Mahima, the Raza Foundation Festival of classical music and dance, underlined the presence of Guru in the Indian performing arts. Indian musical tradition has always been a "Gurumukhi Vidya", carried forward, preserved and transmitted through the Guru-Shishya Parampara. The two-day festival showcased the best representatives of the parampara, or tradition.
The inaugural evening presented a Sitar recital by Ustad Shujat Khan, the son and disciple of Ustad Vilayat Khan, and Kutiyattam by Kapila Venu, the brilliant disciple of Guru Amannur Madhav Chakyar. Kapila's performance in Nangiar Koothu on the invocatory shloka of Saundarya Laheri in praise of Shiva Parvati was based on the story of how Goddess Parvati got married to Lord Shiva. It sounded exactly like the Pancham Sarg (5th canto) of Kumara-Sambhava of Kalidasa that depicts Parvati doing the Panchagni Sadhana to win Lord Shiva after he burnt Kamadeva to ashes. The intense Abhinaya of Kapila in her one-and-a-half hour-long performance, won her standing ovation.
The second evening presented a vibrant vocal recital by Vidushi Ashwini Bhide, trained in Jaipur Gayaki under her mother Manik Bhide and Pt Narayan Datar and an awesome Odissi dance recital by Madhavi Mudgal, a senior disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, who mesmerised the audience with her captivating performance of the compositions her Guru, especially choreographed for her. Opening with Ganesh Stuti, she presented the Bihag Pallavi, "Yahi Madhava…" the Ashtapadi from Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda, depicting a Khandita nayika, the lovely Odiya song "Prano Sangini re…", where Krishna comes to Radha disguised as an "alta maid" and while applying alta on her foot, writes his name. Thus she recognises that he has taken her for a ride. The delicate nuances of Abhinaya in both, the Ashtapadi and the Odia song, stole the hearts of the audience. Ashwini concluded her impeccable recital with Moksha.
Katyayani Gupta, a young Bharatanatyam dancer, being groomed under Guru Kamalini Dutta, impressed with her brilliant solo Bharatanatyam recital held at the Stein auditorium recently. Opening with a traditional Mallari in Raga Gambhira Nattai set to Aadi taalam, followed by a shlokam on the warrior god, Muruga, Katyayani presented a Shabdam in Ragamalika set to Misra-Chapu Talam. Shiva Panchakshar Stotram, composed by Adi Shankaracharya, came next set to Dwitala-Khand-Ekam and Tisra Ekam structured alternately by R Kesavan.
Varnam, the central piece of a Bharatanatyam recital, that proves the real calibre and potential of a dancer, was the Anand Bhairavi Varnam composed by Ponaiya Pillai of the Thanjavur quartet. The Mugdha Nayika here cajoles her friend to bring her beloved Rajagopalaswamy of Mannargudi to her. Tormented by the arrows of Manmatha, she is yearning for union because the nature is also in full bloom. This was followed by a Tamil Pada in raga Arabhi and the concluding Tillana in raga Senjurutti similar the raga Jhinjhoti of Hindustani Music.
Katyayani maintained perfect Angashudhi throughout her neat recital even during the difficult rhythmic passages, alternating technique and Abhinaya, the two indispensable aspects of classical dance. The most impressive gift of this young dancer, apart from her arresting presence, is the understanding of her own limitations. Very few young dancers are capable of the restraint that comes as a result of this wisdom, which is a rare phenomenon in present times of unnecessary virtuosity and speed.