Why can’t Indians be proud of their roots?

Watching the International Festival of Language and Cultures India chapter, i couldn’t stop feel miserable.The way Indian culture and languages were ignored and limited to Bollywood,at such an international fora made the dancer in me feel miserable.

Few young girls from schools across Delhi came up on to the stage to sing Bollywood numbers instead, not to mention the sub-standard performance by them, infront of an international audience. This irked me more,than how only few schools like Frank Anthony, Tagore International and Springdales presented more than half of the performances on that stage, that day, most of the students in these schools being daughters and sons of bureaucrats and diplomats. Wonder what the selection criteria was for the schools that represented India at the International Festival of Language and Culture. By the way, even these schools have better talent than presented on television.

The sub-standard performance of these students aside, why choose Bollywood music to represent India at such a stage. While every country boasted its culture, India could only think of Bollywood music? What happened to those dying folk and classical art-forms ranging from Kashmir’s valley to Kanyakumari?

Like those girls sang, yeh des rangeela zarur hai. lekin usko dikhaya kisne hai duniya ko?

Such tragic episodes only reinforce the fact that India’s art-forms are not dying a natural death, but are being killed by its own people.

The Dance Revolution!

It is not everyday that the performing arts fraternity joins hands to combat issues that have plagued the cultural scenario for decades now. It is also not common for the Ministry of Culture to face the heat on issues pertaining to the Sangeeta Natak Akademi and other institutions that come under its ambit. It has always been a small ministry that becomes important while speaking about religion, caste and customs. Not any more. With authors returning their awards and now the controversy over the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar being given to youngster Prateeksha Kashi, the Ministry of Culture might have to face a lot of heated questions.

Revolutions do one-thing good always. What might have been unknown to the world, comes to the limelight. In this case, Kuchipudi, a not so famous art-form in comparison to Bharatnatyam will surely get the masses’ attention.

The recent Sangeeta Natak Akademi Yuva Puraskar given to upcoming Kuchipudi dancer Prateeksha Kashi, daughter and disciple of senior guru Vyjayanthi Kashi from Karnataka has caught the attention of the artiste fraternity. It is almost as if Prateeksha Kashi bagging the award has woken up the whole fraternity to fight against corruption and unfair practices that exist in the field of performing arts .It is important to note that Ms Prateeksha Kashi received the award alongside veteran guru and performer- Guru JaiKishore Mosalikanti from Chennai. Guru Mosalikanti learnt from the Kuchipudi Art Academy, chennai and is a contemporary of Prateeksha Kashi’s mother- Smt Vyjayanthi Kashi. Prateeksha on the other hand is a young and upcoming artiste. There have been many who have appreciated her performances while some senior critics like Veejai Sai  have criticized her performances.

http://www.narthaki.com/info/rev14/rev1548.html

There might never have been such an uproar as this in the field of classical dance. The artiste fraternity, either overtly or covertly, are protesting the award given to Prateeksha. The movement is spreading all over social media like a forest fire. There are sections of dancers who are reluctant to take a stand openly , fearing that they would be categorized as being’ jealous’.

Questions have been raised on the selection process as Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi herself part of the committee. Is this a classic example of the great Indian ‘Jugaad’? The awardee’s mother and guru Smt Vyjayanthi Kashi is contemporary to the other awardee in the Kuchipudi category- Guru Jaikishore Mosalikanti,making Prateeksha her equivalent to a disciple of the latter.

Not only does it question the credibility of the senior guru Smt Vyjayanthi Kashi, but also questions the government’s way of functioning. It is high time the government realises that issues more important than beef ban need attention. There are larger issues and segments that come under the ambit of the Ministry of Culture and have gone unnoticed over 60 years- dark secrets of the performing arts scenario. There exist organisations that receive grants from the Ministry of Culture for the promotion of arts and artistes that ultimately end up sponsoring only select artistes over and over again.

Smt Vyjanthi Kashi’s position in the Central Sangeetha Natak Akademi has also been questioned. The claim is that when she isn’t part of the sitting committee of any state Sangeeta Natak Akademi, how can she be part of the selection committee at the Central Sangeetha Natak Akademi.

With this , not only Smt Vyjayanthi Kashi, the Ministry of Culture and Sangeeta Natak Akademi also have a lot of questions to answer. The government cannot escape questions as the claim has been made on the basis of a petition filed. Sources close to the Minister of Culture Dr Mahesh Sharma state that the matter has not yet reached the minister while the petitioners have been told that the matter has been forwarded to the Ministry of Culture.

The battle continues as the Sangeet Natak Akademi now claims that Guru Vyjanthi kashi did not know of her daughter being nominated for the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar. The petitioners have not yet lost hope in this case.

Dance -for the heart, soul and mind

Aside

I begin my post by wishing everyone a very Happy World Dance Day. Dance unites all of us. We all dance to the tunes of somebody-our teachers, professors, better-halves, best-friends, and the list goes on and on.

when the world is dancing on World Dance Day, i sit in front of the computer looking for a conventional job. I must confess, it is not the most exciting kind thing to do. I miss the sound of ankle-bells, dance class and my gurus. I miss rigorous training sessions. 

But when i think about it, is dance a viable option. Such a thought came to my mind after a trip to Kuchipudi village.The resaon of the post is my recent trip to Kuchipudi village. Let me tell you ,why .
Kuchipudi Natyakshetram was where all the doyens of kuchipudi resided. Now, it is nothing more than a deserted land.Kuchipudi village was opposite to what i expected it be. It seemed as if Kuchipudi never existed here.
THe two temples at Kuchipudi- the Siddhendra Yogi temple and the Bala Tripura Sundari temple are more-or-less abandoned. I could spot only a handful of devotes. The priest at the Siddhendra Yogi temple, a veteran artiste,narrated the plight of dancers here. The priest is the last performer of his art-form still living in the village. He went on to narrate the difficulties one faces in the village. He became a priest because priesthood fetches him a higher income than performing.
Kuchipudi veteran, Shri Keshav Prasad is of the opinion that the village lacks the infrastructure to promote dance. He says, it is a vicious cycle. First, one needs land to establish a school. This is can only be made available after umpteen trips to government offices. One needs capital. Most importantly, one needs students.Drawing students has become a task, here at Kuchipudi natyakshetram.  Keshav Prasad teaches says, he teaches about 5 students out of interest.
The government established the Siddhendra Kalakshetra. That too, is a recent phenonmenon. It was established after the damage was done. After all the maestros departed to big cities, the government thought of such an institution. The Siddhendra Kalakshetram has an experienced and dedicated principal. His is the only institution in kuchipudi village that teaches Kuchipudi.
Back to the village scene. As you walk on the streets of kuchipudi, a small lane near the Bala Tripura Sundari temple will take you Padma Bhushan Vempati Chinna Satyam’s house. The house is in a mess, almost as if it was hit by a hurricane. The Vempati family doesn’t live there. They are not even sure what to do. Will they sell it? What will happen to it in the future? Such is the state of the art-form in its birth place. 
All this makes me wonder if dance has a future? Kuchipudi artists especially have a lot to think. There might be a festival or two happening in the village, but the question is how far is its reach? Is the general public aware of what is going on? They deserve to know before it becomes too late to undo the damage already done.

From Gudivada to London – Sarvani Sashidhar’s Journey

Sarvani Sahidhar is now a known name in the world of Kuchipudi. As young as Sarvani is, Success couldn’t wait to knock at her door-step.She is at the pinnacle of success with offers pouring.

But things were not all that rosy when she began to learn dance.The first chapter of Sarvani’s story began at a very tender age. Sarvani’s journey is worth noting. She is indeed an achiever. That might not be very new as many artistes boast about them being initiated into the art form at a very young age. What is unique about her story?

Young sarvani travelled from Gudivada to kuchipudi village where she learnt from vedantam Radheshyam garu. Sarvani fondly remembers how reluctant she was to dance, initially. But soon she developed a liking for the art form. What she initially did to please her mother, soon transformed into her own passion.

Chapter two of Sarvani’s journey is where she got genuinely got interested in learning Kuchipudi. She tells us how one workshop under Sudhakar Garu changed her perception about dance. The little girl who hid to escape dance classes began loving dance. It is perhaps that day that changed Sarvani’s destiny. Perhaps, even the gods had decided that she had to become a dancer.
Sarvani has already performed at many prestigious festivals in India and abroad. Not only that, she has headed many lecture demonstrations intended to promote the art form. Her demonstrations have been highly appreciated by critics. Not only that, she has already choreographed interesting pieces that critics and the audiences have appreciated.

An engineer cum dancer,Sarvani is an example of a multi-faceted lady. Sarvani is an alumnus of BITS, Pilani campus, where she studied chemical engineering.And thus, began another chapter of her journey. She successfully sailed through the torment of engineering. A tough and grueling schedule at BITS did not deter her from staying in touch with the arts. She had always been an active part of the organizing committee of the classical dance and music festival.

After graduating from Pilani, she joined BHEL, and soon she got married. With life’s twists and turns Sarvani succefully completed her Rangapravesam under the guidance of Padmashri Guru Dr. Shobha Naidu. The guests of honour present opined that sarvani had excelled in satvika abhinaya Saatvika Abhinaya. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkjtIao1x9g .This phase of her life proved that she is a brilliant juggler.

Everyone can learn a lesson or two from sarvani sashidhar. First and foremost, her story teaches us that perseverance is the key to success. Second, time management and focus are very important. Third, nothing is impossible. Sarvani’s dynamism moves one step ahead. She is fond of travelling. Sarvani is a globe-trotter in her personal life.

Young sarvani was not born with a silver spoon.Dance as a full-time profession was too good a dream to come true. But she made it happen. Presently, she is at the pinnacle of success. She has now added another feather to her hat. After moving to London with her better half, sarvani has already performed and is all ready to begin the London chapter of sahasra fine arts- brain child of Sarvani herself. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sahasra-Fine-Arts/240498436098244

Sarvani might have crossed the seven seas but , her heart lies right behind in India. Even if she can spare a moment, she visits India to train in the nuances of kuchipudi, under the expert guidance of her Guru Padmashri Dr. Shobha Naidu.

Despite all the success and fame , she humbly falls at the feet of her revered gurus’ for the training they imparted over the years. No wonder, in the same guru-shishya parampara she has begun nurturing young talent. She has always mentioned each of her gurus- Vedantam radheyshyam garu,Rajaram garu Smt Seetha Nagajothy and shri P. Nagajothy and finally completing her Rangapravesam under Padmashri Guru Dr. Shobha Naidu.

Sahasra Fine arts is indeed the perfect climax to Sarvani’s story. We can only hope that life doesn’t have anymore surprises.And, if there are any, they are sweet ones.

Rangapravesam the Vempati way

Not being the lavish NRI affair, Sahana Natesan’s rangapravesam was a simple evening with a lot dance for the audience to enjoy.

sahana natesan during her rangapravesam

sahana natesan during her rangapravesam

A rangapravesam initiates an artiste into the world of professional dancers. Hence, the artiste is expected do justice to each and every aspect – nritta and abhinaya, and since it is Kuchipudi we are talking about- natya. The recital was structured to bring out the shishya’s ability to perform , on one hand ,nritta based pieces like the thillana and, on the other, abhinaya based piece like vedalera vayyarulu.The famous Neelamegha Sareera, choreographed by PadmaBhushan Late Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam was the ultimate piece. While many Kuchipudi dancer have corrupted the plate section by minimal movement, Sahana stayed true to her tradition. It was a treat to the eyes when Sahana opened the plate section with her balancing herself on the rim of the plate with her legs crossed.This was the original way in which the piece was choreographed. Most dancers these days have resorted to the easier ways.

The rangaravesam was stamped with Sahana’s guru’s guru PadmaBhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam’s style.The intensity did not temper at any point during the recital. It began with the traditional Vani Paraku, followed by the invocatory item Pari Pahi in praise of Lord Ganesha and ended with the traditional with the traditional Mangalam.

Some of the items Narthaki Sahana performed were choreographed by the maestro Padma Bhushan Late Vempati Chinna Satyam. These included Satyabhama’s pravesa Daruvu- Bhamane Satyabhamane href=”http://http://www.kuchipudi.com/glossary/glossary16″>Bhamakalapam Pravesa Daruvu, Vedalera Vayarulu- an excerpt from the dance-drama Vipranarayana ,Shiva-stuti and ofcourse, the intense Neelamegha Sareera <a ]

The pieces created by Guru Ravi were also captivating.A special piece , Mohanavalli, was choreographed by Guru Ravi for the occasion. Overall , the recital was an excellent blend of Nritta, Nritya and Abhinaya- none overpowering the other. what proves cherry on the cake was Guru Ravi’s voice. He lent his voice for pieces like Shiva-stuti, apart from doing the nattuvangam .DSC_7848

Guru Ravi was assisted by veteran mridangist Shri Phani Kumar , Smt Randhini -the vocalist, Sikkil Balasubramanian in the capacity of the violinst, Smt Ananthalakshmi as the Veena player and ofcourse, Flute by Sri Devaraj.

Chennai and Aadhar

The census board is preparing for their future projects.Lots of questions regarding the aadhar card have been unanswered even after the second phase,however.some of the questions that aren’t clearly answered range from the difference between UID and AADHAR to the benefits of it. There are other pertinent issues that need to be addressed.
Krishna Rao,joint director at the census boards, chennai suggested that aadhar is simply the 12-digit number which is extracted after collecting data and verification of the data that entered using biometric system.
Mr Rao is also very clear when he states that there is no scope for double entry. He insists that the biometric system is fool-proof and will prevent any duplication.When asked regarding the status of the homeless, Mr Rao says that homeless haven’t been included presently. Infact, the target group is residents and families. Institutions will be included at the later stage.
A major concern is privacy.While recording finger prints, iris mark and photograph, which are distinct identification marks, misuse scares the public. To this, Mr Rao assures that information is absolutely discreet.
While the limitations of the physically handicapped is taken care of while recording , ensuring their presence has not been worked out. The same applies for the old-aged.The same applies for the aged. The benefits of the Aadhar card is also not clear. Mr Rao said that it is still being worked out and the main focus is to issue unique numbers to citizens. However, there has been a link with ration cards.

Chennai v/s Auto-Rickshaws

Auto-rickshaws are clearly the least favourite mode of public transport in chennai. Why? The answer lies in the dead meters that hang in the auto rickshaw.In this scenario, how are the masses affected when the most comfortable mode of public transport has now become unaffordable, is the question. Chennai’s youth, women and elderly have a lot to say about this.
Surely, exorbitant rates prevent young professionals from using autos which they would alternatively use should the rates be fixed. A young professional who did not wish to be named is of the opinion that inorder to increase her savings she avoids using auto as they end up paying a fortune
She, however, believes that the auto-rickshaw drivers are not at fault. “They too have to run a house-hold. Milk and other commodities have become expensive”, she says. She states further “even if meters are used, discrepancies are bound to be there. Drivers tend to manipulate.”
Upon enquiry, it has been learnt that not all auto drivers mind using meters provided rates are revised from time to time.
Vidya , a mumbaikar, used to the meticulous system of meters says she gets nothing less than angry when auto drivers charge unreasonable rates. While youngsters are in a position to ignore the problem, elderly people cannot. Senior citizens and those with disabilities are affected. They remain helpless.

After cribbing for many years now, chennai has come to terms with the dismal situation. They are however lucky that the state bus system functions very well.They have also found other ways to deal with the problem. They have been the sought after change.