The Pt. Durgalal Festival was a fine tribute to the Jaipur gharana maestro
The 31st edition of the annual Pt. Durgalal Festival, hosted by Uma Dogra of Samved Society for Performing Arts, was a three-day virtual event.
On the opening day, Suhani Singh, trustee, Samved shared memories of the earlier editions that featured eminent musicians, dancers and theatre personalities and the joy of performing to a live audience.
The event also marked the première of ‘Nirvana through Dance’ — a video documentation of Pt. Durgalal’s art and legacy, directed by Indrayanee Mukherjee, senior disciple of Uma Dogra.
Knitting together interesting anecdotes from the life of the Jaipur gharana maestro with inputs from renowned artistes like Pt. Birju Maharaj, Pt. Sajan Mishra, Geetanjali Lal and wife Bala Lal, photographer Avinash Pasricha, and dance writer Leela Venkatraman, the film was a tribute by Uma Dogra to her guru.
The film began with a poem by Dogra and clippings of Pt. Durgalal reciting ‘bols’ and performing ‘chakkars.’ Durgalal was just 10 when he came to Delhi.
Under the watchful eyes of his brother and guru Devilal, Durgalal acquired mastery in Kathak, tabla, pakhawaj and vocal music.
Leela Venkatraman recalled the vibrancy he lent to performances by improvising on stage. “There was so much clarity in his padanth that one could listen to it for hours. I remember the three-hour tatkar he did to guitar music at one of his shows in the U.S.,” she said.
Pt. Birju Maharaj praised his uttan and recalled an incident when he and Durgalal accompanied Gopi Krishna on percussion for a Doordarshan programme. Speaking about his death at the early age of 42, Dogra said, “By breathing his last on stage, guru-ji proved he lived for Kathak.”
Fitness for dancers
The second day featured an interactive workshop, ‘The Dancing Body,’ conducted by Odissi exponent Surupa Sen of Nrityagram.
As the workshop was held online it facilitated participation from across the globe. The session focused on fitness, a prerequisite for dancers.
The third day featured Odissi and Kathak performances by Arushi Mudgal and Swati Sinha. Arushi began with ‘Vasanth – Advent of spring’, an excerpt from Ritusamhara of Kalidasa with music composed by Pt. Madhup Mudgal and choreographed by Guru Madhavi Mudgal. Arushi depicted Spring as Cupid incarnate.
The piece had immense scope for abhinaya. Beautiful imageries of bees humming, birds flying, a cool breeze blowing and young lovers enjoying the koel’s call added to the visual appeal.
The Jhinjhoti pallavi with musical motifs and complex movement patterns and sequences was presented next by Arushi. The pallavi also had sculpturesque poses characteristic of Odissi.
The concluding Odia abhinaya piece, ‘Dine na dakibu’, was about Radha addressing Krishna’s flute and telling it not to call out to her during the day. Choreographed by the legendry Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Arushi conveyed well the emotions in the lyrics.
Swati Sinha, disciple of Rajendra Gangani, included all the integral elements of Kathak in her performance. In ‘Nachat ban ke tu Krishna’, the viewer could almost feel the mild fragrance in the gentle breeze blowing in all directions. Composed and choreographed by Rajendra Gangani in raag Mishra Maand, Rupak taal, the piece carried his signature style. Seamlessly blending bandishes (thoda, tukda, paran, kavith, uttan) and tatkar, the presentation had both expressions and rhythm; well-suited to the shortened duration of virtual performances.
Keeping up with the mood of the song, Swati moved gracefully like a deer towards the mike to recite the bols. In the Vidyapati pad in raag Yaman, taal Addha and Deep Chandi, set to music by Gangani, Swati was in her element displaying myriad emotions.
The nayika is advised to keep her face covered. Hearing that the moon has been stolen, the king of the land is searching for the culprit and may mistake her face for the moon. But she need not worry. The moon has spots while her face is blemishless.
In ‘Ambervadan,’ Swati transcended the physicality of the art with her sensitive and mature portrayal.
The live orchestra comprising Yogesh Gangani on the tabla, Samiullah Khan on vocal, Mohammed Ayub on the sarangi, Vinay Prasanna on the flute and Praveen Parihar on padanth was highly supportive and spontaneous.
The Mumbai-based author writes on music and dance.