Pracheen Kala Kendra's Golden Jubilations

The conference, compliant to COVID-19 protocol, was live-streamed on Pracheen Kala Kendra Facebook page and YouTube channel where it's archived as well

An Odissi performance at the event
An Odissi performance at the event

Sudipto Mullick

Despite factoring loses for mandatory shelving of golden jubilee celebration of Pracheen Kala Kendra, Chandigarh initiated All India Bhaskar Rao Nritya and Sangeet Sammelan last year, powered through to reprise it in a phygital format this year. Inevitably, the original celebratory tone of pairing the previously-performed exponents with their practicing progenies had to be greatly rethought owing to the pandemic.

Though Padma Bhushan Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt had to inaugurate this conference, held at Tagore Theater, alongside his son, Salil with a duet, he fell ill, leaving junior Bhatt to take to a solo Satvik Veena rendition of raga Jogeshwari, but not before rueing the lack of prevalence of rare ragas like Gangeshwari, Kameshwari, and Parameshwari — all of which, including the one he staged, being Pandit Ravi Shankar's own inventions. He and tabla player Abhishek Mishra, both were then combined by Rajasthani folk artist & khartal player Kutla Khan — who handsomely held up his end and Paarth Koser, a cub drummer, to render a mash based on raga Bhopali, pahari and folk-music, in succession.

During this week-long turnout, Odissi danseuse, Vidushi Sujata Mohapatra — disciple & daughter-in-law of the legendary guru Padmavibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra, and her troupe had essayed Mangalacharan — a terpsichorean oblation to Lord Jagannatha followed by Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, choreographed by her mentor, Hansadhvani pallabi and allied items. She then performed a solo abhinaya-steeped Shabari before bringing in her troupe to conclude with Moksha with a hymn to the presiding goddess. She and her troupe was an incarnation of applied mathematics stimulated by melody.

The authentic showcasing of gat, nikas thaat, aamad, uthaan, ganesh paran, chakradar paran, and upaj — left leg more impactive than the right, per instructions — of Jaipur gharana by Dr Samira Koser was appreciable. Demonstrating Madhab Prasad's creation, Ahilaya, she successfully drew empathy to the protagonist's travails reflecting the emancipation of modern women.

This edition's only other danseuse, Guru Kamilini Dutt and her troupe's kathak-bharatanatyam amalgam, Rango'ntaratma employing VO & AV effects came across as corporatised.

Vocalist Vidushi Purnima Bhatt of Dharwad district, Karnataka, exuded brilliance via raga Puria Kalyan (bandish: 'hovan lagi sanjh bhai' in vilambit ek-taal), upping the pace in a drut bandish (dhan dhan tero bhag). Durjay Bhaumik on tabla and Paromita Mukherjee on harmonium both complemented her judiciously.

Enchanting with raga Kalavati, Vidushi Mahalakshmi Shenoy initiated it with an aalap progressing to a bandish (sajan ghar aaye) in vilambit ek-taal. Applause was thick as her drut teen-taal bandish (tumhare bina main toh) came to rest; a couple of bhajans including one in her mother-tongue, Konkani, yet to be proferred before she'd exit along with Pt. Abhishek Mishra, and Tarun Joshi, her symbiotic tabla and harmonium accompanists, respectively. Her poised vibrato, simulation of Krishna's frolicking in 'Nari nayan chakora' (in Ahir Bhairav) and self-written Meera's bhajan in Bhinna Mishra Shadja was lost to none.

'Kajra kaise dalu' in vilambit ek-taal; 'avgun na kijiye guni sang' (drut), and 'aae mayi aaj aaye ghar mitwa' in teen-taal were the bandishes harnessed lucidly and intrinsically by Ambareesh Das to portray raga Yaman Kalyan. And when he delved into a Basant raag bandish (ayo pagwa brij dekhan ko chalo ri), his tabla catalyst, Pt. Debashish Adhikary, came into his own.

Raga Jog was the opener for Prashant and Nishant Mallick, the contemporary flag-bearers of Darbhanga gharana. An elaborate aalap, segued through badat to blossom into their father Prem Kumar's bandish (khelan aaye hori kanhaai) set to Dhamar-taal. Mallick Brothers, the 13th generation concatenation, sealed their thoroughly riveting session with Kripalam Mahakal — a veneration structured on the rare and brisk 10-matra rhythm cycles attempted customarily only by expert drupadists. Pakhawaj player, Rishishankar Upadhyay's Gaya gharana notations were congruent with the gravitas of the recital.

Incidentally, the other brother-duo, 'friends' in their associative nomenclature withstanding, are siblings — Madhu and Gopal on tabla and srikhol, respectively. The Barman Bandhus' filial nexus was palpable as they unwove their engrossing instrumentation with rela, kaida, palta and likes in Rupak-taal, additionally benefiting from Hiranmoy Mitra's harmonious harmoniuming.

Only through the father-son sarodists duo — Pt. Alok and Abhishek Lahiri did the initial ideation witness fructification. Mesmerising from onset, they commenced with raga Rageshri (aalap, jod, jhala, jhap-taal and teen-taal gat) and concluded with a bit thumri-mannered Mishra Kafi, tailing into a Suddha-Zila Kafi ragamala. Their conflux of Shahjahanpur, Maihar and the Senia-Bangash gharanas had the progenitor principally abandoning space for his virtuoso scion.

Pt. Rakesh Chaurasia's solemn raga Durga (aalap, jod in madhyalaya), fluttered about the audi, nonetheless sooner he applied his rigorous embouchure. The concluding pahari dhun too lingered beyond it's exhausted notes, all while conversing with the contemplative, though faintly stentorian towards end, tabla voicing of Ram Kumar Mishra.

Composed on his own, raga Janasammohani (aalap, jod, gat, jhap-taal, teen-taal, sawal-jawab) – a rather flippant tune – was Pt. Tarun Bhattacharya's presentation with tabla maestro Pt. Ramdas Palsule in tow, closing with a bhatiyali dhun and an overall perfunctory effort.

Sitarist Dr.Harvinder Kumar Sharma's cantabile predicated on khayal-ang in raga Pahadi peaked through alaap, jod alaap and the gats masitkhani (slow) and razakhani (fast). Emulating his guru Imdadkhani gharana's Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan's late-career habit, he broke into singing (rangi sari gulabi; payoji maine ram ratan) which for some could slump the sublimation. Ustad Akram Khan supplied him with delicious counterpoints.

Flags of Punjab gharana flew happy and high as tabla-pair, Jaidev (disciple & son of Pt Kale Ram) and his disciple, Ravinder Singh disseminated reles, kaydes, paltes and the likes, assisted steadily by Bhisham Sharma on harmonium.

The conference, compliant to Covid-19 protocol, was live-streamed on PKK's Facebook page and YouTube channel where it's archived as well.

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