം.

രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി അരുണ്ഡേൽ എന്ന മഹാനർത്തകി ഭാരതത്തിന്റെ ശാസ്ത്രീയ നൃത്തധാരയ്ക്ക് മുതൽകൂട്ടായി ചേർത്തുവെച്ച ‘കലാക്ഷേത്ര’യിലെ നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങൾ അവിടെ നിന്നും പഠിച്ചിറങ്ങുന്നവരുടെ ഓർമ്മകളിൽ തെളിഞ്ഞു നിൽക്കുന്നവയാണ്. നൃത്തത്തെപ്പറ്റി യാത�ൊരു ധാരണയുമില്ലാതെ അവിടെയെത്തുന്ന കാണികളെപ്പോലും അത്ഭുതപ്പെടുത്തുന്നവയാണവ. അവിടെ നൃത്തം പഠിക്കാനെത്തു2014-ൽ കലാക്ഷേത്രയിൽ 'മഹാപട്ടാഭിഷേകം' അരങ്ങേറിയപ്പോൾ ശ്രീരാമനായി ഗിരീഷ് മധു, സീതയായി ശാരദ ആചാര്യ, ഹനുമാനായി ഹരി പദ്മൻ തുടങ്ങിയവർ. PHOTO: SREEDHAR VAIDYA

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രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി അരുണ്ഡേലിന്റെ നാൽപതുകളിലെടുത്ത ഒരു ചിത്രം; അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ നൂറാം ജന്മദിനത്തോട് അനുബന്ധിച്ച് കലാക്ഷേത്ര പുറത്തിറക്കിയ പുസ്തകത്തിൽ നിന്നും. PHOTO: WIKIPEDIA

സൂര്യയുടെ വേദിയിൽ 'ശബരീമ�ോക്ഷം' അവതരിപ്പിക്കപ്പെട്ടപ്പോൾ ഗിരീഷ് മധുവും ശാരദ ആചാര്യയും ശ്രീരാമനും സീതയുമായി അരങ്ങത്ത്. PHOTO: HAREE FOTOGRAFIE

ന്നവർക്കാവട്ടെ, പഠനകാലയളവായ നാലു ക�ൊല്ലത്തിൽ നാലനുഭൂതിയാവും ഈ നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങൾ സമ്മാനിക്കുക.

അല്പം ചരിത്രം രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി അരുണ്ഡേൽ എന്ന മഹാനർത്തകി ഭാരതത്തിന്റെ ശാസ്ത്രീയ നൃത്തധാരയ്ക്ക് മുതൽകൂട്ടായി ചേർത്തുവെച്ച ‘കലാക്ഷേത്ര’യിലെ നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങൾ അവിടെ നിന്നും പഠിച്ചിറങ്ങുന്നവരുടെ ഓർമ്മകളിൽ തെളിഞ്ഞു നിൽക്കുന്നവയാണ്.

THEERTHA E. PODUVAL is a Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher, following the art form right from a tender age. She is an alumnus of Kalakshetra and a Doordarshan graded artist, Currently, she pursues advanced studies under gurus Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon.

രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി അരുണ്ഡേൽ പന്തനല്ലൂർ ബാണിയുടെ സഹായത്തോടു കൂടി പദപ്രയ�ോഗമുള്ളൊരു ഭരതനാട്യശൈലി സൃഷ്ടിച്ച് അത് വിദ്യാർത്ഥികളെ പഠിപ്പിക്കുന്നതിന�ൊപ്പം, ആദ്യകാലം മുതൽ തന്നെ കെ.പി. കുഞ്ഞിരാമൻ, ചന്തു പണിക്കർ, അമ്പു പണിക്കർ എന്നീ കഥകളി ആചാര്യന്മാരുടെ ശിക്ഷണത്തിൽ വിദ്യാർത്ഥികൾക്ക് കഥകളി അഭ്യസനവും നൽകിയിരുന്നു. ഭരതനാട്യ നർത്തകർക്ക് അടിത്തറയായ മാർഗത്തിനു പുറമേ നൃത്തത്തിന് പുതിയ�ൊരു രൂപം നൽകി വേറിട്ടതരം നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങളും ഇത�ോട�ൊപ്പം വിഭാവനം ചെയ്തു. യക്ഷഗാനങ്ങളിൽ നിന്നും അല്ലെങ്കിൽ ആ കാലത്ത് പ്രചാരത്തിലുണ്ടായിരുന്ന ഇതര നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങളിൽ നിന്നും വിഭിന്നമായ ഒന്നായിരുന്നു ഇവ. കഥകളിയിലെ ചലനങ്ങൾ ഭരതനാട്യത്തിൽ സന്നിവേശിപ്പിക്കുകയും, മന�ോധർമ്മ അഭിനയം, തിരശ്ശീല, മദ്ദളം, വലിയ കൈത്താളങ്ങൾ തുടങ്ങിയവ ഈ നാടകാവതരണങ്ങളിൽ ഉപയ�ോഗിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു.

ഇരുപത്തഞ്ചോളം നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങളാണ് രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി ഈ രീതിയിൽ അരങ്ങിലെത്തിച്ചത്. ആറു ഭാഗങ്ങളുള്ള 'രാമായണം' തന്നെയാവും ഇവയിൽ ഏറ്റവും മികച്ചത്. വാത്മീകി രാമായണത്തെ അടിസ്ഥാനമാക്കി, അതിലെ സംസ്കൃത ശ്ലോകങ്ങൾ തന്നെയുപയ�ോഗിച്ച്, തയ്യാറാക്കിയിരിക്കുന്ന ഈ നൃത്തശില്പം പൂർണരൂപത്തിൽ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുന്നത് അപൂർവം. സീതാസ്വയംവരം (1954), ശ്രീരാമവനാഗമനം (1960), പാദുകപട്ടാഭിഷേകം (1960), ശബരീമ�ോക്ഷം (1965), ചൂഡാമണിപ്രദാനം (1968), മഹാപട്ടാഭിഷേകം (1970) എന്നിങ്ങനെ, പതിനാറ് വർഷകാലയളവിലാണ്, 'രാമായണ' പരമ്പരയിലെ ആറ് ഭാഗങ്ങൾ പൂർത്തിയാക്കിയത്. കലാനിരൂപകനായിരുന്ന വെങ്കിടാചല ശാസ്ത്രി, യക്ഷഗാന കലാകാരനായ ആദിനാരായണ


artograph ശർമ്മ, നർത്തകിയായ എസ്. ശാരദ എന്നവരുടെ പിൻബലം വേണ്ടുവ�ോളമുണ്ടായിരുന്നു രുഗ്മിണി ദേവിക്ക്. അദ്ദേഹം എന്നും മുന്നോട്ടു വെച്ച ദർശനമായ 'art without vulgarity' എന്നതിലൂന്നിയാണ് ഈ നാടകങ്ങളെല്ലാം തന്നെ സംവിധാനം ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്നത്. ആ സങ്കൽപത്തിന് യ�ോജിച്ച രീതിയിൽ വിവിധ കഥാപാത്രങ്ങളെ അവതരിപ്പിച്ച് ഫലിപ്പിക്കാൻ അന്നുണ്ടായിരുന്ന പ്രഗത്ഭ കലാകാരന്മാർക്കുമായി. ആദ്യകാലത്ത് ഇവയിലെ പ്രധാന കഥാപാത്രങ്ങളെ അവതരിപ്പിച്ചത് നർത്തകരായ വി.പി. ധനഞ്ജയൻ (രാമൻ), സി.കെ. ബാലഗ�ോപാലൻ (ലക്ഷ്മണൻ, ഹനുമാൻ), എം. ഉമ (സീത), പുഷ്പ ശങ്കർ (ശൂർപ്പണഖ), ഒപ്പം കഥകളി ആചാര്യനായ കെ.പി. കുഞ്ഞിരാമൻ (രാവണൻ) മുതൽപേരായിരുന്നു.

പുതുവഴികൾ

ആദ്യ നാടകമായ 'സീതാസ്വയംവര'ത്തിൽ നിന്നും പതിനാറ് വർഷങ്ങൾക്കിപ്പുറം 'മഹാപട്ടാഭിഷേക'ത്തിലെത്തുമ്പോൾ മികവുറ്റ പല മാറ്റങ്ങളും നമുക്ക് അനുഭവവേദ്യമാവും. ഓര�ോ ഭാഗത്തിന്റെയും കുറവുകൾ പരിഹരിച്ചാണ് അടുത്ത ഭാഗം രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി ഒരുക്കിയിട്ടുള്ളത്. ഒരു ഭാഗം ശരിയായി വന്നില്ലെങ്കിൽ ആ ഭാഗം മാത്രമായി, അല്ലെങ്കിൽ അതുൾപ്പെടുന്ന മുഴുവൻ രംഗം തന്നെ, പുനഃസൃഷ്ടിക്കാൻ അദ്ദേഹം സദാസന്നദ്ധയായിരുന്നു. സൂര്യയിലവതരിപ്പിച്ച 'ശബരീമ�ോക്ഷ'ത്തിൽ നിന്നുമ�ൊരു രംഗം. ശാരദ ആചാര്യ (സീത), ഗിരീഷ് മധു (ശ്രീരാമൻ), ഗീതാനന്ദൻ പി.കെ. (ലക്ഷ്മണൻ), സായ് കൃഷ്ണൻ (ജടായു) തുടങ്ങിയവർ. PHOTO: HAREE FOTOGRAFIE

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ഇത്തരത്തിൽ പരീക്ഷണങ്ങൾ നടത്തിയും തിരുത്തിയുമാണ് ഓര�ോ നാടകവും രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി പൂർത്തിയാക്കിയതെന്ന് വി.പി. ധനഞ്ജയനും ശാന്ത ധനഞ്ജയനും ചേർന്നെഴുതിയ 'രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി - ദി ക�ോറിയ�ോഗ്രാഫർ' എന്ന ലേഖനത്തിൽ പറയുന്നു. നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങളുടെ പ്രധാന പിൻബലം അതിന്റെ സംഗീത സംവിധാനമാണ്. പിന്നണി സംഗീതം അരങ്ങിലെ നൃത്തത്തോട�ൊപ്പം മികവുറ്റതാവുന്ന, ആസ്വാദകരുടെ ശ്രദ്ധ പക്കവാദ്യങ്ങളിൽ കൂടി പതിയുന്ന സന്ദർഭങ്ങൾ ഒട്ടേറെയുണ്ട് ഈ നാടകങ്ങളിൽ. മൈസൂർ വാസുദേവാചാര്യയും അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ ക�ൊച്ചുമകനായ രാജാറാമും ചേർന്നു ചെയ്തിട്ടുള്ള സംഗീത ക്രമീകരണങ്ങൾ അനുപമമാണ്. 'ചൂഡാമണിപ്രദാന'മെന്ന നാടകത്തിൽ രാമൻ ലക്ഷ്മണന�ോട് സീതയെ ഓർത്ത് വിലപിക്കുന്ന "പശ്യ ലക്ഷ്മണാ..." ഒരു ഉദാഹരണം. സിന്ധുഭൈരവിയിൽ ചിട്ട ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്ന ഈ ഭാഗം വല്ലാത�ൊരു അനുഭൂതിയാണ് പ്രേക്ഷകർക്ക് നൽകുക. സംഗീതമെന്ന പ�ോലെ പ്രാധാന്യമുള്ളവയാണ് വേദിയിലെ ശബ്ദ-വെളിച്ച ക്രമീകരണങ്ങളും, ഒപ്പം വസ്ത്രാലങ്കാരവും. ഓര�ോ രംഗത്തിനും ഉതകുന്ന രീതിയിലുള്ള പ്രകാശവിന്യാസങ്ങളാണ് ഈ നാടകാവതരണങ്ങളിൽ കാണാനാവുക. 'ചൂഡാമണിപ്രദാന'ത്തിലെ തന്നെ മറ്റൊരു രംഗം അതിനുദാഹരണമാണ്. ഹനുമാൻ സമുദ്രലംഘനത്തിന് തയ്യാറെടുക്കുന്ന ഭാഗത്ത്, സാഗരാപ്സരസുകൾ വേദിയിലേക്ക് പ്രവേശിക്കുമ്പോൾ അരങ്ങാകെ നീല വെളിച്ചം നിറയും. ഈ കാലഘട്ടത്തിൽ ഇത്തരം വെളിച്ച


artograph

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ക്രമീകരണങ്ങൾ സാങ്കേതികവിദ്യയുടെ കൂടി സഹായത്തോടെ അനായാസം ചെയ്യാനാവും. എന്നാൽ പതിറ്റാണ്ടുകൾ മുൻപു തന്നെ ഈ രീതിയിൽ ചിന്തിക്കാനും അത് അരങ്ങിൽ പ്രാവർത്തികമാക്കാനും നാടകത്തിന്റെ പിന്നണിയിൽ പ്രവർത്തിച്ചവർക്ക് കഴിഞ്ഞു എന്നതാണ് അത്ഭുതപ്പെടുത്തുന്ന കാര്യം. വിദേശരാജ്യങ്ങൾ സന്ദർശിച്ച് അവിടങ്ങളിലെ വേദികളെക്കുറിച്ചും പ്രകാശസംവിധാനത്തെക്കുറിച്ചും മനസിലാക്കാനായതും, അത�ോട�ൊപ്പം ബാലെയുടെ സ്വാധീനവുമാവാം ഈ രീതിയില�ൊക്കെ തുറന്നു ചിന്തിക്കാൻ രുഗ്മിണി ദേവിയെ പ്രാപ്തയാക്കിയത്. കഥാപാത്രങ്ങളുടെ മുഖത്തെഴുത്തിലും ചില മെയ്ക്കോപ്പുകളിലുമ�ൊക്കെ കഥകളിയുടെ സ്വാധീനവും പ്രകടമാണ്.

ശൂർപ്പണഖയെ രാമലക്ഷ്മണന്മാർ ഈ വിധത്തിൽ അവഹേളിച്ചതെന്നും എന്തു തെറ്റിന്റെ പേരിലാണ് ഈ വിധമ�ൊരു ശിക്ഷ നൽകിയതെന്നും ചിന്തിക്കാതിരിക്കാനാവില്ല. അതുപ�ോലെ ശ്രദ്ധ നേടുന്നൊരു കഥാപാത്രമാണ് ഹനുമാൻ. ഒരു പ�ോലെ ചിരിപ്പിക്കുകയും ചിന്തിപ്പിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നൊരു പാത്രസൃഷ്ടിയാണ് രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി ഹനുമാന് നൽകിയിരിക്കുന്നത്. ആദ്യകാലത്ത് സി.കെ. ബാലഗ�ോപാലൻ അവിസ്മരണീയമാക്കിയ ആ കഥാപാത്രം അതേ തനിമയ�ോടെ ഇന്ന് ഹരി പദ്മൻ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുന്നു.

കലാക്ഷേത്രയിലെ രുഗ്മിണി അരംഗത്തിലാണ് നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങൾ പരിശീലനം ചെയ്യുകയും അവതരിപ്പിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു വരുന്നത്. ഒരാനയെ വിറളിപിടിപ്പിക്കാൻ ഒരുറുമ്പുമതി പരമ്പരാഗത രീതിയിൽ നിർമ്മിച്ച മന�ോഹരമായ എന്നു പറയുന്നതു പ�ോലെ, ഒരു രണ്ടു മണിക്കൂർ വേദിയിൽ ഈ നാടകങ്ങൾ അതിന്റെ സകല നാടകത്തിന് ഏറ്റക്കുറച്ചിലുകൾ സംഭവിക്കാൻ പ്രൗഢിയ�ോടും കൂടി അവതരിപ്പിക്കപ്പെടുമ്പോൾ ഒരു ഭടന്റെ വേഷം ചെയ്യുന്ന കലാകാരന് വളരെ മികച്ചൊരു അനുഭവമാണ് പ്രേക്ഷകർക്കും പിഴച്ചാലും മതി. ഇതുൾക്കൊണ്ട്, ചെറിയ ലഭിക്കുന്നത്. എല്ലാക്കൊല്ലവും ഡിസംബറിലെ കഥാപാത്രങ്ങൾക്ക് പ�ോലും വലിയ സാന്ദർഭിക കലാക്ഷേത്ര ഫെസ്റ്റിവലിന്റെ അവസാന ദിവസം ശ്രദ്ധ നൽകിയാണ് രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി തന്റെ അരങ്ങേറുന്ന 'മഹാപട്ടാഭിഷേക'മാവട്ടെ, നാടകങ്ങളിൽ ചിട്ടചെയ്തിട്ടുള്ളത്. അതിനാൽ തന്നെ പ്രേക്ഷകരെ ആ അനുഭവത്തിന്റെ 'രാമായണ'മെന്ന ഇതിഹാസകാവ്യത്തിലെ പാരമ്യത്തിലെത്തിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു. മുഖ്യകഥാപാത്രങ്ങളിലുപരി, മറ്റു ചില ഏറ്റവും ജനപ്രിയ കലാരൂപമായ സിനിമ കഥാപാത്രങ്ങളാവാം ഓര�ോ പ്രേക്ഷകന്റെ പ�ോലും ഒന്നോ രണ്ടോ തവണയിലധികം മനസ്സിലും തങ്ങിനിൽക്കുക. ഉദാഹരണത്തിന് കാണുമ്പോൾ വിരസത അനുഭവപ്പെടും. ശൂർപ്പണഖ. നിർമ്മല നാഗരാജനെപ്പോലെ എന്നാൽ, അനിർവചനീയമായ ഊർജ്ജവും ഒരു പ്രഗത്ഭ നർത്തകി അവതരിപ്പിച്ചു ആഹ്ലാദവും നൽകുന്ന രുഗ്മിണി ദേവിയുടെ കാണുമ്പോൾ, എന്തുക�ൊണ്ടാണ് നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങള�ോര�ോന്നും ഓര�ോ കാഴ്ചയിലും ഹൃദയത്തോട് കൂടുതൽ അടുക്കുന്നു. നാടകത്തിന്റെ പരമകാഷ്ഠയാണ് കവിത എന്നു ജ�ോസഫ് മുണ്ടശ്ശേരി അഭിപ്രായപ്പെട്ടങ്കിൽ, നാടകം തന്നെയ�ൊരു കവിതയാവുന്ന സവിശേഷാനുഭവമായിത്തീരുന്നു രുഗ്മിണി ദേവി ഒരുക്കിയ കലാക്ഷേത്രയുടെ നൃത്തനാടകങ്ങൾ, വിശിഷ്യാ രാമായണ പരമ്പര. ●

2017 നവംബർ മാസം ഫിജിയിൽ കലാക്ഷേത്ര 'ശബരീമ�ോക്ഷം' അവതരിപ്പിച്ചപ്പോൾ ശൂർപണഖയായി നിർമ്മല നാഗരാജൻ. SCREEN CAPTURE

ARCHIVE.ORG - MAHAPATTABHISHEKAM VHS VIDEO tinyurl.com/ag-mahapattabhishekam


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TALKING FRAMES 2021 JAN-FEB | VOL 03 | ISS 01

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FEATURED

SHALINI P.S.

FACEBOOK - SHALINI P.S. fb.me/shalinistillhere

halini P.S. is a passionate macro photographer hailing from Kottukal in Thiruvananthapuram. A post-graduate in Communications and Public Relations, Shalini’s photographic journey began almost a decade back. Her version of wildlife is quite different, marked by a shift from the conventional approach focussing on safaris and forest explorations. With a keen eye for the vast biodiversity in the immediate neighbourhood, she has captured around three hundred macro life species in the past eight years. The second prize winner in Wildlife Photography Contest conducted by the Kerala Forest Department (2020), Shalini functions as a birding and trekking coordinator in the career front and owns the trekking company Nature and Wildlife Team based in Thattekkad. How did you get into photography? I have always been a keen observer of the life of bugs and flies in my garden. The beautiful shades of macro life excited me to document them through pictures. My father, a hobbyist in gardening and collection of photos, motivated to advance my interests further. About your area of interest in photography... Macro, for sure. Capturing the tiny creatures is a very challenging task. For getting minute details, uncertain to the normal vision, one has to put in a lot of effort. My interest is not just limited to capturing these lives. I study their behaviour, habitat, and in this way, a lot of learning also happens. And your current gear in use... I use the camera Canon 70D supported by lenses 100mm macro and 100400mm. ●

Home affairs: A pair of wasps as they remove excess moisture from their nest. The minuscule water globes expelled, creates the impression of these creatures blowing perfectly round bubbles.

Love in the air: A pair of damselflies (Copera marginipes) sharing an intimate moment during their mating phase.

EXPOSURE: 1/100 | F11 | ISO 400 CANON EOS 70D / EF 100MM F2.8 MACRO USM

EXPOSURE: 1/640 | F2.8 | ISO 4000 CANON EOS 70D / EF 100MM F2.8 MACRO USM


39 TALKING FRAMES 2021 JAN-FEB | VOL 03 | ISS 01

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GENERAL

2021 JAN-FEB | VOL 03 | ISS 01

Playlist

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Readers’ Response ‘Muthai Tharu’ ft. S. Aishwarya & S. Saundarya 04:07 | 2021 Feb 17 Arunagirinathar describes Lord Murugan as an embodiment of beauty, elegance and exquisiteness in this song, and is sung by S. Aishwarya and S. Saundarya.

Watch it here: bit.ly/ag-muthai-tharu

‘Madhura Murati’ ft. Santasree Sasmal & Jagyandatta Pradan 04:28 | 2021 Jan 27 Celebrating the song of love by losing themselves in the eternal dance of the two souls, Santasree Sasmal teams up with Jagyandatta Pradan in this dance video.

Watch it here: bit.ly/ag-madhura-murati

‘Nrithya Gandharva’ by Vinu Vasudevan 1:04:52 | 2020 Jan 24 A documentary on acclaimed Bharatanatyam exponent, Guru C.V. Chandrasekhar, directed by Vinu Vasudevan, and produced in the banner of Madhura Kala Niketan.

Watch it here: bit.ly/ag-nrithya-gandharva

One of a kind magazine The contents of the magazine are good. I always find it interesting to read the issues. After each issue, it is getting better and better. Looking forward to more. Prashobh I.L.

Art Enthusiast (T'puram, Kerala)

‘Andal Kauthvam’ ft. Sukanya Kumar 06:28 | 2021 Jan 04

Celebrating art and artists For me, who loves art immensely I have been able to get a very clear understanding of each art form through Artograph. Along with art, the magazine speaks about the artists and their life experience.

Celebrating the month of margazhi associated with the first woman saint poet of India - Andal for her unabashed love and devotion towards Lord Ranganatha.

Watch it here: bit.ly/ag-sk-andal

‘Shiva Tandav’ ft. Navin Shanker, Sai Vignesh & Kavya Muralidaran 05:52 | 2021 Jan 01

Sabna Sasidharan

Art Enthusiast (T'puram, Kerala)

Directed by Nivetha Baskaran in the banner of Gandiva, ‘Shiva Tandav’ features musicians Navin Shanker, Sai Vignesh, and dancer Kavya Muralidharan.

Watch it here: bit.ly/ag-st-gandiva

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