Saluting the legends
If the Legends of India festival honoured eminent artistes, there are others whose contribution is no less praiseworthy.
DAZZLING DUO: Jayarama Rao and Vanashree Rao performing at the Legends of India festival this past week. PHOTO: R.V. MOORTHY.
Biting criticism kicking up a lather of controversy following any selection of awardees for music and dance is common.
However, this year's choice for the Legends of India title comprising Pandit Yashwant Balkrishna Joshi (Hindustani vocal), Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan (Hindustani instrumental), Vidwan T.M. Thiagarajan (Carnatic vocal), Vidwan Lalgudi Jayaraman (Carnatic instrumental) and Kumari Yamini Krishnamurthy (dance) has raised no hackles nor caused quizzical eyebrows raised in dissent.
The Lifetime Achievement Award, as Gulzar the poet/lyricist so succinctly put it in his talk during the ceremony at Taj Mahal Hotel is to honour those artistes, who as custodians have nourished the roots of tradition, saving them from being pulled out and blown away in the global winds of change. The brainchild of Dipayan Mazumdar, the Legends of India award this year, thanks to the initiative of Mutthuswami Varadarajan, carried Rs.40000 cash bonus. The awards conferred, a three-day festival of music and dance featuring non-awardees at the Kamani, heralded the event.
Rich music fare had a lone dance event in the Kuchipudi recital of Jaya Rama Rao and Vanashree Rao. The seventh consecutive annual celebration of the Legends of India, it was somewhat surprising that a blow-up of the logo and invitation card was allowed to clutter the stage backdrop, the lines of dance getting lost amidst the overdone rear.
Intelligent programme planning and excellent music organisation were the hallmarks of the Kuchipudi recital. Oothukadu Venkatasubbaiyer's Gambira Nattai keertanam "Sri Vighnarajam Bhaje" with the Khanda jati rhythm made for a sparkling beginning, the husband and wife team coordinating well.
Ardhanariswar depicting and complimenting male and female identities integrated in one indivisible Divinity, shone with some inspired accompaniment from the wings.
Full marks to the young singer K. Venkateshwaran whose vocal support had classical integrity and was at once melodious and unobtrusive. Tanjavur Keshavan's nattuvangam bristled with theatricality, providing contrastingly strident and graceful tones for the tandava and lasya. Chandrasekharan's mridangam complimented the effort.
As for Raghuraman (flute) and Annadurai (violin) their adroit raga interventions in Gitopadesh registering the peak of the recital, brought in the mood changes very effectively - as Krishna's sermon going with an authoritative Shankarabharanam, while Arjun's crestfallen refusal to fight his own relatives and elders was mimed to ragas like Kanada or Charukesi. Combining Bahar and Vasanta (singer's crossovers were very deft) in the sringar item built on verses of Kalidasa's "Ritu Samhara" and Jayadeva's ashtapadi "Lalita Lavangalata" was imaginative. Vanashree`s abhinaya, her best feature, had scope here.
Elaborations were strung round the line "Viharati Haririha Sarasavasante". The Lalgudi tillana in Hamsanandi has a gait not naturally made for the rhythmic metre of Kuchipudi, and the first line as a rather soft refrain (picked up punch later), making a tame finale for the recital, particularly after the vibrant Gitopadesh.
Cannot compering be made tighter so that the magic of the dance is not lost? Not the fault of Jyoti who had prepared well and had to cover time taken for costume changes.
Why not use soft raga alap, particularly with competent musicians, to cover part of the gap? As for the Hindi compere, a known television face, his deep baritone got lost in needless verbiage with even known names getting mispronounced - like Kashalkar becoming Kushalkar.
Delhi Ballet group
Valmiki Banerjee is a guru with a mission. An ardent representative of the Rabindranatyam school of Tagore Dance, he is convinced that this form with its own identity has enough anga, pratyanga, upanga and abhinaya to be given the recognition of a classical dance form.
What one finds laudable about the guru is his dedication in training youngsters from economically deprived homes, often with no remuneration. What was praiseworthy about the presentation of dance based on Tagore songs was the children's group discipline and the way varied props and colours came together in harmony. Lighting was good and the tiny tots were very enthusiastic. Such unselfish teaching needs encouragement.
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