AAI REVIEW – SURTAAL

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Maya K Nigam, Anjana Welfare Society and associate sponsors presented Surtaal on the 3rd September 2017 at the Azad Bhawan, ICCR, New Delhi. A great effort as a first edition of the Festival, however, I am sure it was a great learning experience for the organisers.

The panel of artists was remarkable with Falguni Kumar presenting Bharatnatyam, Renu Gupta presenting Vocals, Avinash Kumar presenting Vocals, Agam Agarwal presenting Flute, Deepak Gangani and Richa Joshi presenting Kathak and Abhishek Khichi and Anjana Kumari presenting Kathak.

Before I take you through the performance critically, I would like to share with you something that I had learnt during my hotel management days back in 2003. ‘Mise en place’, a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift. My point in bringing ‘mise en place’ here is that the Festival lacked a proper pre preparation | set up. I am sure my observation and remarks would be taken in the right spirit to improve the forthcoming versions of the festival.

The festival kicked off superbly by Guru Shri Justin McCarthy’s student Falguni Kumar presenting a beautiful Bharatnatyam repertoire. The problem started when the vocalists were to perform. All of a sudden there was chaos on stage and I realised that there had been no tech setup | sound check prior to the show, which meant it would take 15-30 mins to set up the sound. It looked unprofessional as the tech guy on stage kept shouting to the light and sound pit at the back of the auditorium fixing mikes and then the musicians setting up the sound. It should always be a practice to call the musicians a couple of hours before the show to set up the sound so that it is just a couple of minute’s affair before the performance. Similar was the case when Avinash Kumar came to perform. I felt both the performances were overshadowed due to the long waiting time in setting up and most people lost their interest. Agam Agarwal brought back the interest with an incredible rendition of the A R Rahman’s Roza theme on flute to start with but his performance was very short lived with just two pieces presented.

Out of the blue came an awards distribution section which I think was irrelevant at that time and even the performers were unaware of. This could have been done at the very beginning or at the end of the festival. It felt like a corporate or a commercial show quite contrary to being a performing arts festival where the main aim was to felicitate and distribute awards and the performances were fillers.

Another 30 minutes went by before the remaining performances started. By this time the stage was too dirty to even stand on barefoot. It would have been great if a volunteer could have got it mopped once. Secondly, the backdrop was still the white cyclorama (a photographer’s nightmare), which should have been changed to a black backdrop or at least the light technician could have put some colors on it. Ashwini Chopra Ji tried a lot to get it fixed but alas he was unable to.

There were a couple of unattended children who were running up to the stage in turn further delaying the performance.

The best part of the whole festival apart from Falguni Kumar were the two power packed Kathak performances by Deepak Gangani and Richa Joshi and Abhishek Khichi and Anjana Kumari. Both the duos had great synchronization and were quite graceful on stage. A special mention and appreciation to Navneet Pandey from Vastravinyas for both the costumes.

Lastly, a big mistake that I am sure has been committed unknowingly was that Aditi Mangaldas Ji had come in to watch the Kathak performances. The Kathak legend’s presence was an honor for the festival and she should have been called on stage with other dignitaries. Aditi Ji coming on the stage and speaking about the performances would have indeed been a feather to the festival.

I know I sound a bit harsh but would like to sum up my blog with the following famous Hindi phrase:

Nindak neda rakhiye, tan man nirmal hoye!

Here’s to a better ‘mise en place’ during the next edition of SURTAAL!

Please N.B. – I am not an artist or a technical person to comment on or judge any aspect of the performance. I do understand what all pain one takes and the courage one puts up to present such a performance and highly appreciate and respect it. Whatever I write is purely what I feel sitting in the audience.

Photographs @ Arijeet Mukherjee
Copyright @ Artist Association of India

AAI REVIEW – DRISHTIKON HOME STUDIO BAITHAK

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Showcasing budding artists … Reviving old traditions

Drishtikon Dance Foundation presented its very first, own Home-Studio Baithak on the 2nd September 2017. In an encouraging initiative to give an intimate platform to upcoming artistes, Drishtikon has started this remarkable concept giving an apt chance to youngsters to show off their skills in front of veterans, critics, organisers, seniors, friends and public.

The entrance to the Drishtikon studio was beautifully decorated with marigold flowers and candles. The studio was very intelligently turned into a mini black box studio which gave an effect of a proper proscenium setting. All sitting area for the audience was neatly covered in white. The lighting was adept and the sound quality incredible. All Drishtikon gang was in white, the girls in suits and the boys in kurta- pajamas, all of them carrying different colored dupatta’s. It was indeed a very positive atmosphere.

People were late and took time to reach the Studio as the roads inside Sainik Farm are nothing less than a jigsaw puzzle. The Baithak started with a delay of half an hour at 7:30 pm. It was more than a houseful with some people standing at the back.

The presentation started with solo renditions by Ashish Gangani on Pakhawaj and Mohit Gangani on Tabla followed by a dynamic and expressive jugalbandi by both. I had never ever seen Ashish and Mohit in such elements. It seemed they had been let lose. I could see the difference in their playing which was very contained and in self-possession whenever they have played it for Drishtikon. This day they were raw and wild and what not all. A special mention to Ashish who did a full piece with single hand mentioning he had practiced it in Drishtikon itself.

From a kid in the flock to a senior repertory member in Drishtikon, Minhaz has matured a lot. It was evident from his attitude, his talks and his dance that he was a part of one of the world’s best Kathak repertory. The proximity of the audience made him a bit nervous at first but soon he also gave in to his true elements. The stage surely seemed less for him. I personally liked the piece that he did from his Father’s repertoire from Banaras Gharana.

Having worked with a Kathak based organisation for so many years I had never thought that other classical forms will ever interest me. I was proven wrong by Suhail Bhan. Disciple of Guru Justin McCarthy, Suhail is an amazing Bharatnatyam dancer. His performance took the audience on to a Carnatic journey down south. A special mention to the vocalist Mr. Satish Venkatesh for his amazing voice.

The last performance, I am me, a contemporary solo by Minhaz was quite touching. It spoke about preconceived notions that people have towards a name, religion, caste, creed, gender, etc. It conveyed a very strong message to the audience. I could see a tear running down here and there. Great work done by Deepak K. S. on mentoring Minhaz on this one.

All the artists were presented with a small pot of flower each. Really appreciate whosoever’s idea it was.

This Home-Studio Baithak at Drishtikon has really left me wanting to see more such Baithak’s in the future. This was my first ever experience of a Baithak and all I can say is CHEERS DRISHTIKON!!

Please N.B. – I am not an artist or a technical person to comment on or judge any aspect of the performance. I do understand what all pain one takes and the courage one puts up to present such a performance and highly appreciate and respect it. Whatever I write is purely what I feel sitting in the audience.

Photographs @ Arijeet Mukherjee
Copyright @ Artist Association of India

AAI REVIEW – Tansen

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Tanna se Tansen tak…Taani se Hussaini tak…Gayak se Nav Ratna tak…Rewa se Agra tak…Ram Chand se Akbar tak…it had all!!

TANSEN presented by Prism Theatre and The Dramatic Art & Design Association at the Sri Ram Centre on the 20th August 2017 was indeed one the best things one could witness at the start of this Music, Dance and Theatre season.

Working all these years with Govind Singh Yadav I have always known him as a very good and sought after Light Design | Support person. Little did I know about this excellent Theatre Director hiding inside him.

Truly speaking at the beginning I had thought that it would be one of the usual boring musicals often seen in the theatres. What took my interest as soon as I entered the auditorium was the set up. I saw three risers on the stage. Two on each side for the four musicians and one in the middle for, I don’t know who. There were two mikes on this centre stage riser. Would there be two vocalists? If yes, then where is the space left on the stage for acting? Tansen should be a big setup with many people, isn’t it? But I could only see a set up for musicians, where are the actors going to do their stuff.

Amongst all these random thoughts the play started. I cannot tell you, what I saw next was pure magic! The play started with the musicians and the two vocalists | hosts taking seats on the centre riser. These two vocalists | hosts, Mohd. Faheem and Sudheer Rikhari, were actually the various characters of the life of the legendary vocalist | musician, Mia Taansen. They played each and every character in the play with such finesse that it seemed those roles were only meant for them. Both of these actors were equally complemented by Ridhima Bagga who played all the feminine characters in the play. The musicians were not just playing the instruments but were also a part of the play delivering dialogues and acting together with the hosts. This was something quite contrary to the musicals usually seen where the musicians sit in the music pit and keep playing music and the characters on stage keep delivering dialogues irrespective of the fact that it is not travelling through to the audience.

It started becoming really interesting when the hosts started interacting with the audience amidst their storytelling, getting them into the enactment, asking them questions and making them sing sargam along with them. The whole auditorium was singing. Their storytelling was very unique and remarkable. It took me into my days of childhood when I used to read Akbar Birbal, Panchatantra ki Kahaniya, Malgudi Days etc. and used to travel to those times and places in my dreams.

I don’t know the technicalities of Theatre and am sure you all have seen much better acts but for me TANSEN was a real visual treat. A special mention to Mohd. Faheem and Sudheer Rikhari for an excellent script, Govind Singh Yadav who lit his own act beautifully and Ridhima Bagga for the apt costumes and not overdoing them. Always ready to watch such outstanding theatre.

Please N.B. – I am not an artist or a technical person to comment on or judge any aspect of the performance. I do understand what all pain one takes and the courage one puts up to present such a performance and highly appreciate and respect it. Whatever I write is purely what I feel sitting in the audience.

Photographs @ Arijeet Mukherjee
Copyright @ Artist Association of India

AAI REVIEW – That’s Dancing

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I was very nervous and excited. It was almost after 5-6 years that I was going to see a TDX show in Delhi. While I was working with The Danceworx I had always been either at the backstage or the FOH running around doing things. Today I was going to watch the performances sitting in the audience and the thought of it was making me restless.

The Danceworx Delhi presented THAT’S DANCING at the LTG Auditorium in Mandi House on Sunday the 6h August 2017. There were 2 shows, a matinee and an evening show. I went for the evening show.

I was at the LTG around 45 minutes prior to the show. While in the foyer I could hear Shubha Mudgal’s voice coming from inside the auditorium. Shohini Dutta and Shubha Mudgal, I instantly knew I was in for a treat. The exhibition in the foyer by the photographer of the project, Divye Dua kept me busy for the next half an hour. I loved the exhibit which gave an insight into the project. Just the only thing that bothered me was that there could have been some more photographs in this exhibition and not just the mere handful.

The show started at ten past seven. I was given a seat just next to Mr. Lobo’s, which made me all the more uncomfortable…phew!! Mr. Lobo had flown to Delhi the evening before to encourage the participants and choreographers of THAT’S DANCING.

The performance started with Pankaj Guglani’s CHASE. CHASE was all about getting acquainted to different faces of your own self during the various ups and downs of life. Losing your being for something or someone and upon self–confrontation getting close to yourself all over again.

Now this is what I was waiting for, PIECES OF ME!! During 2010-2011 (when I was working for TDX), I used to run towards the stage upon hearing, “mathura nagarpati kahe tum gokul jao”. I always felt that there is something magical about Shohini and Shubha Mudgal. This time again Shohini had created sheer magic with Shubha Mudgal’s Omiya and Ure Jay. PIECES OF ME spoke about relationships and how we are entangled in them be it people, objects, habits etc. and how we carry them along with us to our final destination.

THE BLUE JACKET by Naomi McCoo was a fun Jazz piece and reminded me of Heidi Wiess’s choreographies for The Danceworx.

Over the years Ragini Bhajanka has matured well as a choreographer and this was evident from her fabulous choreography, AS OF NOW. An amazing piece that made me forget taking photographs and watch the piece with undivided attention. AS OF NOW talks about all the madness of the world and how one dreams only to be sane.

The show finished with Pankaj’s choreography A GAME PLOT. Based on Jaz and variations drawn from Funk, Modern and Ballet, A GAME PLOT was a great end to the evening.

Not to forget the brilliant lighting done by our very own Gyan Dev Singh (Paji).

PLEASE NOTE – I am not an artist or a technical person to comment on or judge any aspect of the performance. I do understand what all pain one takes and the courage one puts up to present such a performance and highly appreciate and respect the efforts. Whatever I write is purely what I feel sitting in the audience.

Photographs @ Arijeet Mukherjee

Copyright @ Artist Association of India

AAI REVIEW – Talaash-e-Haqq

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However many times I have gone to the Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre to watch a performance, I’ve realised that the seats never get full, unless of course you have a large fan following. Is it because the performances at the IHC are not ticketed? I often wonder…

Last Friday, 4th August 2017, I went to the India Habitat Centre to watch Talaash – e – Haqq by Jayashree Acharya. Initially it looked like a very small turnout, however soon the auditorium lit up as Pt. Birju Maharaj Ji and Ms. Saswati Sen made their way to the front seating. Suddenly the hall seemed all charged up and the audience raring to go. The number somehow didn’t matter now. The inauguration candle was lit by Maharaj Ji himself along with the musicians of the day and Ms. Acharya.

Working all these years with Aditi Mangaldas Ji, my bars of looking at or viewing a performance has been set so very high (indebted to her). I remember how Aditi Ji got me to get the backdrop stretched to every inch possible or how the musicians would only sit on a black shrug | carpet or how she would revise the opening sequence of the performance over and over again so that it is all perfect. Now that I look at performances, I see how things could be done better or improved or can look more professional. There are many little things to a performance which are of great concern and needs to be thought of well before.

The starting of the performance was a bit nail-biting as the auditorium people were unable to remove the lamp from the stage in time and were in a totally confused state. Finally, they blew off the candle, even before the performance had started, and took it out from the opposite wing just a second before Ms. Acharya was going to enter. Whew!! That was close. I could now concentrate on the dance.

Talaash – e – Haqq, based on rhythm, melody, movement and poetry beautifully portrayed the bit of love everybody shared with the divine Krishna, be it Radha, Rukmini or any other Gopika entwined in his everlasting love. The performance started with a solo by Ms. Acharya and was followed by other duet and group renditions by Kanchan, Elisha, Nandini and Gauri. After a long time I witnessed a performance which was not just about the usual Kathak footwork but more about beauty, abhinaya, love, Krishna… The musicians were on fire, however, there was an occasional whistling sound in one of the mikes which could have been taken care of prior to the performance.

The show ended on a very emotional note with Saswati Ji requesting all to stand up in a moment of silence for the two eternal losses to the art fraternity, Ms. Veronique Azan and Ms. Shanta Sarbjeet Singh a couple of days ago.

Please Note – I am not an artist or a technical person to comment on or judge any aspect of the performance. I do understand what all pain one takes and the courage one puts up to present such a performance and highly appreciate and respect the efforts. Whatever I write is purely what I feel sitting in the audience.

Photographs @ Arijeet Mukherjee
Copyright @ Artist Association of India

AAI REVIEW – National Classical Dance Festival

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Last Sunday, 25.06.2017, Chandigarh saw the conclusion of the National Classical Dance Festival organised by

the Department of Cultural Affairs Chandigarh Administration and the Tagore Theatre Society by Elisha Deep Garg and Sunny Shishodiya. With a remarkable number of people rolling in, the finale had Dr. Shobha Koser from Pracheen Kala Kendra as the Chief Guest for the evening.

Elisha and Sunny started the performance with ‘ardhang’, the ‘ardnarishwar swaroop’ of Shiva and Parvati portraying the facets of ‘tandav’ and ‘lasya’ and moved on to a solo presentation by Sunny and then to a duet composition set in taal dhamaar. The audience could not stop clapping to the intriguing and percussive footwork performed by the young duo. Well versed in their art form both Sunny and Elisha complemented each other on stage.

‘Lapak jhapak pag rokat shyam’, Elisha started off the second half with a romantic ‘thumri’ depicting the ‘ched-chad’ between Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha. Executed beautifully by Elisha, the finesse and delicate moves of the thumri instantly touched the hearts of the audience. The duo concluded the evening with some excellent renditions in teen taal.

With the kind of power and swiftness that Sunny and Elisha generate through their dance, they completely seemed to dominate the musicians. With an often irrelevant increase in the rhythm (laya) by the musicians, both held their ground to an awesome performance.

Photography @ Arijeet Mukherjee

Copyright @ Artist Association of India

AAI REVIEW – Sambhaavit

 

Recently UdhayAM Dance Co.’s endeavour SAMBHAAVIT saw its second season at a studio in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. Moving on from 10 participants in its first edition to a whopping 25 people in this one, the 5 day workshop organised by the Kathak duo Aamrapali Bhandari and Mohit Shridhar, from the 7th till the 11th June 2017, was quite a unique affair. A perfect example of the guru-shishya parampara and a one of its kind in Delhi, where in the guru is not actually teaching himself but transitioning the ‘art of teaching’ to his beloved students. As per Aamrapali and Mohit, they want the legacy of their Guru to live forever through their efforts. The purpose, promoting the Jaipur Gharana of Kathak and getting newer people acquainted to it.

The workshop started on the 7th July in the benign presence of the renowned Kathak Guru of the National Institute of Kathak Dance (Kathak Kendra), New Delhi, Pt. Rajendra Gangani. There were people from all over North India, coming from places such as Patiala, Chandigarh, Hissar, Dehradun, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ghaziabad, Rewari, Chattisgarh and New Delhi. The best part of this workshop was that most of the people knew the basics of Kathak, however, Aamrapali and Mohit did not hesitate to give extra time to people who came from other backgrounds such as theatre etc. as well.

The only concern that I felt was the space constraint. People were already in their inhibitions and the lack of space made it worse. Unable to spread, a couple of people were every now and then getting left behind the league.

Five days of intensive training ended on the 11th June with the participants showcasing their work to Pt. Rajendra Gangani. The day ceremoniously began with Guru Ji’s worship of the Nataraja Murti and blessing the students. I was lucky enough to get his blessings as well. There was a different edge to everybody’s posture today. Everybody wanted to present his/her best. Guru Ji spoke on TIME and its importance in Kathak. It instantly reminded me of Timeless, Aditi Mangaldas Ji’s Kathak based on Contemporary masterpiece. What is Time?!!

The day ended with Certificates being distributed and promises being made to re unite during the next workshop. After this much exciting workshop, Aamrapali and Mohit will now return to their regular place of work at the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – The Drishtikon Dance Foundation from the 1st of July 2017 to an year of new ventures and greater heights…

…until the next Sambhaavit – unleashing the hidden potential!

AAI REVIEW – Gauri Diwakar

…then she trailed her foot on the stage and the sound of her ghungroo’s compelled the audience to say…

Are Wah!! Kya baat hai!!

The audience was held captive this Saturday evening on the occasion of World Dance Day Celebrations at the India International Centre when Gauri Diwakar a much acclaimed Kathak soloist and an Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar and Jaidev Pratibha Puraskar recipient presented an enchanting solo to mark the evening.

The two day Festival curated by the Padmashri Dancer Geeta Chandran Ji showcased Anirudha Knight (Bharat Natyam) and Gauri Diwakar (Kathak) in its Young Dancers Festival section on the 29th.

Gauri Diwakar’s presentation had three parts – Vandana | Mugdha and Resonance (Extract – Hari Ho Gati Meri). Out of these, two were choreographed by her Guru, the eminent Kathak exponent Smt. Aditi Mangaldas.

With the remarkable and powerful chakkars that Diwakar was taking, the stage looked definitely falling short for her performance. The solo renditions on Pakhawaj by Ashish Gangani (Drishtikon repertory) and on Tabla by Yogesh Gangani (Ex Drishtikon repertory) were outstanding. A special mention for the beautiful costume by the ace designer Sandhya Raman.

In all a breath-taking performance that has left everyone yearning for more of Ms. Diwakar’s performances.

Photo Credit: Rahul Naag, India Heritage Desk

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