Photos: Lalitha Venkat
December 23, 2008
finale came from the much awaited dance choreography of Navtej Singh Johar
and his disciple Sudeep. Titled 'Objects /signifiers in the Ramayana,'
the thinking dancer took the audience from a meta-physical sphere to a
psycho-physical experience. An object is not just a thing but has its own
story. The yogic sequences inspired by Chandralekha's work, was an extension
of meditative music and dance. Navtej explored the very form of the Kodanda
of Lord Rama through a string of flexible body movements that were both
esoteric and gravitational. "Kodanda Rama, Gambira Rama..." this touching
music composition of Ilango further enhanced the mood. In fact, this was
the only dance number in the whole conference that suggested Rama's delicate
physical form and his accessories of bow and arrows. In like manner, Sita's
presence was suggested when the dancing duo appeared, one with rice in
his palms and the other with sand, symbolizing Sita’s 'dhaanam' (offering)
and her crossing the 'Lakshman Rekha.' The pensive choreography showed
Sita being obliged to give the offering and crossing the 'line of control'
almost consciously. The presentation summed up the NKC based on Ramayana
in performing arts, on a philosophical note.
had a dialogue...
This was another
facet of the Natya Kala Conference, which dealt in depth the spiritual
significance of music in the lives of both artistes and connoisseurs. Moderated
by composer/pianist Anil Srinivasan, the discussion session titled 'God
and the Musician' was both enlightening as well as entertaining.
Neyveli Santanagopalan, Sriram Parasuram, Anil Srinivasan
is privileged to be in the company of Saraswati...Kalidas, Dikshitar, Thyagaraja
and more. He is indeed blessed for being in a 'spiritual space,' and yet
on another level he is human like every one of us with similar needs! It's
a continual process of self actualization to become the realized souls,"
said Dr. Sriram Parasuram about a musician in contemporary political and
"Art is supreme
and everything else is incidental...and music being most abstract of all
arts, traverses over language and emotional walls to reach those magical
moments... when the soul communicates with the supreme in silence," stated
chitraveena maestro Ravi Kiran on a discussion that extended to medieval
composers and their individualistic expressions in melodic compositions
and language of preference.
of monumental magnitude manifests once in hundreds of years... it's not
important to compare and contrast based on their scholarships, inspirations
and poetic contents... yes, yesteryear music composers and poets have set
a tremendous standard and seem to have challenged generations to come to
their level of proficiency," said vocalist Neyveli Santanagopalan on being
asked about contributions of contemporary composers who sympathetically
follow the medieval century composers.
summed up this stimulating conversation on music, and the fact that we
are never divorced from religion, spirituality and entertainment which
are an extension of 'god-music-man' as the three corners of a triangle.
the Natya Kala Conference
dance critic/writer, lucidly articulated her observations on the week long
presentations in the 2008 Natya Kala Conference. Describing it as one of
the most diverse and thought provoking conferences, she said "so many art
expressions have been featured for us that explored different facets of
the Ramayana... where Rama seemed to have been present discreetly throughout
the conference which revolved around the various characters of the Ramayana."
She elaborated on each presenter's views and the upshots. She specially
appreciated Swapnasundari's portrayal of Surpanakha, also Anita Ratnam
and Navtej Johar's abstract and contemporary expressions of the epic. She
congratulated convener Ananda Shankar Jayant for staging a comprehensive
conference which surprisingly included programs for children in the form
of multi-media story telling sessions - a gesture which she suggested be
included every year so as to inculcate interest among the next generation
into the classical art forms and knowledge of epics.
Dr. Paula Richman,
Ramayana expert, presented the valedictory address, which threw newer light
to the whole conference. The symposium did explore every facet of the epic
and inspired art across Asia. And here was Paula, who told us how Ramayana
has not only penetrated into the masses from times immemorial but also
that which evolved and molded itself as a metaphor in contemporary cultural
spaces. Her extended study and research across the world show how
the epic becomes witty and localized, filling in parts where originally
there was silence. Here was a dialogue between Surpanakha and Sita who
recognize each other during the latter’s exile in the forest and that Sita
is known as the world’s first single parent! Ravana’s multiple heads replaced
by present day political villains, Urmila symbolized with the contemporary
working woman away from her husband and the like, which was at once funny
but also thought provoking. "People perceived Rama according to their situation
and perceptions of dharma, and found ways to connect to it. It’s heartening
to see Ramayana living in the lives of people."
Shankar Jayant, Paula Richman, Leela Venkataraman
Ranga Rao introduced some books - both rare publications and contemporary
interpretations on Ramayana.
Secretary, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, expressed his happiness on the success
of the week long conference.
synergy of the narthaki team for the RAMAYANA dance conference has been
spectacular. Lalitha, Pratima and Sumathi have produced an informative
and engaging daily that set a benchmark for dance events in India. I am
privileged to be a part of this pioneering effort. The NKC Daily is an
archival gem to read and treasure."
Ratnam, Founder and Managing Editor, www.narthaki.com
"A most enjoyable
and creative conference, which took us into the real realms of the Ramayana."
- S Janaki,
Executive Editor, Sruti
the best ever in recent times! Kudos to Ananda and her helpers. Anita Ratnam's
Ahalya, with Hari Krishnan's choreography has reached the summit of Neo-Bharatam
and contemporary dance. Suggestion for next NKC - Please try something
spectacular such as DIMA in dance. See what wonders will emerge."
Subramaniam, Lumbini Arts Society, Canada
the conference, I have admired the painted backdrops which seem to have
complemented and remained the spine of the week long programs. In simple
brush strokes, Rama stood there with his bow... and outside the hall we
see a painting of the monkey military building the bridge!! Symbolic
and simply appealing."
attending NKC for the past 15 years. A few male dancers, who passed out
with me, attended the conference for maybe a couple of years. For the last
5 years, I see next to no male dancers coming to the conference. Some are
too busy teaching. They should come here and further their knowledge."
Venkateswaran, dancer teacher (Kumbakonam)
Sagar is a cultural commentator and critic based in Hyderabad.