Rasayatra was a journey of experience across a gamut of expressions - from dejection to ecstasy, from thrill to tranquillity and from surge to solitude, writes Suguna Sundaram
Prabodhankar Thakre Krida Sankul was established (under the aegis of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Smakar Samiti) by the great visionary Dr Ramesh Prabhu, who did that with a dream in mind – to create infrastructure that would-be world class and open to everyone, to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle for the community. Over the years, his dream was realised, bit by bit.
To celebrate the successful completion of 20 years of the sports complex, a cultural evening called Rasayatra was conducted, featuring well-known singer Hamsika Iyer and music director Kaushal Inamdar, and a confluence of Flamenco and Odissi by Bettina Castano, famous Flamenco expert, and eminent Odissi exponent Guru Shubhada Varadkar. The musical accompaniment was Vijay Tambe on the flute, Kaushik Basu on tabla, madal and percussions, Lalit Rathoad on electronic rhythm, Shovon Mukherjee on the bass guitar, and Sameer Chiplunkar on keyboard.
It was a multi-hued evening of dance and music conceptualised and choreographed by the multi-faceted, gifted and passionate Odissi dancer Shubhada Varadkar. It traversed from Mahadevi Varma’s poetry to Surdas’s ballads of invocation, from Adishankaracharya’s Ashtakam to the folk music of the Sahyadri Mountain Range.
Shubhada (whose Sanskrita Foundation in Mumbai is a registered cultural trust that offers dance lessons to underprivileged children) is a disciple of the late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. An author, dancer and innovative choreographer, Shubhada has presentations like Kanupriya, Chitrangada, Journey to Divinity, just to name a few works of Odissi dance as her original creations.
This event saw a unique collaboration of Odissi classical with Bettina Castano’s flamboyant Flamenco dance style, interspersed with musical interludes by the talented Hamsika-Kaushal duo of Rasayatra.
To the lay Indian audience, Bettina ‘s dancing with the castanets/ fan/ shawl, etc. was a riveting experience, where the artiste kept time with the castanets or stick (used as props), akin to the Indian tala concept and also engaged in complicated rhythmic interplay with the adroit Kaushik Basu on tabla and drums.
Beginning with the traditional Odissi Shiva Vandana, the next performance set to Saundarya Lahiri and Swiss Music, was an exquisite rendition of Odissi and flamenco styles, both artistes interweaving their movements in perfect harmony. The same ease and fluidity was evident in the movements depicting the mystery of being a woman in a combination of Flemenco and pure Odissi.
This composition was set to the deep poem Sigiriya, by rebel, educationist, freedom fighter and poetess Mahadevi Varma. Shubhada’s choice of the Draupadi Vastraharan (disrobing), for Mahadevi Varma’s Meri Hai Paheli Baat, a shameful chapter from our mythology, was so eloquently and poignantly woven out, one’s eyes teared up.
The Abhisarika Nayika (the lover getting ready to meet her beloved) was a pure Odissi dance piece set to Surdas’s immortal Jhoolat Shyam, depicting the intense love play between Radha and Krishna.
Bettina’s electrifying performance using the castanets was a brilliant follow up to this. Shovon Mukherjee on the guitar brought in the Spanish element so expertly with his effortless playing.
Hamsika Iyer and Kaushal Inamdar lent the local flavour with their novel compositions in Marathi – one describing the advent of the rains (Vasaacha Pahila)and the accompanying petrichor, and the other being an off-beat lavani, (the raunchy earthy Maharashtrian dance form). Hamsika’s voice is a beautiful blend of sultry huskiness with flashes of sharp taan flourishes. They also rendered a Kabir composition (Haina ishqua). The only discordant note (not literally) was the electronic synthesiser, in an otherwise organic evening.
The evening concluded with pure dance Jugalbandi in both styles, a pleasing juxtaposition with Indian melody, heightened by Vijay Tambe’s melodious and haunting flute playing.
Rasayatra was a journey of experience, across a gamut of expressions – from dejection to ecstasy, from thrill to tranquillity, from surge to solitude- It was a creation of a beautiful fusion of different art forms of the world.
Suguna Sundaram belongs to the rare breed of writers in English who review Indian classical music and dance. A trained classical musician and dancer, Suguna has over three decades of experience as a writer. Interestingly, her day jobs over the years have been with all things commercial, including being editor of some of the most popular (and boldest) film fanzines. Suguna Sundaram reviews Indian classical music and dance on Xyngr.