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Pune Chapter of the 36th Kathak Mahotsav

After the Delhi edition of the 36th Kathak Mahotsav, Kathak Kendra New Delhi, successfully spread its magnificent aura in Pune, by hosting the Kathak Mahotsav’s next edition on 26th February and 27th February 2024, under the solicitation of Smt. Uma Dogra (Chairperson, Advisory Committee, Kathak Kendra New Delhi) and Smt. Pranaame Bhagawati (Director, Kathak Kendra, New Delhi) 

It was a 2-day festival, incorporating artistes, connoisseurs, scholars and critics from all the corners of the country and from Maharashtra as well. The 36th Kathak Mahotsav - Pune Edition, was dedicated to the legends Padmashree Sitara Devi and Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee Guru Rohini Bhate.  

The first day (February 26th) morning started with the wonderfully designed Talk Show and Seminar with eminent speakers namely, Ms. Neelima Adhyaye, Ms. Amala Shekhar, Shri Nandkishore Kapote, Ms. Maneesha Saathe, Ms. Parwati Dutta and Ms. Shama Bhate. The session began with the Talk Show on the legendary Kathak artist Rohini Bhate, by Ms. Neelima Adhyaye. She spoke highly of her, by mentioning that Guru Rohini Bhate was an avid learner of all the allied art forms to Kathak. Her personality in general and for the arts was defined with punctuality, spontaneity, excellence and simplicity. Ms. Amala Shekhar further highlighted Guru Rohini Bhate’s respect for all the Gurus and of her own talent, by mentioning an instance from a Kathak conference that took place in Kolkata in 1984. There, out of nowhere, Shri CV Chandrekhar seeked to see the diverse Thaat on Radha-Krishna, taught by Pt. Lachhu Maharaj through the lines of Guru Rohini Bhate, to which she did an absolute justice, even though she had only watched her Guru perform this only twice.

 The session was then followed by a Seminar on ‘Sahitya Anubhuti’, that is Nritya Mein Sahitya Ka Sthan, by Ms. Parwati Dutta and Ms. Shama Bhate. Ms. Parwati Dutta began with appreciating the ‘then Gurus’, of how they were self-poets, self-composers, and would read a lot about all aspects of literature, that would help in the personification of the text. She spoke of “Shabd-Shakti”, the particular aspect of literature in dance that primarily navigates through, for the abhinaya. She wrapped up with the thought that one artist must have about making the text reach out to the audience, which is about enlightenment and sanity. Ms. Shama Bhate, very rightly made the listeners aware, that Abhinaya, is only taught to a dancer, when he or she is first fluent in the technical aspect. That is why a dancer performs an Abhinaya piece only after having performed the technical aspects, as Abhinaya requires stability. The session was moderated by Ms. Uma Dogra and Sunil Sunkara. 

The evening of 26th Feb, saw a lineup of four performances. Before that, the evening began with Lamp Lighting ceremony by the Chief Guests, who were Padmashree Shekhar Sen, SNA awardee Shri Suresh Talwarkar. Guest of honor was SNA awardee Shri Nandkishore Kapote.  The first performance to commence on stage was Rujuta Soman from Pune. She began with leaning in the devotion of Lord Krishna, by commencing with a Krishna Vandana. She carried forward her performance with the brilliantly composed technical compositions in the time cycle of 10.5 beats, and she concluded her performance with a Thumri. Followed by this was the duo of senior artists Shri Ram Mohan Maharaj and Shri Krishna Mohan Mishra. This duo brilliantly portrayed the traditional way of presenting the lineup of technical pieces in the most classic way. It was then Shri Abhay Shankar Mishra’s solo performance that began an invocatory number of Rudrashtakam, in Raag Mishra Bairagi and was continued with Teentaal. Day one was concluded with the colourful group choreography by Guru Shama Bhate, “Parinati”, infusing the compositions ‘Ram Vandana’, Chaturang’ and Antarang. Through these compositions, Smt. Shama Bhate had showcased a vivid thought of constant evolution with the tangents of plays and pauses of life. 

On 27th Feb, that was day 2 of the festival, saw its opening with the lighting of lamp by the speakers of the Talk Show and Seminar, being Ms. Jayantimala, Ms. Rajshree Shirke, Shri Nandkishore Kapote, Ms. Maneesha Sathe. Other eminent artistes being Shri Krishna Mohan Mishra, Shri Piyush Raj, along with Ms. Uma Dogra and Ms. Pranaame Bhagawati. 

This day’s Talk Show was dedicated to, popularly known as Kathak Queen Padmashree Sitara Devi. Her daughter, Ms. Jayanti Mala, began by reminiscing about her mother’s in-built fire within, the perseverance and her sheer hard work to put herself on the map. Being denied learning dance due to an imperfection on the face, Smt. Sitara Devi still learnt so, by hook or by crook. She even presented choreography at the age of 12, in front of Mahatma Gandhi, during the times of Satyagrah, called ‘Savitri Satyavaan’. Ms. Jayanti Mala further mentioned the legend’s in-depth contribution to Hindi Cinema, by showcasing a dance form, which was a beautiful tapestry of Classical dance movements and Folk dance movements, incorporating ‘Chaiti, Bandish and Boli’ from the art forms. Shri Nandkishore Kapote mentioned, that he saw the legend perform for the first time in 1969.  And that he was specifically mentioned by Pt. Birju Maharaj that Sitara Devi’s particular footwork of “na dhin dhin na” was to die for. Shri Nandkishore Kapote very proudly mentioned that he was fortunate to have gotten the inauguration ceremony of the Kathak Queen Sitara Devi Art Museum by the legend herself in 2014.  

Followed by this, was a seminar on ‘Drishyavaaloka’ (Kathak mein Natya ke Rang) by Ms. Rajshree Shirke and Ms. Maneesha sathe. Ms. Rajshree Shirke beautifully drew parallels of Kathak with form of ‘Keertanam’, with the help of ‘Aharya Dupatta’ that is used during Keertanam. She showed the usage of the same for seamless transformation of characters like Ram and Ravana. She concluded by sharing about her reputed work ‘Sant Kanopaatra’, of how brilliantly Natya aspect through Keertanam, with the use of Manjeera was delved with Kathak.  Ms. Maneesha Sathe proudly mentioned of, how her upbringing swiveled around Marathi Natya, as her mother staged them quite a few, and was a reputed artist of the same. For performing the expressional aspects, she inspired all, to articulate an Abhinaya piece in such a way, that its fragments are shown out in the embossed manner, and not just in a ‘matte format’. Ms. Maneesha Sathe also urged the art enthusiasts to always figure out the protagonist or the subject of the Abhinaya in the most minutely detailed way possible, and that’s what will help in the blossoming of the expressional thoughts. This session was moderated by Ms. Uma Dogra and Shri Piyush Raj. 

The evening of 27th Feb was inaugurated with the lighting of lamp by the Chief Guest Dr. N J Panwar (Vice Chancellor of Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune), by Guest of Honours as Shri Pramod Kumar Khandare (BJP Pradesh Chitnis Lok Sabha Prabhari) , Shri Hiramnaji Athawale (Chief Director Maharashtra Best News), along with Ms. Uma Dogra and Ms. Pranaame Bhagwati. The first performance of the evening was by Sushree Vidha Lal from Delhi. She began her performance with a devotional number, speaking of the two amalgamated deities Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. She took it further with the technical aspects of Teental and rounded off her performance by leaning into the world of Meera. 

Then came the scintillating Mother-Daughter duo of Prerana and Ishwari Deshpande from Pune. They began with a strong Tandava Nritya (Nagendra Haraye Trilochanaya), vehemently personifying the attributes of Lord Shiva. They moved on with Taal Dhamaar’s technical pieces, the time cycle of 14 beats and wrapped up with a Kajari “Saware Jiyo”. 

After the duet performance, came on stage, Suchitra Harmalkar from Indore. She presented her finesse in Teental in the most traditional and unique stylization of Raigarh Gharana, with the powerful push of footwork and presented an Abhinay on a ‘Surdas Pad- Maiya Mohe Daau’. 

The festival was concluded with group choreography by Dr. Kumkum Dhar from Lucknow. She put up the magnificent concept of ‘Five Elements’ as “Panchatatva”, gracefully showcasing the weave of the five quintessential elements and how they react around humans. Then, the evening was rounded off with a beautiful ‘Nazm’, composed by Nareshkumar Shad, depicting the Darbari Alignment of Kathak, glorifying the technical nuances of Teental, with the most suave and soulful manner.   

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