ravings, rantings and ramblings
The following post is a very personal opinion and does not reflect any professional or institutional viewpoint.
The septuagenarian Pandit Birju Maharaj, sat watching his disciple Pali Chandra and her troupe from Gurukul, Dubai, showcase the dance form of Kathak which he popularised. When the god of Kathak is the chief guest for the Kathak Festival, the stakes automatically go up high. The two hour plus show, unfortunately, went the other way. It seemed like a tacky Karan Johar production. Overheard somebody compare the show to a school annual function. In all honesty, I would tend to agree. (Is Kajol in the house for a teary-eyed National anthem?)
I have not seen a more crowded production. Or a more stage-crammy production. Or a more mistake-riddled production. That said, I must clarify that I have worked in enough productions and seen many more to know what it takes to get a ‘school’ production look professional.
Why were there so many dancers on stage ? Was there a compulsion to put all students that were enrolled in Gurukul to be put on stage? If that be so, then how does one instil the level of being stage-ready? How would one react if all students from the local driving school were let loose on the streets of Dubai because of a promise that someday they will be able to drive? I was beginning to wonder if enrolling in Gurukul was a ticket to get on stage.
Co-ordination or the lack of it was order of the evening. When hands went up in the air and froze at the end of a piece, one couldn’t help but notice how displeasing it looked. One dancer looked like an elephant with its trunk up while the other looked as if she was pulling a trunk down from a loft. Clearly lack of practice! Group dances have a certain given. It wasn’t given here.
There was no stage balance. An entire stage management team was thanked and felicitated but for what? For presenting a dis-balanced stage of dancers? Or for introducing a band of girls under 3 feet and making it all seem asymmetrical? When there are two bands of dancers, on stage right and stage left, doing what we understand as ‘jugal-bandi’, why were other dancers let loose on stage as if to fill in the blank space?
When there is an emotive and evocative piece being executed by a genuinely good dancer, why is there a need to have three dancers prance around like wild impalas in the savannah? When 6 dancers are sat on the floor, emoting a beautiful love ballad, then why were a few dancers taking the attention away like cheerleaders in the IPL? Why was it so difficult to see that some pieces needed that amount of space. Maybe, it is an undue expectation.
The entire evening was supposedly bound by a narrative structure. Such a lovely narrative structure that it held the audience’s attention span for as long as a goldfish could last remember. It was the most weak and inconsequential narrative seen in a very long time. The story of how Kathak progressed through time was very contrite and lack-lustre. There was certainly no need to ask ‘posed’ questions to kids about how important is the dance for to them. And the pièce de résistance was when an old couple walked across the stage and one narrator asked them a question about Kathak’s relevance. A vox pop as lame as the ones on local news channels was certainly very irrelevant. Add to that the couple didn’t have a microphone. So we didn’t care to lip read and neither did the narrator carry the message. The narrative structure certainly needed a professional touch.
While on that professional touch, special mention of the three stage-frigid gentlemen who were the three narrators. Bad pronunciation, bad enunciation and very bad stage presence killed it completely. If ‘connoi-sheer’ and ‘fir’ is comes to my ears (and that of a purist, I might add) then I’d rather listen to chalk screeching on a blackboard!
And who was in the control room? Whoever it was needs a better MS Office training! Imagine a slide show suddenly come on the Windows interface where the next correct slide was being searched! Besides I hate it when inane visuals are presented when there are dancers who are trying their best to do what they do; otherwise, why would you have a Rajasthani semi-nude while a Krishna-ballad performance in progress?
Every musical piece started with a jump! Since the entire evening was choreographed to recorded music, I fail to understand why was it so difficult to start it without a jump. Very bad handling.
So, this K-Jo or Shiamak Davar style glitzy, glam, Dubai presentation needed to be at least an hour shorter and a lot crisper. So disappointed with the overall production, it will take a harder sell to get me to sit through it next time.