Kathak fest... More fuss, less fizz
The recently concluded Kathak Mahotsav - 2005 held in New Delhi was highlighted by some excellent group performances but bogged down by some equally mediocre fare, feels LEELA VENKATARAMAN.
Photo: Avinash Pasricha.
Malti Shyam (left) and Aditi Mangaldas... Intelligently put together duet.
KATHAK MAHOTSAVA 2005 was dedicated to the late Guru Shambhu Maharaj, the first teacher for Kathak at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, the original avatar of what was to become the Akademi-run Kathak Kendra from 1969. Some of the new groups finding a slot in this festival were amateurish, though one must applaud the choice of the allied art discipline curtain raisers for each evening's programme. Haveli Sangeet by Bhagwati Prasad Gandharv (not contained within the time limit), Vistar, a talavadya conceived by Govind Chakravarti with 5,6,7,8,9 and10 matras percussion by Lalgudi Sri Ganesh (mridangam), G. Srinivasan (kanjeera), Bejanki Krishna (ghatam), Subhash Kumar (nagara), Govind Chakravarti (tabla) and Harishchandra Pathi (mardal) respectively with the joint effort in concluding Teen tala, Sau-Rang (sarangi) conceived by Urmila Nagar with MunnaWarsi, Ghanashyam Sisodiya, Mohamamd Nasir Khan, Mohammad Zafar, Sayeed-ur-Rehman playing Poorya and Misra Pilu with Shakeel Ahmed on the tabla were all enjoyable events.
To begin the three-day Kathak projection, very appropriately, was solo by the son of Shambhu Maharaj, Ram Mohan, whose fleeting upaj, uthan, ginti tihai, udan and sawal-jawab while invested with all the razor sharpness and sparkle were too little in a 45-minute slot, with pointless talking niceties and too many tabla interventions by Shakeel Ahmed eating into precious time - leaving one with lingering doubts on the dancer's stamina for a long programme, thanks to few and far between stage appearances - Ram Mohan being his own worst enemy.
The other senior soloist Uma Sharma should ideally have come at the conclusion to allow for the dancer's nostalgic reminiscences on the Shambhu Maharaj days. Her leisurely abhinaya treatment making an event of each word of the poetry (now a disappearing act) belonging to days when recitals were not boxed into rigid time slots, while refreshing, was unfair to the artistes scheduled in the following programmes.
The festival highlight was the duet by Aditi Mangaldas and Malti Shyam `Sooryaaya Namah'. Intelligently put together in the 18-matra Lakshmi tala, interspersed with hymns like Adideva Namastubhyam, with the duo weaving evocative images of the Sun God riding his chariot, Sun as radiant life giver, Surya and Lotus, as planetary centre of the solar system causing time and seasons, the Surya symbolism was sustained through the nritta and the interpretative passages. Perfect duet interaction and well-set music made the number a sure winner.
The other duet by Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh had all the clever dancer-to-dancer angles, levels and use of stage space like most Kumudini Lakhia-trained dancers. But all Maulik's dancing brilliance and Ishira's competence, with her 10-matra nritta pitted against his 11-matra rejoinders, could not save `Antar-Valay', portraying the search for uniting space in man-woman relationship, from meandering and lacking in focal tightness. Ishira's ever smiling countenance reflected none of the tensions while groping for togetherness. Virtuosity needed a sharper purpose.
Stealing the show amidst the bigger groups was Shama Bhate's `Layamatra Udghosh'. Devoid of showmanship, here was dance incisive in laya, with over a dozen dancers appearing on stage and melting away without the dance fluidity disturbed, in exemplary synchronisation not excluding the group parhant which was sheer music of bols. Predictably excellent in the classical music set for the group effort, every Kathak facet was woven round the highly researched Ganapati theme.
The swara/laya complementary nature in Jaikishan Maharaj's `Swarangtaalah' had some highly energetic nritta by the male dancers in particular, led by Deepak Maharaj. In Arjun Mishra's `Jhalak', a multiplicity of dancers doing what is normally done by a solo dancer did not make for a group dance .The redeeming feature was the dancing by his own son/disciple, a most promising performer. Vidya Deshpande's `Aseem', and `Chitwan me Mere Shyam' by Prabha Marathe, despite delicate musical score for the latter by Bhaskar Chandavarkar, were tame events, lacking professional class.
Guru Munna Shukla's `Kathakayan', a little simplistic in its Kathak from then to now story, lacked conviction in the Kathavachak and modern Kathak segments. Correct dancing notwithstanding, more sparkle was needed.
The generous 45-minute slot for each group was not always well used. What a group item cannot say in half an hour is not going to be better said in 45 minutes. Regrettably, this critic was not able to see the concluding segment featuring the other son of Shambhu Maharaj, Krishan Mohan Mishra, with wife Vaswati and daughter Ipshita.
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