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Seasonal waves of culture

Culture in Heritage city

The Cultural diversity of India among st endowing a unique identity also most often brings about unity within its own milieu. This ‘Unity in diversity’ though overrated at times, definitely provides much reason to revel, as individual communities find their avenues to reverberate in culture!

What better than the prime time of culture show than the awaited ‘season’ – with the chilly winds setting the winter through the end of an year and entering into another new and challenging one. It is that time when most Indian cities gear up in their own little ways to give its artistes and audiences some cultural warmth.

Hyderabad witnessed quite a heterogeneous mix of dance performances this winter ranging from authentic dance dramas to ritual practices to experimental, refreshing group presentations and academically bent performances.

Vilasini Natyam during Kalyanotsavam

The 'Bramhotsava' at the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple conducted by the Rangbagh trust succeeded in maintaining the aura of a highly regarded annual festival for dance with a combination of reputed and young artistes sharing stage space. The Vilasini Natyam ritual performances during the procession of the diety inside and the varied solo and group showcases came across as a specially cut out concept endearing to high value.

Revival of Vilasini Natyam by veteran Guru Swapna Sundari and her able disciples has consistently eventuated more platforms for its conspicuity across Andhra Pradesh. The form was presented in its original format as a ritual practice. Performed right in front of the procession of the deity, the recital had an interesting pattern. Post the verse recited by the main priest, a refrain with rhythmic cycles was repeated for which a song and dance epilogue praising and describing the deity was performed. This routine had the entire group of devotees and temple priests walk through the sanctum sanctorum and around it clasping their hands and lanterns held for the light.

As much as the classical arts root themselves on their historical tradition, it becomes highly imperative in the current context to re-visit them practically alongside the already done theoretical methods. This ritual practice for one, succeeded in doing exactly this. Another matter of contention here was the fact that youngsters persevering to this put to rest the ever brewing tension between two generations with difference in thought and opinions.

Chethna Hari-Kathak
The festival as in staging performances per se, brought the best of talent from across the country to accustom the common man towards classical arts! Chethna Hari’s solo Kathak was a sprinkle of Kathak from South India, more so as largely practiced in Bangalore with ‘Items’ sequenced one after the other. The dancer exhibited her skills and strong points in Nritta, but one did miss the extempore perfromance of ‘Teen Tal’ element that the form is known for. Nevertheless, this is far from seen as recitals these days are to be curtailed to presenting on recorded music. The concluding item gave the feeling of a drag towards the end with a string of ‘popular slokas’ tagged for too long!

Parshwanath Upadhaye, now is already a known name in the dance circles and rightly so for, he carries his credit on a long traced journey devoted to training, multifaceted self-nurtured creativity and authentic work. Standing at this inception, his group Punyah Dance Company’ s performance was the right choice, given an audience which rarely gets to see young minds at work.

The dance company is a coming together of artistes in a completely professional set up re-creating opportunities for themselves. It is not a surprise then that the outcome is spectacular! The opening Ganesh Stuthi though was a routine number, the choreography sparkled to make it visually appealing. A solo item on Shiva was a virile combination of some wonderfully crafted, executed and rendered Jathis and sanchari sequences. The literature penned by the dancer himself was simple yet effective especially some sequences like ‘Ravana karuna, Kaamana Dahana... ‘which was as soothing to watch as to hear.

Punyah Dance Company
The ‘Punyah Krishna’ their main item was an extravaganza – a brilliant execution in tandem by the four female dancers – Sneha Devanandan, Surabhi Bharadwaj, Preethi Bharadwaj and Matangi Prasan and Parshwanath. The team brought to life the most evergreen tales of Krishna dabbling with not the cliche but varied characters and in their unique treatments. The sweet nothings where the gopis wanting a little more of fun with Krishna are lured by him to get naughty among st themselves had much of a social message too!

The essence of a well presented recital as much as it lingers in memory, also to some extent paves way for expectations. The next recital in the festival lived right up to it though only a solo!

Odissi by Kavitha Dwibedi from Delhi sprawled through the contours of Odissi as she danced with marked finesse and artistry. A highly seasoned artiste, her recital was rich in content and ondisplay was only learning tools with authentic elements of the odissi form. For once this richness was supported equally and in a well suited manner by the ‘Aharya’ too.

Kavita Dwibedi-Odissi
As much as Odissi is obsessed with Dasavatara, Ms. Dwibedi dealt with it very briefly and aptly not getting into over detailing (except for the Rama Avatar: Rama –Ravana sequence). The Krishna and Gopika Vastraapaharanam was very refreshing rather more in the oddissi format where the dancer very swiftly switched roles and executed it with perfection (which most often is dragged only in switching roles).

Her Astapadi however was expressly the highlight of the performance. Nindati Chandana was set at a pace which was very well received in all its Viraha. Ms. Dwibedi combined a structured mix of sattvika abhinaya with appropriate hastabhinaya which is a rarity to see. (Since the use of one of these in excess overpowers the other in most cases) Portions like the flower touch or the spoiling of the painting in viraha were excellent examples of this treatment. The Odissi Janana – in common parlance,a Bhajan was the depiction of a true story in its social content. For all she danced, Ms. Dwibedi’s true persona is what that reflects on stage. A highly modest and humble artiste who had all the warmth and courtesy for a youngster like me who met her as a stranger!

While Rangbhag had all the rustic effect, there was the Hyderabad Heritage festival hosted at several heritage sites across the city – sometimes in theme and sometimes contrasting to the presentations which ranged from traditional to urbanized.

Sandhya Raju and Sobha Kolambil

Sandhya Raju and Sobha Kolambil’s duet Kuchipudi recital was an eye opener into the current work in progress by the two young Kuchipudi dancers. As much as they are dancers of a high standard, their categorized learning also speaks about their vision to pursue their art further. That training under different techniques and in the right amounts is important was so evident in their performance showcasing compositions of erstwhile masters Late Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam and Sri Kishore Mosalakanti. They themed their recital around ‘Devi’ in multiple forms and began with a tiltilating Sri Saraswati Namosthuthe to start with the right pace. The performance saw its peak in the varnam on Durga. If anything to go by, the first Jathi said it all – beautifully carved out in its choreography, rendered eloquently with no over the top pitch and some very disciplined execution by both the dancers. The poses with which the aradhis ended were absolutely brisk, yet very graceful. What provoked even more was the use of intelligent and simple thinking in bringing out creativity. The Chittaswarams were used to perform on the brass plate (not sure if I can all them Tarangam!). This was done alternatively by the dancers where one froze and the other did it as a jugalbandhi.The programme gave a Kuchipudi repertoire which had a dance on the brass plate that did not look to be a forced inclusion into the list only to showcase the craft of it! If only Hyderabad’s audience braved a bit of the cold winds to attend such performances?

From a duet to a traditional Kuchipudi Yakshaganam, the transition became more evident, given the large spread amphitheater at CCRT. A colourful splendor of story telling narrative was what characterized ‘Sasirekha Parinayam’ choreographed by a veteran in this format- Pasumarti Ramalinga Sastry. For youngsters of the generation, it was the analysis of the scope in a storyline that one needs to learn from such presentations. The handling of the story, outline of a well made script, its characterization and infusing this outline with authentic content of Kuchipudi in its Daruvus, Jathis and music was the most effective outcome.

A very good music ensemble with D.S.V Sastry leading in the vocal and lending all his experience in handling this kind of a dialogue –song routine was laudable. Some powerful performances by dancers playing the role of Sasirekha, Abhimanyu, Dushasana and Lakshmana lifted the overall effect.

I now travel from normal performance routine at festivals to a more academic performance to a niche audience. An evening of classical dance at IIIT, Gachibowli by its in house scholar Sonal Nimbkar in Bharatanatyam and Pujitha Krishna Jyothi in Vilasini Natyam was a specially cut indulgence.

Sonal Nimkar-Bharatanatyam
Sonal is a researcher by choice and to the core in the field of arts and her work is nurtured under an atmosphere at CEH, which has a healthy exchange of interdisciplinary research scholars and their content. With such a background, her presentation for the day was a thematic item on Ganesh – a combination of researched philosophical content presented in its visual aesthetic. Where it started with the essence of the omkara, later traveled to rare stories of the Elephant Lord to the hymns and their spiritual effects from the Vedas, it was but a journey. Aided with a highly technical audio-visual performance, Sonal definitely justified her stance among st her fraternity.

Pujitha followed with a Margam format full length recital with the popular ‘Vigna Vinayakara’ an invocation which by now has become a sort of a revision for me personally for the amount of dancing from Pujitha that I have seen!(Ok I am very directly making a point that I am a professional who diligently attends performances in town!)The varnam formatted very well was executed equally, given the unique vocabulary of Vilasini Natyam. I can go on to but describe lots about the Padam, for this form of dance excels in the way the Padams are treated. I choose to keep it to the point and say the dancer as a Khandita Nayika was just excellent in every vistaram of sarcasm towards her Nayaka! It was nothing short of a laugh riot!

Well, I deserved this laugh riot to end my marathon of watching seasonal performances in the city of Nawabs, which this time proved to be as rich in the culture of arts as its Nawabi nature!