A leading disciple of Pt. Birju Maharaj, Saswati Sen has carried her childhood hobby of Kathak to the heights of glory through her passion for the art-form. Nurtured in the early stages by Guru Reba Vidyarthi, Saswati has been groomed into a fine exponent by Pt. Birju Maharaj. The subtleties of the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak are the hallmark of her presentations. She has excellent control over movements of the wrist, neck, brow and torso which are regulated with the breath.
Nritta (Duration: 09:15)
A string of rhythmic patterns trace their course through Teen Taal and Dhamar, moving towards quickening tempo and complexities involving ‘thath’, 'andaaz', ‘paran amad’and ‘tatkar’, ‘tukda’, ‘paran’ and ‘tihai’. The ambience is that of the Mughal Court. The dance is rich in subtle, evocative nuances, swift pirouettes and intricate footwork.
“Shubha Kshana” (Duration: 10:35)
A young village girl awaits the prince’s procession through her village with much anticipation. She bedecks herself, thinking of that one little glance that he might cast in her direction. Her heart flutters as she catches a glimpse of him. Overcome with emotion, she throws her precious necklace towards him. Her loving offering gets trampled under the wheels of the chariot as the royal procession proceeds down the village. A sense of loss which she is unable to define envelops her as she turns to face her solitude.
The piece is an experiment with the contemporary poetry of Rabindranath.
Trained under eminent Kathak gurus, Guru Kundan Lal Gangani of the Jaipur Gharana and Pt. Birju Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana, Shovana Narayan has made her mark as a soloist of repute. Her range of vision is evident in her choreographic work that explores traditional, contemporary and controversial themes. Her performance bespeaks of confidence, abandon and pulsating energy.
Vasantodbhava (Duration – 12:00)
‘Vasantodbhava’, an extract from ‘Ritu Samhar’ written by the poet Kalidas, speaks of the advent of spring personified as a beautiful damsel adorned with blossoms of alluring colours. Her gait is as delicate as a creeper swayed by the breeze. The composition is interspersed with poetic rhythmic phrases that enhance the joy that the dancer exudes upon the coming of spring.
Thumri Bhava (Duration – 04:02)
This piece in abhinaya interprets the thumri ‘Kanha Bin Sooni Lage Nagariya’ to depict the ‘Nayika’ (or the damsel in love) who suffers pangs of separation from her beloved Krishna.
Years of rigorous training with the stalwarts of Kathak have groomed Harish Rawat into a dancer who revels in speed and dynamic movements. He has delved into innovative regions with age and command. Most prominent in his dance is the influence of his Guru, Pt. Durga Lal.
Shivoham (Duration : 20:12)
Upon completion of his dance, Shiva played the damru five items from which emanated the fourteen Shiva Sutras.
It is believed that from these were born all forms of creativity, which include literature, music, dance and visual arts.
Shiva inspires the bhakta through his dance, in which are manifest different Jatis (Chatusra, Tisra, Misra, Khanda and Sankeerna), which form the core of the Tandava Anga. The bhakta executes paran - amad in the five jatis. The dance flows into gat- nikas and builds up to a crescendo of tukdas in Teen Taal. The Jugalbandi signifies the culmination point of the journey where the bhakta reaches out for the Deity. This is an experimental work using the technique of television. Both the role of Shiva-Guru and bhakta-shishya are played by Harish.
We all love listening to a great story and often it is the art of the storyteller that transports us to a magical world where even the most mundane sagas, sparkle with life. The Kathakars or the Kathavachaks of the days of Mahabharat were masters of this art. When they performed, the heroes and heroines of ancient tales and legends came alive and became part of the daily life of their audience.
Since then Kathak has traveled through centuries to evolve into a highly sophisticated, stylized, classical performing art. The razor sharp precision of its rhythmic patterns, the subtle nuances in its movements style, the musicality in its fast footwork and a tremendous potential for poetric interpretation in Abhinya, presents a unique creative challenge to the intellect of the urban Kathak dancer. The audiences are often left spellbound by the sheer brilliance of speed and artistry.
Evolution of Hindustani classical music has had a deep impact on the form of Kathak as we see it today. Inspired by the gentle blossoming of the Raga in Khayal singing, the Kathak dancer develops the poetry of the Taal in pure dance or Nritta. The creative senses are gently awakened by the orbit of the Taal, played as a musical refrain on the Sarangi. The dancing body responds with delicate micro movements of the eyes, the eyebrows, the wrist, the torso and finally the entire being.
Each cycle is a new story in rhythmic dynamics, a new journey that takes off and flows back to the Sam, the focal point and the beginning of the Taal cycle. Thath, the opening of Nritta in Kathak, speaks of control and precision as the dancer seeks oneness with the slow orbit of her chosen time cycle. As she explores the cycle and arrives at the Sam with a picturesque pose each time, the audience is gently drawn into the Taal orbit completing the Rasa triangle of the spectator, the musicians and the dancer. The story of Taal unfolds with further challenging compositions punctuated by the music of the ghunghroos (ankle bells made of brass strung in a bunch of about 150 on each foot) in long patterns of footwork such as Lari, Rela and Baant. Kathak is one of the few dance forms which offer an auro-visual treat to the spectator. The musical accompaniment in Nritta is often improvised as an interactive dialogue between the Tabla and the Ghunghroo against the backdrop of melody.
Nritya, or poetic dancing takes lead from the other classical genres of vocal music such as the Thumri Kajri, Ghazal and so on. The dancer, in Nritya takes her audience through a complete journey of emotions to reach the core essence of the poetry. The hand gestures or Mudras she uses are inspired by life around her. Her Abhinaya is a result of her empathy for literature and music dyed through the colours of her life experiences. The old masters are known to have enthralled their audience for hours interpreting just a single poetic verse to reveal deeper and deeper layers of thoughts contained in it.
Abhinaya in Khatak hoilds the simple undisguised appeal of Kathavachan or storytelling. The stories appeal to all. One needs no specialized knowledge to enjoy them. All we need is a natural empathy for life.
In this DVD, we present to you, three great exponents of contemporary Kathak.
Programme Notes: Nisha Mahajan & Sushmita Ghosh
Photographs: Avinash Pasricha
Project Director: Navin Kumar
Layout: Ram Niwas
Devised & Designed by: Kamalini Dutt
Associates: Ved M Rao & Kali Prasad
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