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Monsoon magic on the stage

LEELA VENKATARAMAN

When rain becomes the metaphor, ingenuity streams with little effort. Despite lack of audiences Art India's Monsoon Festival in New Delhi saw the creative droplets dancing to the tunes of monsoon winds.

PHOTOS: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR AND V.V. KRISHNAN

DRENCHED IN INSPIRATION Prerna Shrimali at the Monsoon Festival held at Kamani auditorium in New Delhi.

Art India's star-studded two-day Monsoon Festival packaging dance and music held at the Kamani auditorium deserved more than the scanty audiences. Sponsors reserving tickets reportedly failed to turn up. Reassuringly, artistes remained anchored to the monsoon theme.

Lasya redolent Mohiniattam without live music could well have been too tame, but for Sunanda Nair's vivacious dance personality.

Guru Kanak Rele's neatly packaged conceptualisation portrayed the monsoons, ardently welcomed after the draining ardour of summer with drooping trees. Rains ushering in frolicking nature and man, to the rippling strains of raga Bilahari, saw the delightfully varied tones of a "Dhika Naka Tari" jati, also used to create the mood. Set to Surati raga was somewhat off-theme Sharad season, with Krishna sporting with the gopis and the ashtapadi in Mohanam "Haririha-mugdha-vadhoonikare". Sunanda's vibrant presentation concluded with an edited Jiva finale.

Poetic moods



Madhavi Mudgal.

Turned out in a strikingly aesthetic costume, performing to coordinated music comprising the joint male/female voices of Poornachandra Maji and Manikuntala Bhowmik, was Madhavi's streamlined Odissi presentation, strung to excerpts from Kalidasa's Meghadootam verses and Upendra Bhanja's Oriya poetry. Madhavi used Guru Kelucharan's memorable Shankarabharanam pallavi as the nritta interregnum joining the contrasting poetic moods.

The Yaksha in Meghadootam exhorts the monsoon cloud to make the wind travel through the bamboo shoots creating orchestrated sound, accompanied by thunder, like the drums to Siva's dance. Contrastingly, Bhanja's poetry "E Ghana Kaalare" imagines the lovelorn nayika in the monsoons, in isolation, stung by Manmatha's flowered darts.

Topping the refined classical flavour in the music was a strongly sung khayal in the monsoon mode by Ravi Joshi, the bandish about a nayika's query to her bird as to when she would meet her beloved, evocatively interpreted in the Odissi idiom by Madhavi.



Sunanda Nair

Rama Vaidyanathan's Bharatanatyam creatively perceived monsoon as a metaphor, its dance manifestations taking on a physical and a metaphysical level. The one line sahitya, "Pashya Swarga Swayam Avatarati Prateet Manam Prabhu-Kripa Varshati" saw rain as the bounty from the heavens nourishing life of this universe, its failure likened to the lover without his beloved or the devotee without his God.

The spiritual immersion like drenching in rain, was portrayed through Tyagaraja's kirtana in Reetigowla "Nandu Vidichi Kada Lagura" the poet comparing the Lord's darshan to the shade of the Kalpakkam in scorching summer, unique as the pearl discovered in the ocean-depths and like life quickening on rain-slaked thirsty earth. Different in tone was the sensuous wetness of Rama's sringar images set on a monsoon befitting musical format scored by flautist Rajan, the festival curator. Even the usual khanda jaati rhythmic gait acquires a different feel in Rama's choreography with movement profiled at unusual angles. The confident, slick performance rested on experienced melodic support from Lalgudi Ganesh (nattuvangam), Vidya Srinivasan (vocal), Chakrapani (violin) and Rajan (flute).

Crowning performance



Rama Vaidyanathan.

In expanse of creative imagination coupled with superb execution, Prerna Shrimali's Kathak provided the crowning event of the festival. It caught the entire cycle of life and time seen through the prism of water and monsoons, both nourisher and the ultimate dissolver, in whose bosom ashes of a finished life-span merge. Rig Vedic verses, Persian poetry, kavits, raga music in Rageshri in a one-line repetitive refrain with an accented Madhyam as resting point, Malkauns, Purvadhanashree ripples, all strung in a unified fashion, one segment dissolving into the next as effortlessly as salt in water.

From the poetry to Fateh Singh Gangani's tabla in a non-intrusively ushered tisra gati rhythm with which the dancer in her upaj literally played in her bol baant, the way all the abstract Kathak ingredients from thaat to gat to tukras and tatkar were woven in to convey throbbing images of sringar in all its joy and subtlety - each phrase adding one more petal to the flower of Prerana's conceptualisation - comprised nritta and abhinaya at their suggestive best.

A truly innovative effort with the harmonised voices of Imran Khan and Ruchi in evocatively crafted music. Prerana must repeat this for a larger audience.

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