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Krishna Gana Sabha

Emphasis on Indian arts

DEDICATED TO Rukmini Devi in her centenary year, the Natya Kala Conference, by providing articulation to unheard voices from different disciplines, emphasised the inter-connectedness of India's holistic vision, which when not understood would make our arts a "Kagaz Ka Phool" (paper flower) without fragrance, according to Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who addressed the gathering.

Chiding `theological aberrations' like the "confusing word, divine" applied as much to a perfume in an advertisement as to an art form, he gloried in a philosophy which could envision the `Jagat' itself as the dancing Nataraja with his entire body made up of `nada', from which emerges music — this icon extolled in the Keertanam in Chittaranjani "Nada Tanumanisam".

`An experience'

Malavika Sarukkai talked of the body as the site of creative experience, the satva flowing through it making it luminous and sensitive to perfect alignment with space and time, with prana as its life force - this heightened awareness making dance an experience rather than an imitation (anukeertanam rather than anukaranam).

Concern for geometry

That the concern for perfect geometry was more than just visual aesthetics was brought out by Sashikala Anant who spoke of the `kaya Madhya sutra' running from middle of the head to the space between the two feet, dividing the body into two equal halves, and how alignments from and towards it making for geometrical lines, just like the square, circle and rectangle in architecture and sculpture, generated different types of energy.

`Mistaken for severity'

The sensitised body or mind in satva, engaged in any medium, could rise to higher levels of consciousness. Sculpture, architecture and dance shared the same regard for geometry, and it was a pity "that Kalakshetra's correctness of technique was mistaken for severity," said Shanta Dhananjayan.

A meditation

All dancers have aesthetic concerns. For a contemporary dancer like Astad Deboo, aesthetics should not be shackled in theories and for a modern painter like Shakti Marar, beauty was "a state of being" and for him too Satva flowing through the body was important. He also stressed on `intentionality' behind a work of art.

No matter what its form and perspective, art must touch the heart, as shown by Astad whose dance to the Dhrupad music of the Gundecha Brothers was like a meditation evoking rapturous applause.

Moving interpretation

Specially moving was Saroja Khokar's glimpses of abhinaya to "Yen Pallikkondir Ayya" and Mohiniyattam dancer Kshemavati's moving interpretation of the lullaby by Iraiyaman Tampi "Omanatingal".

Role of the rasika

That the audience as rasika plays a major role was highlighted by Gowri Ramnarayan who brought out the differences between the western and eastern approach to aesthetics, in her incisive lecture. The artiste combines in himself the roles of a rasika and one who evokes the aesthetic joy.

As Thumri singer Vidya Rao so beautifully put it, quoting her guru Late Naina Devi's observation, "The audience response to a thumri should ideally be, not "Wah!" but "Ah!".

LEELA VENKATARAMAN

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