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Seeking and attaining

LEELA VENKATARAMAN

Sushmita Ghosh's Kathak performance was a case of still waters running deep.

Photo: Simon Richardson

CREATIVE QUEST Sushmita Ghosh explores the soul's journey.

`Seek and ye shall find,' says the New Testament. A worthy motto indeed for the serious artiste who will find that the more he delves into the art form, the more he discovers new roads opening up in what looked like unoriginal and mind-numbingly repetitive landmarks in a blind alley. And amazing can be the contemporariness revealed within the time-honoured traditional repertoire. So it must have been with Kathak dancer Sushmita Ghosh, a Kathak Kendra product trained under Guru Reba Vidyarthi and then Guru Munna Lal Shukla. Whether the still waters of introspection and creative sensibility were stirred, provoked by intellectual stimulation during the dancer's stay in the U.K., training dancers, or whether the quiet unassuming exterior only camouflages an ever present restless inner urge for exploring, is difficult to say. But whatever the catalyst, Sushmita's solo recital under the HCL Concert Series, titled Abhisarika certainly announced to the art lover that here was a dancer who was much more than the usual pretty performer. Unlike the Vasakasajja nayika waiting eternally for what remains unattainable, the abhisarika boldly sets out to acquire that which she seeks. Instead of waiting for things to happen, she makes things happen.

Sushmita uses the conventional Kathak format to explore the journey of the human soul for that higher something it seeks. The search ends when the peace of trust and total surrender erases inner agitation and restless desire. In abhisarika, the eternal journey is enacted through the medium of Kathak nritta, juxtaposed against a traditional thumri, "Moraa saiyaan bulaawe aadhi raat, nadiya bairi bhayi".

The very start with just stretched hands at different levels protruding on to the stage from the wings was most suggestive, as was the caressing togetherness of joined hands. To ripples of nascent tabla rhythm and later alap in Desh on the flute and the sarangi, the solo dancer enters with gently staccato rhythmic expressions - evoking the feel of a search in different directions.

Awakening

The lyricism of thaat becomes an unfolding, a discovery of body and an exercise in awakening the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. Even a Ta Thai Thai Tat or Dhigi Dhigi Thai Ta Thai, or a gat appears to flow through the dancer's body like waves of sensation in a search and discovery. The delightful voice of Anjana Nath, a prime disciple of Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, sings "Mora saiyaan... "

The visual vocabulary showed the constant image of crossing waters separating the beloved from the sought one (literally and metaphorically conveying the journeys made to attain the ultimate) also representing the flow of life. Very aesthetic was the dancer moving in a diagonal line towards her goal, rhythmic passages of tisra, chatusra, khanda, misra in footwork conveying an ever-increasing urgency in the journey.

Dressed in unostentatious good taste in a smartly tailored maroon outfit, the kameez falling gracefully over her tall figure, Sushmita moved with swanlike fluidity. A truly evocative performance with dovetailed nritta and abhinaya equally persuasive, and the total aesthetics of presentation showing in the way the quality musicians (all in white) were seated in three groups in a semi-circle on the stage, with the dancer performing in front. Govind Chakraborty pulsed the dancer's feelings with his sensitive tabla support; Anjana Nath provided her soulful voice. Murad Ali on the sarangi and Rakesh Prasanna on the flute with Ruby Mishra for parhant comprised the team. And not to be forgotten was the lighting by Sharad Kulshreshtha.

Pratidhwani 2005

Unlike last year's presentation, the Odissi by Ipsita Behoora and her associates left something to be desired. The Kirwani pallavi, too fast paced, sacrificed lyricism on the altar of exaggerated movement. The torso movements - front, back and sideways - need to be delicate without jerks, which neither Ipsita nor Kumar Mishra achieved. Even the former's abhinaya for "Braja ku chora ashichhi" called for more subtlety. Gitanjali, Monyka, Gauri and Prabhati presenting the Mohana pallavi need to work on perfecting their bhramaris. The finale of "Srita-kamala" in Shankarabharanam and the mangalacharan with the group formations visualising Devi manifestations were better executed.

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