COVER STORY THE TANJAVUR QUARTET
Margadarsis of Bharatanatyam
Historically, Bharatanatyam was mostly prevalent in Tamil Nadu, though traces of it were found in the 20th century in what are now Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Today it is taught and practised throughout the globe. The term ‘Bharatanatyam’ has been in existence at least from the 15th century but we do not know the compositions the dancers performed in the early years of Bharatanatyam. The Silappadhikaram mentions eleven types of dance, but not the individual pieces danced. We find the term ‘tillana’ in an inscription of Rajendra Chola (1052-l064), and ‘jakkini’ during the times of Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara. Rajaraja Chola brought 400 dancers from different places and appointed them in the Tanjavur Brihadeeswara temple to do regular service there, but we do not know their dance repertoire. Some agamas mention dances like the Bhujangatrasam and Suddha nrittam. Only during the time of the Tanjavur Nayak rulers, do we come across many items like sollu, jakkini, alznu, pushpanjali, perani, and korvai, as also the names of the experts in these. In many courts of the Marathas, who followed the Nayaks, most of the dance compositions practised during the previous regime were kept intact. During the reign of the ruler Tulaja, kavuttuvams were composed and danced in temples. The repertoire added during the time of Tulaja and Serfoji II owes its credit to four brothers of Tanjavur who belonged to a traditional natyacharya family. They were Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu, the ‘Tanjavur Quartet’ we know.
SPECIAL FEATURE AMBUJAM KRISHNA
City of Madurai celebrates a daughter SUJATHA VIJAYARAGHAVAN
The centenary celebration of composer Ambujam Krishna was inaugurated on 20th May, her hundredth birthday, at Madurai, her native city. The composer would have seen the hand of God in this coincidence, as she did in many of the day to day happenings. The institution with which she was associated for decades as an office bearer, Sri Sathguru Sangeetha Samajam, took the lead to pay homage to her by organising a three-day festival of concerts, and holding competitions in her compositions for children of various age groups.
The concerts on 20, 21 and 22 May were by Sikkil Gurucharan, Ramakrishnan Murthy and Sumitra Nitin, accompanied by a lineup of young artists V. Sanjeev (violin), Bombay Balaji (mridangam), Charumathy Raghuraman (violin), N. Manoj Siva (mridangam), V. Anirudh Athreya (ghatam), Thiruvananthapuram N. Sampath (violin), J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam) with Tiruchy S. Krishna (ghatam) featured twice in the festival.
NRITYASAMRACHANA Focus on the Tanjavur Quartet and Papanasam Sivan ANJANA ANAND
`Nritya Samrachana’, a collaboration between Apsaras Arts, Singapore, and The Sruti Foundation, Chennai, brought together dance and music by showcasing the contributions of the Tanjavur Quartet and Papanasam Sivan to both the classical traditions. The two-day lecdem series had an overwhelming response, with rasikas, teachers and students listening in rapt attention. The programme was a reminder of a time when music and dance were not seen in isolation, when many great composers were not afraid to move out of their comfort zone but instead chose to enrich and be enriched by other art forms.
The first speaker, vidushi R. Vedavalli, steered the audience through a bird’s eye view of the lives and music of the Tanjavur Quartet. She stressed the fact that Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu were musicians trained to compose and they brought in the essence of classical music into their compositions for dance, thereby leaving a rich legacy for the Bharatanatyam margam. They were patronised by the Maratha ruler Serfoji II and because of a difference of opinion, left the Tanjavur court for some time. Chinnayya and Vadivelu remained in the Mysore and Trivandrum courts respectively while Ponnayya and Sivanandam returned to Tanjavur after some years.
THEATRE REFLECTIONS ON THE INDIAN STAGE
(By eminent women from different disciplines)
Usha Ganguly nee Pandeya, is a significant director, actress and ‘activist’ in contemporary Hindi theatre. In all her plays, the surrounding reality, exploitation, and discrimination are charted out with great intensity. Born in 1945 in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Usha Ganguly took her Master’s in Hindi literature and joined the Bhowanipur Education Society College as a Lecturer in Hindi in 1970. Having trained in classical dance in her childhood under Guru Marudappa Pillai, Manjulika Roy Chowdhury and Nadia Singh, Usha performed Bharatanatyam on stage at a young age. In 1970 she joined Sangeet Kala Mandir, Calcutta, as an actress and was soon acclaimed for her talent. She also received training in theatre from Tripti Mitra, and acted in her plays as well as those directed by Shyamanand Jalan, Bibhas Chakraborty, Rustom Bharucha, and Anuradha Kapoor. In 1976 Usha Ganguly formed her own theatre group called ‘Rangakarmee’. She attracted attention as a director with her production of Rudali, which was staged in various parts of the country. Her other significant productions include Mahabhoj, Lok Katha, Holi, Court Martial, Antaryatra, Jat hi Poochho Sadhu ki, Prastav, Himmat Mai, Mukti, Shobhayatra, Chandalika, Kashinama, the Manto trilogy, Manasi, Hum Mukhtara, Rozana and Dard-e-Naak. She has also translated and adapted several plays, and has written screenplays for films and television. She has played a major role in the introduction and nourishment of Hindi theatre in Kolkata and Bengal. Around 1980, Rangakarmee began its educational wing and has since been working with the underprivileged and deprived sections of society. It is one of the biggest theatre groups in India with about 300 members including a strong proportion of female artists.