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The Hindu newspaper has carried a review of my dance programme. You can find it here (starts from the fourth paragraph):

http://beta.thehindu.com/arts/dance/article111899.ece

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Mallika Sarabhai

Dancer Mallika Sarabhai talks to Manas Dasgupta of The Hindu about InterArt 2009, and how the festival has helped bring together artistes from across the world

InterArt 2009 is the 34th edition of the Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival in Ahmedabad, and Mallika Sarabhai, the director of Darpana Academy that organises the festival, says: “But, every time, it is different from the previous years.”

It was her parents — famed scientist Vikram Sarabhai, and bharatanatyam exponent Mrinalini Sarabhai — who set up the Academy, an arts and cultural institution. Held every year from December 28 to 30, the festival is celebrated in memory of her father — a great lover of the arts — who passed away on December 30, 1971.

Mallika Sarabhai tells Manas Dasgupta about the festival’s journey.

How did Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival begin?

The festival ‘InterArt’ was born a few years after my father’s death in 1971. He was a great lover of arts and a connoisseur, and it was felt that the best way to remember him would be by organising a yearly multi-arts festival in his hometown Ahmedabad. For the first 20 years, the festival was staged at Tagore Hall. In 1994, it was shifted to the present venue ‘Natrani’, our own stage on the Academy complex, right on the banks of the Sabarmati.

Why is it called ‘international’ arts festival, when it is never taken out of Ahmedabad?

Because, it offers international fare. For instance, for the last few years, Darpana has produced works with artistes from Peru, Egypt, Israel, Australia, Colombia, Spain, France, the U.K. and the U.S. This year’s collaboration is with Josh Hogan from Australia. The play on the first day, ‘Ahmedabad ki aurat bhali — Ramkali’, is an adaptation of famed German playwright and director Bertolt Brecht’s famous work ‘Good Woman of Setzuan’. It was also taken to Mumbai and Delhi. Years ago, another play ‘Kanan’, based on the same play, was staged in Ahmedabad. I had wanted it to travel to every part of Gujarat and the country, but funding is a huge problem. Getting sponsors in Gujarat for serious and experimental works is pretty impossible.

How is this year’s festival different from the previous years?

It is the only festival in India that showcases all forms of art — dance, music, mixed media, new media, puppetry, theatre, and all the crossovers possible. This year we have a French photographer as a resident artiste. She’s been shooting during the rehearsals and the behind-the-scenes of the performances, and will exhibit her work at the festival. ‘Naada, the Happening’, on the concluding day of the festival, is an ambitious project. We explore the performance using all the five senses, with ‘Naada and Naadabrahma’, the primordial sound from which came ‘Aum’. The audience too is taken on a journey of the senses — sight, smell and feel… We hope it becomes an experience, rather than a mere viewing. The second day’s performance ‘Dakshina’, is by the U.S.-based Daniel Phoenix Singh’s Dance Company. An Indian dancer trained in Western contemporary dance and bharatanatyam, Daniel does modern choreography and works by other choreographers, using both idioms.

How do the people of Ahmedabad, or, for that matter, Gujarat, benefit from the festival? How much does Darpana Academy gain from it?

Till Darpana came into being nearly 60 years ago, there was no classical dance in Gujarat. It not only does cutting edge work for the thinking audience, but also helped generate thinking audience. The festival is the highlight of all of a year’s performances, and is eagerly awaited. Darpana gains by collaborating with artistes from across the country and world. Over the last 16 years of its existence, Natrani has given over 1,200 presentations from 40 countries and across our country. It is an ever-enriching experience for us, I’m sure it’s the same for the audience too.

What are the traditional art forms the Academy promotes through the festival?

The festival is not a place to promote traditional forms; it is for innovative and cutting-edge works. We bring artistes together, give them the space, the performers, the set designers, carpenters, studios, video facilities — whatever they require. And, a beautiful setting for the final performance. I know of no other institution in India — funded or non-funded — that does all this, and has all this to give for free. Most institutions run like offices or are moribund Government organisations, pushing paper, making lots of money, and creating little. We are non-funded, and scrounge around for every penny. But, it is an art institution run by artistes, and not controlled by the Government or forced to follow the diktats of a board, having little sympathy or knowledge for the way artistes work. We are all artistes who take decisions, artistes who have built the spaces.

What are your future plans?

I would love to have someone fund the festival, and be able to take it to every part of the country, especially ‘B’ cities, where very little of interesting things travel to. Seeing interesting things help open one’s mind. I am sure our work will inspire many budding and talented artistes to do more, and differently at that. But, for that we need a lot of funds. Till then, we’ll keep creating new vistas in the world of art and performances.

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Excerpt from an article in The Hindu dated January 2, 2009

Double impact

Savitha Gautam

 

Two is company. Especially for some on whom the Margazhi spotlight has fallen over the years, be it in the field of music or dance. The Dhananjayans, the Reddys and Narasimhachari-Vasanthalakshmi have paved the way for many others to follow. The Margazhi Vizha has, over the years, thrown up some very talented pairs. Here are a few who have made a mark:

Narendra Kumar and Anusha: A show for ABHAI brought them together. “At least that’s the first time we noticed each other, though were both students at Bharata Kalanjali,” laughs Anusha. “I admired his choreographic skills and was too happy when he asked me to participate in ‘Kalinga Narthana’ thillana.” Narendra laughs when he remembers how he choreographed a Meera bhajan for the two of them. “Now, I do the scripting and concept, while he concentrates on choreography,” says Anusha. “The couple who ‘find joy in dancing together’ are in totally sync, on and off the stage.

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Shakti
Form differs, not the content

RUPA SRIKANTH

The Anusham group presented `Shakthi,’ with perfect co-ordination, accurate timing and discipline.

L. Narendra Kumar first shot to fame some years ago with an exciting group choreography of the Kalinga Narthana tillana. Since then, he has remained on the horizon, stretching the boundaries of art and choreography with varying degrees of success.

This season, Anusham group, led by Narendra Kumar and Anusha, presented `Shakthi,’ a thematic work on the Mother Goddess.
Shakti

The endeavour was to present a traditional idea with predominantly traditional hymns, from a non-traditional perspective. That’s why the presentation differed in form, but not in content.

With the total absence of narrative, symbolism was the operative tool of communication. It was a contradiction in terms, really because this choreography celebrated the sheer physicality of movement without detracting from the seriousness of the imagery.

It is always a risk to employ devotional prayers, but in the present case, the choreographers came out unscathed simply because they did not tamper with the aura of solemnity.

The Gayathri Mantra, the Saraswati sloka, the Mahalakshmi Ashtotram, the step-by-step shodasopachara puja and the Mantra Pushpam were used in different parts of the presentation, each properly recited and sensitively captured in a visual medium.
Shakti
Besides an opening homage to Gayathri Devi, the manifestations of Shakti as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati formed the core illustrations.

The dancers — Anamika, Poornema, Vidya Madhubala, Vidyalakshmi, Gayathri, Tiruchelvam, Guhendran, Narendra Kumar and Anusha — dressed in simple white cotton costumes and adorned with silver jewellery, excelled with their perfect co-ordination, accurate timing and discipline. The tightly-knit choreography was bound together by crisp passages of nritta, not dramatically stirring, yet effective in their very precision.
Shakti
Poetic resonance

Moments of poetic resonance and friezes were pegged efficiently by the additional lighting by Nambu Kumar.

The music composition and the veena accompaniment were by Rajhesh Vaidya, the konnakkol and sollus by L. Narendra Kumar, percussion by N. K. Kesavan and Sudaman and vocal by Haricharan and Bhavatharini. Within the framework of the production, there were winds blowing from different directions. The Shakthi Kauthuvam composed by S. Guhendran juxtaposed the divine mother and her mortal counterpart in finely crafted wording. The same theme replayed through a poignant

A.R. Rehman composition, “Uyirum Neeye” conveyed the essence of the production in a powerful finale.

While the gurus’ generosity can be appreciated, it was a disappointment for the audience when Narendra Kumar and Anusha’s disciple, Kavita Venkateswar, took centre stage that evening to present a full margam before the staging of `Shakthi.’ The 15-year-old from San Antonio is also a disciple of Bana Ramnath and the Dhananjayans, and is a good dancer, bright-faced and lively.

The lilting Lathangi varnam in Adi talam, a composition of Madurai R. Muralidharan brought out Kavita’s felicity with story telling and rhythm.

She requires some changes in posture though. Definitely a student to be proud of.

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