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.


Rational Thinking

17/06/2008

Still thinking of what would be the appropriate title for these personal musings.

Why doest it take Vatican to recognise our belief in a Nun?

Why a nun, hardly known outside a fixed radius is cheered for her sainthood, while our own Sai babas are eyed with a lot of suspicion?

Why the dead hold more importance and sanctity than the alive?

Why do we have more trust on the doings of the one who is dead and gone and no faith in the ability and words of the one in flesh and blood?