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Vyjayantimala Bali
Issue : 311
Published on : August, 2010


The Father of the Janjavur Bani in Andhra


ABHAI’s summer workshop -ROJA KANNAN

As the train slowly chugged into Tanjavur station, the sleepy eyed girls and boys hurriedly got up and out of the train, to be welcomed with eco-friendly banners of bamboo and cane – ‘Melattur Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam Welcomes You’. The reception committee were all dressed in white dhoti-kurta, their forehead adorned with ash and kumkum glistening in the morning sun.

We had gone to Melattur to attend ABHAI’s (Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India) summer workshop. There were groups from Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai and a lone girl from Kerala too. We were all bundled into vans and cars for a bumpy 20 km ride to Melattur. The vans blaring loud devotional songs meandered their way through the narrow roads, stopping often on the sides to let a bus or van pass. Skirting the road on both sides were green fields gently swaying in the early morning cool breeze, the hills rising majestically in the background. The setting was perfect. Click here to read more ...



A many-splendoured voyage of self-discovery

Number 13 is lucky for this lady. She was born on 13th August 1934. She performed her Bharatanatyam arangetram on 13th April 1945 on Tamil New Year’s Day. It was also the date on which she signed her first film contract. Thirteen has been favourably associated with landmarks in Vyjayantimala’s life.

“Although I was born in 1934, my elders entered it as 1933 in my school records, and so it has come to stay,” she tells you as she recalls the past. “I am proud of being a Tiruvallikeni girl. I was born on Adi Kritikai day in a house opposite the Parthasarathy Swamikoil in Triplicane. I came into this world moving my toes not on my head”, she chuckles. “You see, I was born with “dancing toes”.

Her artistic journey began with a European tour. Little Vyjayanti or Papa as she was called, went with her mother Vasundhara, father M.D. Raman and grandmother Yadugiri Devi, on a voyage organised by the Yuvaraja of Mysore who wanted to project the splendour of Mysore to the world. A 40-strong contingent set sail on a ship. “Vasundhara could sing very well,” she recalls. “We went to the Vatican and met the Pope in 1939. He called me and asked me to dance, and I did. I had no inhibitions about dancing. I performed some dance movements to the Hindi song Morey mandir me aao pujari. As a child, I had this habit of standing in front of the mirror and dancing with plates in my hands, balancing them and twirling my palms without dropping them” (she demonstrates). I did similar movements before the Pope. He must have appreciated it as he presented me a medal – the first medal I ever received.” She was barely six then. Today almost seven decades later, defying age, time and space, she continues to enthrall audiences the world over with her beauty, her poise, her grace, the pristine technique, abhinaya and aesthetics of her natya. For this veteran, “Dance is her life, her very breath, the central core of her being. It is a passion which she never gave up for anything else.” Jyoti Sabharwal, coauthor of the book titled Bonding… A Memoir, an autobiography by Vyjayantimala says: “The world is her stage and she’s still playing on.” Click here to read more ...


Vaggeyakara - LALITHA RAM

Great composers who are also top concert musicians are a rare breed. Today, lyrics and tunes are often composed by different people and the songs are popularised by yet others in concerts. A true vaggeyakara and performing vocalist, GNB shared his distinction with such greats as Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan, Patnam Subramania Iyer, Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, and Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar.

The first lot of GNB compositions was published as Ganabhaskara Manimalai in 1956, the second in 1971, and the third part in 2005. According to several reports, he composed some 250 kriti-s, but only seven varnam-s, one tillana and 73 kriti-s have been published. While a letter GNB wrote to Swadesamitran editor Neelam in 1948 indicates that he had composed as many as 50 songs even then, his disciple M.L. Vasanthakumari stated once that he did the bulk of his composing in the 1950s. In his foreword to the Ganabhaskara Manimalai (1956), Mysore Vasudevachar said that GNB had composed over 100 songs on his ishta devata Rajarajeswari alone. According to his disciple Trichur V. Ramachandran, who played a key role in the publication of the second and third volumes of his compositions, there were available at least 20 more compositions without swara notations. Though more than half of GNB’s compositions have been lost, those that have survived proclaim his creative genius. Click here to read more ...


Evensong: Sandhya arati at Belur Math - SADHANA RAO

At eventide, the rays of the setting sun bathe the land and temples at Belur Math in a soft glow. It shades the sacred geography of the math with a serenity, the vigour and vitality of the shifting hues of daytime, bright lights ending their cycle. Belur Math nestles in the West bank of the Hooghly. Close by, the river Ganga seems to sense it is the hour of the evensong. She too slows her cadence, as she rushes to meet the sea. Her waters make gentle rippling sounds like a sensitive accompanist to the sounds of the evening. Birds settle on the variegated foliage of the sprawling acreage of the Math. Bells chime, a sign that it is time for the vespers the sandhya arati at Belur Math.

Faith in a song

A sudden hush descends on the Hall of Worship. The assembled congregation poise themselves in a posture of worship. Solemn monks walk in single file, some carrying musical instruments. The head priest takes position, a lamp is lit – the flames reflecting on the monochrome life-like statue of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The white of the statue and the burnt orange flames create a vibrant colour mirage. In the economy and brevity of movements and moments, an ancient ritual of the evening arati commences. Click here to read more ...

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