S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Friday, 8 February 2019

Search, research and beyond

Senior Bharatanatyam artist, choreographer and teacher, Chitra Visweswaran gave a presentation on ‘Search Research and Beyond’ at the Lec-Dem series of Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha, Chennai during Margazhi 2018-19.  Interestingly her first lecture demonstration in the city after she shifted base from Calcutta was on the same day 23 December, 1973 in the same venue!

She began with a riveting statement - “Art is complicated and concurrently very democratic. It is nurtured when there is a desire for search and the quest to re-search and when this cycle of search and research becomes incessant.” She touched upon a significant question on experiencing the beyond or the known. Surpassing the virtuosity through crisp adavus, there is the self-content, self-connect or the oneness through dance that every dancer must endeavour to explore. “That there is so much joy in interpretations, so much,” she exclaimed and continued, “But the truth is even for that, we need a trigger”.

Beginning with the concept of auchityam or what is appropriate, the lecture was aimed to give young dancers some food for thought and awaken them to find the layers that can be seen and also those that cannot be seen. The riveting lecture included compositions tuned in unique ragas, mentioned names of yester year festivals and interactions of artists over a cup of ‘chai’ or a train journey.
Talking of experimentation in beats, she took the power of shakthi in Shankari Shankuru Chandramukhi and demonstrated usage of cross beats to bring out the dynamism of the feminine. Interesting demonstrations of Tu gire rangana in Mohana, ideally a slow paced song turned into a rhythmic tempo of five or khandam displayed her years of experience of experimentation and innovation. “It is in the laya of the song, tuned in an appropriate raga that the mood can be created,” pointed the veteran.

Touching briefly on music, Chitra demonstrated Ardhanareeshwari, a piece first performed for Trinity Festival in the 90’s in the lesser known Kumudakriya raga. “You can shut your eyes but you can’t shut your ears,” she exclaimed and emphasised, “hence music plays the most important role to take off a piece.” The entry of Manmatha in karnaranjini was exciting. Set to Abheri raga, Ide Samaya Rangabarelo gave a glimpse of how rasa can only be relished when it lies concrete in the soul of the dancer. Moving was the song - Sri Sathyanarayana in her husband and composer Late R. Visweswaran’s’ voice that led the audience into silence and served as a tranquil ending to the lecture.
Accompanying her, was Sukanya Ravindhar (nattuangam), the melodious Uma Sathyanarayanan (vocal) and Thiagarajan Ramani, a top ranking flautist of the country. 

She ended the lecture with a thought provoking statement, “We are doing nothing new. Everything has been done by our forefathers. We are playing a small part in preserving and passing to the future generations.” And this served as a perfect ending to inspire young dancers present in the audience to think of their own contributions, their way. Interspersed with interesting anecdotes from her personal journey, the lecture targeted to creating thinking dancers and a thinking audience, unfortunately was sparsely attended. But those who made it found the lec-dem impactful in not one but many ways.
         Jagyaseni Chatterjee

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