Who Killed Manavi Cheykona raada?

17/06/2008
Bharatanatyam is a fantastic and a spectacular dance form. I say this with a reason. Imagine one dance form, that was performed facing the Idol in a temple, with curtains on, rarely seen by the audience outside, and if they get lucky to catch a glimpse, its only the back of the dancer they see. From here, to being one of the most popular classical dance forms of the world, performed in every corner, on every big and small stages is quite a journey.
Bharatanatyam as any art form welcomed variations and experiments with open arm. This might be the reason for both its popularity and being most criticised dance form. Either ways, this definitely is the reason why so many ‘styles’ in bharatanatyam came up.

 

 

Some say “there are as many styles of bharatanatyam as there are dancers”. But for classification purposes there are only four : Tanjavoor, Pandanallur, Vazhuvoor and Kalakshetra. Whilst I cannot make out much difference between Tanjavoor and Pandanallur, I can mostly make out Vazhuvoor and can definitely make out Kalaskhetra.

No matter what the style be, the music and the kind of compositions that are used to dance are the same. Coming to talk of compositions, some are written for bharatanatyam and some are adapted. How beautiful is the adaptation is again a hugely debatable topic. There are several popular compositions that were written decades back, but still are very popular and are performed even today by dancers of all styles of bharatanatyam. Sometimes a composition is often and frequently performed by dancers of one particular style and that becomes a kind of flagship dance piece that is usually identified with that particular style of bharatanatyam.

For eg: The varnam : Manavi chekona raada, in raaga Shankarabharanam, Adi tala.

This dance piece is performed so often and frequently by the students of kalakshetra style of bharatantyam that it became a flagship dance piece of kalakshetra style and is identified with it.

Over years I have seen many dancers of all styles perform this dance piece. Much to my disappointment, not a single dancer could stir any emotion in me, let alone the bhava working its magic. I don’t want to be partial to any style here. However, completely ignoring or cutting down on the essential elements that communicate the ‘rasa’, fails to achieve the goal. Yes I agree that every performance cannot be a soul-stirring experience. Much depends on the rasika too. Even the natyashastra/abhinaya darpana say that. But atleast there should be a sincere effort to try make each performance, an experience that it is meant to deliver.

While performing to a composition, a dancer should help the composition, what it set to achieve, thereby realising her own goal of executing it. Particularly in this case, I have been a witness of mere various physical interpretations of the verse, than emotional. Let me explain. It is like how many different ‘sancharis’ one does while the line repeats. There is nothing wrong with that, but yes, there is, when its done mechanically.

I was watching a very popular dancer(not a kalakshetra style dancer) execute this dance piece on a DVD. Why did I use the word execute? Well, that’s what she did, execute and not perform. Her beauty, her perfect body, aramandi and perfect execution of foot work shadows her absolute lack of abhinaya in this varnam.This not just a case with her, but with almost all of the dancers, I saw performing this varnam. Especially in the recent times. I am as much of a traditionalist as anyone when it comes to technical perfection in terms of aramandi etc, but where is the bhava? I ask. Where is the sringara, the tease, the blushing, the absolute openness on how the felling of love is tormenting? Yes the story is told in the sancharis, but without an iota of feeling- at least that is what the rasika feels. It is as beautiful as reading out a melodious song.

Is this a case of a chewing gum that lost its flavor due to over chewing? or is it just that one style is very restrictive or is it the dancer’s incompetence? Whatever the reason, one of the most popular varnam has been mercilessly and collectively killed. I am yet to see one dancer perform this varnam that can keep me glued.

However tempted I am here to provide links and mention names, but I refrain for one reason that classical dancing is not a bread-earner in India. Yet so many people, small, young and old, religiously study it and practice it and pass it on generation to generation. They do it for the love the have for the dance, and not with an ego of being a great dancer themselves. The above was not about them, but was about those 1% of flag bearing professional talented dancers(and those that like to think and display themselves as exceptionally talented dancers) that influence these rest 99%.

Whatever it is, this is not a singular case. Another composition that came to light in similar conditions is “Bho Shambho”. One dancer I met in a dance festival recently claimed that she has choreographed it herself and went on to do the worst duplication of the most viewed video on youtube.

Does a little use of breasts, glances, lips, eyebrows, shoulders hurt so much to communicate the bhava and rasa?

Response from a dear friend and an ardent rasika : I just read the post.. its not the case just with manavi.. so many varnams have been killed.. specially mohamana and kamas which have more of explicit lyrics… Vazhuvoor le its done with more of oomph!

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Pyar Kiya toh Drama Kyon

17/06/2008

i was watching this program on CNN IBN regarding Valentine’s day. Why should we have such a day? Is it borrowed from western culture? whats wrong with it?
My take on this- Its bloody well borrowed from western culture. Yes it it not wrong to love or express it- donot forget its India that taught the world Love and Sex (Khajuraho).
What i find objectionable is the duality and hypocrysy in the whole concept of Valantines day. Started as a day for lovers now extends itself that its a day for mother’s love etc. what bull shit ? Do they think we dont know the story of Saint Valentine? then there is mothers day, father’s day etc.
now if one wants to really celebrate such days,then why not have a Kanva Maharshi day- the one who united Shakuntala and Dushyanta. or in the name of the Brahmin who was the messenger between Rukmini and Krishna. Why not have Dasharatha day and Yashoda day? So Indian and so ours. But no we will not even care to hear this argument. these names are sooo old and sooooooooooo Indian that most of the Indian youngsters feel awkward to celebrate it and the companies find it hard to market them. I would die of shock if half my readers even know the stories and names i mentioned above.
it is so fashonable to trash all that is Indian culture and beliefs and so convienient to take the western shit. youngsters today dont even put that minimum effort to find out why and how belief survived millions of years. just as easy to name SOMRAS as the modern day alcohol. foolish!!
Atleast I am not ready to become another Gora Slave.


Vikram Gaud, the man with a mission

17/06/2008

Please take a good look at the picture beside you. This is the kind of face onevikram-gaud would want to see often given the present cultural scenario in India. Here I am being very specific to the plight of classical dances, in general, and upcoming classical dancers in India/abroad, in particular. Why is the face in the picture so special? This is the picture of man on a mission to uplift the sad face of the classical dancers.

Let me start the story by first giving a name to the man in the picture. Meet Mr. B. Vikram Gaud. In the quiet streets of Seetammadhara in Vishakhapatnam there is one Shirdi Marg that boasts of quite a few land marks – a huge and popular Sai Baba temple to start with, and then the house of a mayor. What actually adds beauty to that street is the Natraj Music and Dance Academy. This music and dance school is the brain child of Vikram.
Basically having a theatrical background, one cannot help gaping at the huge collage on the side wall of his office that is crowded with photographs of his achievements. One also cannot help wondering about his unwavering commitment to other arts too.

When I put that question to him, he just smiles and reasons it with destiny. “God has just ordered me, so I walk this path. I love art, both as a connoisseur/rasika and as an artiste. Yes, I am from theatre. In theatre, one learns to appreciate all forms of art,” says he.

At this point, one remembers the much-talked about cultural even of Vishakhapatnam in the past year, 2008. Vikram was the brain and body behind the Vysaki Nrutyotsav. This enormous all-India classical dance festival was single handedly organized by Vikram. “I have to thank God, the participants, my friends and all those who were involved,” says he. This is very humble of him. That is another quality of a complete gentleman and a true artiste. Personally, I have seen him run from pillar to post to get sponsors. I have also seen him get nervous when the chief guest did not arrive on time. I have also seen him put hefty sum of money out of his own pocket while the sponsors backed off the last minute. Well, I have also seen him handle deftly handle the problems that go with organizing such a mega event. He pulled it off wonderfully, keeping his cool all the time. It is indeed a greater challenge to present such a festival to a highly unmotivated audience. Most of the audience did not understand Kathak but enjoyed it nevertheless. The media gave rave reviews for the festival and each artiste was happy. Ask him how and Vikram smiles again! “I am just honest to art and to people.’’ He explains.

Vikram also organized a dance festival again with the disabled artistes on the World Disability Day. Vikram Goud is convinced that there should be someone to preserve the classical arts. He feels responsible for this task. He feels for the great gurus who are finding it difficult to get a square meal in a day. Once, he sent me to one such great Guru to learn Kuchipudi. That is all it took him to make me his team member.

“I am not against Bollywood dances or any type of dancing. All such dancers and teachers are doing well. I feel all forms of art are difficult. But most of the gurus of classical art are suffering. Most of the ones who are doing well are because of their greediness and not due to their generosity in teaching.” Do I disagree? NO.

What makes Vikram Goud and the like stand out is the fact that they are not only performing artistes but also great rasikas. They do not just sit and complain about lack of opportunities but create them for many.

Vikram loves to give opportunity to the talented than the reputed. He is one of those few people who practice what they preach when they say that ‘it’s not all about money’. Bring in a child who is interested, let alone talented, in dance or music and Vikram and his Natraj Music and Dance Academy will not even talk of fees. The author is a living witness to this commitment. This is one more reason why Natraj Music and Dance Academy is the right place for learning. It has not only some of the finest teachers and books on art to learn from, but one ends up being a very good and complete human being and an artist amongst such committed and passionate people.

This country needs youth like Vikram Goud, especially when there are so many not so motivated audience, unwilling sponsors, greedy artistes and uninterested organizers.

I am happy as a rasika and as an artiste. As long as there are Vikram Gouds, there is hope. One is assured that ‘it is not all about money’.

Vikram can be contacted at vikram_natyam@yahoo.com
Mobile : 0-9848137445

Please note that this article is already published in http://www.carnaticdarbar.com


Jesus Kauthuvam, Jesus Shabdam, whats next?

17/06/2008

AT THE OUTSET I WANT TO DECLARE THAT THIS IS NOT A COMPARITIVE STUDY OF RELIGIONS OR PRACTICES, BUT A PROBE ABOUT HOW FIT ONE IS AND CAN BE IN CONTEXT OF INDIAN CLASSICAL DANCE.I WELCOME OPINIONS IN THE MANNER THEY SHOULD BE GIVEN.

Of late I have been seeing a lot of enquires on dance pieces relating to Jesus or Christianity. However I felt happy when there are loads of responses to help such queries and not a single one to condemn. Why should there be one? Bharata never said that Natya
Shastra belongs to a particular religion. When Bharata might have sit down to write the book, there might not have been one single religion in sight. Probably that’s what makes the Natyashastra so adaptable by Hinduism, because it developed, adjusted and adapted to various changes thru the life and civilizations over millions of years. All this happened in the very land where Bharata drafted the Natyashastra.
I am not a religious person, but, spiritual, – yes. One need not believe in Rama or Krishna to be a Hindu or perform a piece on them. It’s understood more in terms of the finite soul and the infinite Paramatma.
How can Christianity or Jesus fit this picture? While this is a religion that is not a part of this land and requires one to believe in Jesus/ his family members to be a true Christian. It is so required that a true Christian needs to go to church regularly, while one can be a Hindu without seeing a temple all your life.

Yes, religion is important in the context of dance, because of the emotions springing there-from. Let me elaborate. Hindusim or Sanathana dharma has never shunned sex, or love between a man and woman. From this and based on this one act there are thousands of emotions and compositions. Emotions are the quintessential aspect of any art- one cannot deny this fact. Take the different Tandavas. The rasas and bhavas are what adds color, is what gives the rasika a rasanubhava. The rasanubhava of the rasika and the artist is the aim of the art form.
Once we start talking of love, there is no end to it. Pangs of separation, happy unions, jealous of the lord’s other wife or be it the urge to meet the lord- all speak of love. How can Christianity cater to this?
Then there is love of mother. And we have thousands of compositions on Krishna right from the ‘gopika’ point of view to et al.
What instances and inferences can be taken to depict ‘hasya’, ‘bhayanaka’, ‘bhibhatsam’?
How can the navarasas be emoted with appropriate instances? So how can there be a Margam? When there is no path, where does the artist start, where to end and what it will lead to?
All these emotions give an insight into the human physical inconsistencies and what the soul craves for. As one needs to be born a baby and thru adolescence, teenage youth and old age that he accumulates the wealth of knowledge and experience and understands the ‘Maya’. An artist needs to travel thru the navarasas before reaching the pinnacle of truth, that of his Atma to become one with the Paramatma.

May be this is the reason that there is not many compositions to find for Lord Buddha.
While some great composers of A.D chose to compose in different languages, they never ventured out of Hinduism. This understanding of the inconsistencies of other religions with respect to the Indian classical dance, gave the status of Natya Veda.