Bhamakalapam – Ajay Kumar stole the show

In Hyderabad, through the childhood, we have been brought up with the music of Late Sri Ghantashala lilting in our ears every morning, and the character of ‘Sathyabhama’ and her ‘natkat pan’ vis-à-vis Krishna was part of the folklore diet.

When I heard of ‘Bhamakalapam’ as the theme of the dance this evening, I had to go. It was interesting because of the Jugalbandi format – two characters in two different dance forms – Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi; added to it enchanting ‘Satyabhama’ was portrayed by a male !! What more you could ask for.

The Performance, with two different dance forms juxtaposed against each other, with their own movements and the bhava, was aesthetically evocative. Ajay Kumar, the Kuchipudi dancer from Vijayawada, portrayed the ever-green character of Satyabhama, while the Bharatanatya exponent Sathyanarayana Raju from Bangaluru was the Krishna. The performance was part of the festival Samvaad, organized by Ms. USha R K, an eminent art consultant, at the Deshmukh Auditorium with active support of India International Centre.

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The seasoned exponents did make the evening very lively. Especially Ajay, the Satyabhama, trained in Kuchipudi from a tender age of four, has mastered the art of portraying ‘Stree Vesha’. He stole the show under the nose of more experienced and better known Satyanarayana Raju; more so because of portraying a woman,Satyabhama, I suppose. Audience had their eyes more on Satyabhama! Ajay was performing in Delhi for the very first time, while I have captured Satyanarayana Raju quite a few times in the past.

I am sure, no one, who walked in after the initial announcement, would have made out that the Satyabhama character was being portrayed by a male. The grace with which Ajay flourished on the stage was fabulous. Ajay, from the very entry, draped in a cream and red sari in the garb of Satyabhama, was captivating. His movement, gestures, expressions brought out the best of the female traits and personality. Only give away, for a very keen eye, would have been the body structure of a male vis-a-vis female.

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The Abhinaya – Satyabhama’s character of being haughty, the tiffs with the lord Krishna, the pangs of separation – flowed effortlessly from Ajay. Ajay has mastered the soft, gentle and fluid feminine movements too. It was compelling. It was Ajay’s show all the way; Raju, true to the character of Krishna vis-a-vis Satyabhama, looked like a mere spectator. He also let it be, in true spirit of the characters, I must say. Of course without Raju’s Krishna, Satyabhama would not have been as effective!

Looking forward to watch more of Ajay in the future; and love to see him mentor more disciples who will not let this art-form a thing of past.

Source: Bhamakalapam – Ajay Kumar stole the show


Religious Tolerance – Lee Kuan Yew’s lesson to Modi and every national leader

Lee Kuan Yew was the prime minster of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, making him the longest-serving PM in history. During his long rule, Singapore became the most prosperous nation in Southeast Asia.

I have heard a lot about Lee’s iron-fisted approach to governing. But, I think he has done a great deal of good too to Singapore, making it one of the top countries in every respect. All the more, since it hardly had any natural resources.

The clarity with which Lee went about creating the nation-city of Singapore is very inspiring, to say the least. Every nation needs such a leader who puts nation and people at the forefront. Of course, while the nation prospered, so did his family fortunes! Still the nation benefited immensely. The magnitude of challenges and size of a nation like India, may create greater complexities, still the purposefulness can make a big difference.

I have had an opportunity to hear to Lee at 2008 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore. I found him to be very well read, and being abreast about the world’s socio-political-economic scenario even after 20 years of retirement. He had a great deal of clarity in everything he spoke.

Here is one of Lee’s answers to the growing religious intolerance and how to go about governing the nation..

Modi, the GIR Lion’s attempt to breed in other states is now failing spectacularly; Bihar the latest!

As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi did not want to part with the pride of Gujarat, GIR LION, with any other state. He opposed tooth and nail the efforts by environmentalists to conserve the fast disappearing species by breeding them in other naturally conducive habitats across the country. Modi wanted exclusivity of the species, and succeeded thus far.

Ironically, when it came to himself, post victory in Gujarat in 2012, the three-time crowned GIR LIONish CM, Narendra Modi laid his grand plans to breed everywhere and to conquer the Prime-Ministerial seat in Delhi. In no time, the RSS which always wanted to project itself as the savior of Mother India and Hinduism, sensing the week opposition and a strong candidate in Modi, threw its entire weight behind Modi with a scheme of conquering every state too. The RSS and BJP started flexing muscles. As part of that scheme, in JUNE 2013, BJP quits the Nitish Government in Bihar to make Nitish vulnerable.

Shrugging the discussions of other possible contenders within BJP, Modi bulldozed everyone in the party to head in the direction of Delhi. With all the corruption tags hanging around him, the credibility-lost and power-bereft then PM, Manmohan Singh, became easy bait for the hungry GIR lion! And to his credit, Modi managed to pick issues of development and elimination of corruption that resonated with vast majority, harped endlessly, to sweep the election and realize his dream of occupying the PMs Chair.

Let us realize our potential and help others to realize!

Believe in your own brand; do not vacillate…

The grand scheme of conquering every state election since then has been successful to a considerable extent, albeit not as spectacular as RSS and BJP thought they would. The BJP realized it was not without the ills that affect any other political party, as they attempted to ‘install’ the CMs even in the safe states of Maharashtra and Haryana!

In, May 2014, Nitish quits as CM of Bihar owning up the responsibility of the debacle in Bihar in the general elections. It was a clever ploy to bounce back, later, with elections round the corner. In Jitan Ram Manjhi, a fellow minister in his ministry (a prominent leader of economically backward class), Nitish thought he found a milder candidate and was instituted as the CM. In all probability, Nitish saw him as his ‘yes man’ and thought he would give the CM’s post back to him at an appropriate time before the general elections in Bihar. Unfortunately it was not to be…

Since the national elections of May 2014, the chest thumping Gir Lion found its match in Delhi. Modi made re-election in Delhi after the Feb 2014 mixed verdict, a very prestigious issue for himself. Every decision – the timing of elections, projection of candidates, and the possible CM candidate – was his. He could not fathom the Feb 2014 debacle. He wanted to leave his stamp. It was Modi-Modi everywhere. Unfortunately, it was a rout for him – the decimation coming within less than a year of the grand- national victory. Modi has not digested that loss still. It is obvious from the way his government has been reacting with the legitimately elected government of AAP in Delhi. That is another story to dwell upon separately.

So the Bihar elections became more or less, an election of prestige for Modi. He wanted to reassert his status. Modi personally prepared the schema to conquer Bihar with his commander-in-chief, Amit Shah.

The power-tasted, Jitan Ram Manjhi, who did not want to let the ‘hard-earned’ and elusive CM seat go, fell into the Amit Shah’s well laid out BJP trap. Manjhi was inveigled, coaxed, manipulated to take on Nitish, to create a scenario to show that EBCs are looked down upon by the dominant political forces of Bihar, especially Nitish, seen as messiah by Bihar population for his development work. This scenario had to be created, as BJP, which is identified as a ‘Brahmin and upper-caste party’, had to be made an ‘inclusive one’ – the Shah’s version of ‘social-re-engineering’. Finally, JAM party of Majhi, always opportunistic Paswan, and the fourth dimension of Khuswah became the torch bearers of the ‘marginalized’ in the caste bouquet that Shah put together for the Bihar elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi went all out in the Bihar elections. All publicity and hoardings that sprang up everywhere in the first couple of phases in Bihar had only Modi and Shah gracing. Sushil Modi, the face of BJP in the last 10 years was not to be seen anywhere. It was war, to be won.

The honoroble Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi addressed 31 rallies, unprecedented, in the course of the Bihar Assembly elections beginning July 25. His commander-in-chief, Amit Shah, lived in Patna for almost 45 days, accounted for significant numbers. The propound-er of grand slogans of “Development”, “Make in India”, “Digital India” started with focus on development, even announced the long pending special package at the opening ‘Bhashan’. But in no time, the underlying schema came to the fore. His speeches moved to caste-centricity and then took rabid religious overtones. Around end-October, in a reference to his backward origins, Modi referred to his “ati-pichhda (extremely backward) mother’s womb”, moving from OBC card he had played in all elections till then.

Let us track the fall of BRAND GIR LION in Bihar…

  • Between July 25 and mid-October, Modi held 12 rallies across Bihar spoke more about development and not have Jungle Raj again. But soon realized that the people of Bihar have certainly seen development under Nitish in the last 10 years. My visits to Patna and hinterland in the last five years more or less told me that people are happy the way things have moved under Nitish, though they wish to have more. The state was far away from Lallu’s so-called ‘jungle raj’ that Modi tried to portray.
  • Modi speeches became acerbic and personal, unbecoming of the PM. Modi said, “There is no yardstick where Bihar can stand tall before India. If it is, it is in crime, kidnapping and guntrotting.” Having earlier referred to the “Bihari DNA”, he kept criticizing the state on various indices, saying it had the worst poverty in India and its 60 years of government had done nothing. . At times the voters even felt that he is abusing the “Bihari pride.” I wonder how Modi did not realize the presence of Bihari babus in the vast CIVIL SERVICES that his government is chugging on!
  • On September 21, Bhagwat’s remark on having relook at the caste quota criteria. All hell broke loose in the Lion’s Den. Traditionally, Bihar perceived as caste-sensitive state, and the LIONs from Gujarat thought that the Bhagwat’s remark may back-fire, and their narration changed completely. In the subsequent 19 rallies, messiah of development, MODI ditched his pet theme and his caste and personal poverty became a dominant theme.
  • October 25, Patna: “I often think that if Babasaheb Ambedkar had not been there, what would have happened to me? Ek ati-pichhdi maa ki kokh se paida hua, chai bechkar bada hua, ladka aaj yahan kaise pauncha (Born of the womb of an extremely backward mother, grown up selling tea, how did this boy reach so far)?” Modi said. [The PR story of a tea-seller got further stretched ;)]
    • Later that day in Nalanda, he again invoked his “ati-pichhda” origin, adding, “The son of a chaiwallah became the Prime Minister.”
    • At Marhaura (Chhapra) hours later, Modi talked about his childhood experience of “selling tea on trains”. “When I sold tea in my childhood, sometimes such a babu would come… he would thrash us, throw us out of the train. I remember (it).”
  • October 26, Buxar: Now it became a game of polarization of the highest kind. Modi, the Prime-Minister who did not denounce the ‘beef’ killings even once in the two weeks of national outrage, suddenly brings religion into his speeches. He said Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad had earlier demanded religion-based reservation. “A ghost of reservation is being erected,” he said, accusing Nitish, Lalu and Sonia Gandhi of “framing a sinister plan”, “conspiring to snatch 5 per cent reservation each from Dalits, Mahadalits, pichhdon and ati-pichhdon and give it to (members of) other religion”. Astounding to see the guardian of the nation falling to the depths, all for the votes!
  • October 30, Gopalganj: Referring to the Congress and Nitish, Lalu rules in Bihar for 60 years, Modi said, “I recently visited a labour colony in Dubai. Of all the labourers I met there, the maximum were from Bihar.” Modi needs to get the stats right !!
  • On November 1, Madhubani, he said, “Look at the condition of Bihar today. On per capita income, education and per capita power consumption, Bihar is at 29th rank in India… What all should I count? Jharkhand was a part of yours, but after separation it has moved ahead.”
  • November 2, Forbesganj: The PM reiterated that Lalu and Nitish wanted reservation on religious grounds. “Take it from Dalits, Adivasis. Pichhdon se le lo, ati-pichhdon se le lo, aur unko de do. Are you fooling backwards? Are you fooling Dalits?”
  • November 2, Darbhanga: Modi talked about the “Darbhanga module” and accused the Nitish government of sheltering terrorists. “Some people were running the module here,” he said, adding that when a “brave Dalit police officer tried to investigate, they forced the Dalit kanya to leave”.

This constant targeting of Bihar continued even after Nitish turned the contest into a “Bahari vs Bihari” fight. The Bihar pride was too much to take all this, I suppose..

Modi and Shah made the same mistakes that they made in Delhi. Nothing learnt from that disaster, while Nitish deployed all the techniques of warfare, aka AAP – localizing the war with sort of Mohalla-sabhas apart from over 450 rallies that Lallu and Nitish addressed.

I wonder how midway through the elections Kejriwal shared that the BJP will be losing badly? I too was skeptical. It seemed to be a lot closer…..… His prophecy came true…. All those who trolled were shocked for sure!

The real reason of this disastrous performance lies in the “lack of self-belief” of Brand Modi, that brought “inconsistency” in message narration (slide from development…caste…religion..terror). A totally confused brand. How can Modi restore his brand appeal to everyone? Only way is to stick and deliver on DEVELOPMENT… nothing else. It is going to get tougher going ahead as the LION has been caged twice!

(Data from various newspaper articles, including IE’s article on what Modi said during various phases of Bihar elections)


Fun & Frolic

BY Leela Venkataraman in India Heritage Desk

Categories like traditional and contemporary dissolve in Tagore’s poetry which essentially catches Eternal Man, in all his colours. A scholar on Tagore’s works, Dr.Utpal Banerjee (recognised with a Padmashri award for his expertise) conceived of a delightful evening of classical dance hosted by Indira Ganesh and organised by R.Sreenivasan, under the aegis of India International Centre at the IIC auditorium, based on Tagore’s poetry.Established dancers selected from various dance disciplines, specially known for their sensitivity in abhinaya, in order of appearance, were Puvadhanashree (Vilasini Natyam), Kavita Dwibedi (Odissi), Pratibha Prahlad (Bharatanatyam) and Saswati Sen (Kathak).

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With Kamalini Dutt’s creative collaboration, the poem Purva selected for interpretation Saadh (The Desire), by settling for a vocalist like Samina De singing the original Bengali poem, preserved the linguistic ambiance of Tagore’s work, with Tanjavur Kesavan’s rhythmic inputs and mridangam accompaniment, tabla by Gyan Singh, Dr. S vasudevan’s nattuvangam and Rajat Prasanna’s flute chiming in with sensitive support. Purva’s interpretative skills, honed under years of training in Vilasini Natyam under Swapnasundari exudes an inner joy which ideally chimed in with the uplifting nature of Desire, where hope and expectation rising high bloom among the clouds and amidst the stars. This abstract state-of-being lost amidst the birds floating in comfort in the sky, was convincingly caught in the dancer’s highly internalised interpretation. Not going beyond the grammatical boundaries of the lasya-filled Vilasini Natyam even in the teermanams, the dance not having the ambit of bodily spread of Bharatanatyam leaps and jumps and leg stretches, the dancer through intensity of feeling (filling the dancer’s inner space), retained in the contained performance the soaring feel of taking off into space in joy. Lines like “..hriday mor megher mato, aakaash maajhe haasity chaay” or “paakhir gaan laage re Jena, deher chaaripaashe” with the songs of birds caressing the body were very suggestively brought out in the dancer’s gestures and expressions. Sung in the form of a thumri with feeling, the joyous finale with the garden filled with sounds of Dawn’s laughter and the laughter of flowers got represented through a Tillana in Kapi ragam sung by A.Venkateshwar, winsomely rendered through light footed nritta.

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Odissi dancer Kavita Dwibedi in Shapan (The Dream) “Dine hai ek-mato rate hai aar” wondered at the polarities she saw in herself – from what she was in her wakeful state and what she became in her nocturnal dreams – seemingly representing two contradictory selves – one a reluctant school goer being pushed by her youngest uncle, the other flying in the sky, a cloud searching for the rainbow, travelling on the wings of the wind, crossing the seas to spread ‘water -showers’. Rudely awakened by the thunderclap, she trembles looking for Mom, nowhere near. Kavita’s evolving artistic creativity now has the strong support of singer Suresh Kumar Sethi, whose Pallavi composition in Brindavan Sarang for this work, coming in as punctuation after every interpretative segment, changed the level of the work completely. With Aavery Chaurey for guidance, and her own very involved expressional talents (her now more trim presence aesthetically turned out), Kavita’s Odissi did full justice to the poem, Indira Mukherjee helping out with the poetry recitation parts. While the nritta parts for the Pallavi were well conceived and laya perfect, the chauka position so central to Odissi, tended to be less articulated than required.

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Pratibha Prahalad in her Bharatanatyam homage to Tagore and Utpal Banerjee, skilfully wove in passages from three poems – exploring the mother/child relationship – Aakul Aahbaan (The Fervent Call), Maa-Lakshmee (Goddess Lakshmi), and Shishur Mrityu (Death of a Child). A mother’s heartache at the loss of a child, the apple of her eye on whom she has lavished all love and care, whose heart could not bear the slightest tear in the child’s eyes and she sorrowfully asks Nature why as Lord of endless treasures, Nature needed the victorious thrill of emptying a mother’s heart by taking away the one treasure of her life? The dancer’s knitting of selected passages from each into a seamless whole, had Sudha Raghuraman’s very moving music in Neelambari, in Vasantha and finally in an evocative.Tanam passage set to Kalyani. Sudha added bhava through the contours of the raga while the highly emotive passages in Bengali were recited by Mahua Chowdhury. Stages of the child growing up under the mother’s care and love came as interspersed passages while the refrain of the Mother anxiously awaiting the daughter’s arrival – …”Kothay gelo Raanee aamaar Raanee” became the eternal cry of the bereaved mother. The dancer in a theme, which could have strayed into exaggerated histrionics, retained the aesthetic level undiluted. Chandrasekhar’s muted mridangam and G. Raghuraman’s plaintive flute notes added to the total impact.

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Saswati Sen, given her penchant for abhinaya, had the double advantage of dealing with home territory –for as a person from Bengal, she was on familiar ground with Tagore’s poetry. Banabaas (Banishment to the Wood) is a quaint child/mother interaction, wherein the child challenges the mother that if he only had a brother like Lakshman for company, he too would go to the forest without qualms, if his father like Rama were to send him. He would, under a tree shade, fix up a home for all, and would feed the deer with the tree leaves, make a garland out of the blooming flowers, share the fruit he collected with brother Lakshman, eating out of a lotus leaf, play a tune on the flute and watch the peacock dance, and the squirrel scurrying around. But for all that – he had to have a brother like Lakshman. The poem clearly echoes the child’s cry for a sibling. Saswati successfully drew on Kathak’s ancestry with the Katha vachak tradition, for the narrative bits of a mother/child dialogue. Kathak’s rich nritta bits of ginti compositions, tukras and Mayur gat, became links connecting interpretative passages with some footwork also woven in. Music composed by Pandit Birju Maharaj , had Abirban Bhattacharya for the vocal support with Utpal Ghosh on the tabla and Ajay Prasanna providing flute accompaniment.

Utpal Banerjee could hardly have wished for a better thanksgiving than what the evening provided.

Guru Ghanakanta Bora, Anwesa : Sattriya @ SPIC MACAY Intl Convention, IIMC
Leela Venkataraman


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