Nurturing performing arts
This is the thirteenth of a 16-part series on Bangalore, which will culminate in several competitions, including a Quiz, Paint Your City, Photograph Your City, Treasure Hunt, and so on for The Hindu NIE participants.
TRADITIONAL AND folk-art were supported in Bangalore for centuries. In more recent times, A.N. Subba Rao's Kala Mandira was, perhaps, one of the earliest art schools teaching painting, sculpture, puppet making, and other forms of art. Kala Mandira had many firsts to its credit - the All India Art Exhibition in 1921, publication of the art magazine Kala in 1930 and conducting the first Drama festival in 1932. Many students from this school became popular - P.R. Kamalamma who established Malleswaram Lalita Kala Shale, Padma, G. Chennamma of Gana Mandira, and S. Ramanathan who directed many Hindi films.
Quite a few artistes from Mysore lost the valuable patronage when Krishnaraja Wadiyar died in 1940 and they moved to Bangalore. To name a few, there were K. Venkatappa, N.G. Pavanje, S.R. Iyengar, H.S. Inamati, F.B. Yalavathi, Y. Subramanya Raju, B.H. Ramachandra, S.S. Kukke, S.R. Ramaswamy, L.P. Anchan, and D. Vadiraj. Later on, others like Roerich, Manish Dey, R.M. Hadapad, S.G. Vasudev, and Kamalesh made Bangalore their home and a worthy artistic atmosphere came to prevail. Many of them opened their own art schools such as Hadpad's Ken School of Arts. Bangalore became a centre where Annual Art Exhibitions and seminars were held and it became a centre of art criticism.
Karnataka Chitra Kala Parishat was started in 1960 by a group of artists - M. Arya Murthi, M.S. Gundu Rao, and S.S. Kukke. The Parishat has done yeoman service to develop and promote art in the City. It is now an internationally recognised centre of art and educates students at graduate, postgraduate, and doctorate/research levels. The All India Art Exhibition, running of an art gallery, library, arranging seminars, conferences, hosting folk dance and drama festivals are a part of its varied activities. Roerich's paintings and S.K. Agarwal's collection of 18th Century paintings are noteworthy possessions of the Parishath.
Acharya Kala Bhavana (1969) is the only institution in India to provide training in art for amateurs.
Apart from many art schools and centres open to the public, Bangalore also has 15 private art galleries. The Lalita Kala Academy set up by the state Government has encouraged arts and artistes since 1962. Bangalore can be proud of the internationally famous wild life photographer E. Hanumantha Rao and photographers such as M.Y. Ghorpade, C. Rajagopal, T.L. Ramaswamy, B. Kesar Singh, T.N.A. Perumal, and D. Srinivasan. Sculpting, wood crafting, handicrafts, and Batik arts have also flourished.
Coming to dance, classical dance has a somewhat chequered tradition in Bangalore. As we have referred earlier, Ranadulla Khan encouraged a dancer - a tawaif - in his camp in 1638. Hyder Ali, returning from a military expedition in 1760, appears to have brought a number of dancers from Bellary and settled them in Bangalore. A few paintings of a later time display these artists entertaining the British sahibs.
Much later, we hear of Bengalooru Chandravadana, Nagaratna, Varalu, and Puttadevamma who were in Mysore Durbar, but were from Bangalore.
In earlier centuries, the devadasi or dance girls helped in the continuance of dance as an art form. Ulsoor Venkata Sundara Sani wrote a book Sara Sangraha Bharata, a compedium of Bharata's Natya Shastra in 1906.
Dance, however, was yet not considered a respectable profession in those days. Temple car festivals, marriage processions, and high society functions occasionally provided a platform to the artistes. In 1932, there was an agitation in South India opposing nautch and terming it as debasing. Suddenly the nautch artistes lost the support of society and withdrew into a shady backstage.
The entertainment at religions and social functions was taken up by loud bandsets, orchestra, and light music. It appeared that "dance" as an art form had lost out.
Rukminidevi, Vallathol and others tried to resurrect dance as an art form worthy of superior notice and exhibition by upper class women. Rabindranath Tagore, Udaya Shankar, Menaka, Sadhana Bose, Guru Gopinath, and many others gave an impetus to "free expression" of this traditional art. Many a classical dancer performed in Mysore and Bangalore and other cultural centres and revived public interest in this art.
The famous Ramagopal played an important role in reviving dance. He established his Nritya Kala Mandir in Bangalore in 1938, and invited dance gurus such as Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Kunju Kurup, Sohanlal, and Bowrilal to train aspiring dancers in Bharatanatya, Kathakali, and Kathak. In 1939, Sohanlal started his own Nritya Kala Shala in Malleswaram. Some artistes who learnt dance at Adyar Kalakshetra returned and started their own dance schools here. Some teachers from Madras came and settled down here and taught dance. They naturally were partial to Tamil kritis. This lead to a reaction on the part of the people residents and a revived emphasis on regionality. These rapid changes helped in adding new innovations to the Mysore dance tradition. Quite a few new dance schools and institutions also came up in the process - Anand Shivaram's Mohini Attam (1944), Kanchipuram Yellappa Pillai's Bharat Natyam classes (1943-44), M.S. Natarajan and Maya Rao's Natya Saraswati (1947), and Dayal Sharma's Odissi classes (1949) to name a few.
Bangalore is proud of many other schools such as U.S. Krishna Rao and Chandrabghaga Devi's School of Bharata Natyam, Maya Rao's Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography (1964), Lalitha Srinivasan's Nupura, V.S. Koushik's Sanatana Kalakshetra, H.R. Keshava Murthy's Keshava Nritya Shale, and so on. Many well-known gurus such as Kolar Kittappa, Kolar Puttappa Pillai, Muthaiah Pillai, Tanjore Kittappa Pillai, Mylapore Gouri (Bharatanatya), Chandu Panicker (Kathakali), Gowri Prasad (Kathak), Debu Prasad (Odissi) made a notable contribution.
Many famous persons have been associated with classical dance in Bangalore - Mrinalini Sarabhai, Joyce Powell (Sneha Latha Reddy), Neena, Leela Ramanathan, Kantha, and Indrani. Valuable books on dance by U.S. Krishna Rao and Chandrabhagadevi and V.S. Koushik are contributions to dance that Bangalore has made.
(The author would be grateful for additional information, old anecdotes, and old photographs on the subject. He can be contacted on 6520122 or on email@example.com.)
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