ARTS TRIBUNE Friday, January 28, 2000, Chandigarh, India
 

Blending traditional with modern
By Vandana Shukla
SOFT-SPOKEN, good-looking and gifted with a confident countenance, Nandita, a Kathak dancer of the Jaipur gharana, presents an aesthetic blend of the traditional and the new. A product of the ancient guru-shishya parampara adopted in the big, bad city of Bombay, Nandita’s grit and perseverance proved that obsolete traditions can produce noticeable results even in a different timeframe and zone. Nandita’s is a well-known face as she appears in many popular TV, serials on Zee and Sony channels.

Dedicated to tribal heritage
By Ravi Bali
RECENTLY the 10-letter bug called MILLENNIUM was celebrated across the globe in different style. In the Queen of Hills, Shimla, the Oberoi Group, Cecil Hotel, too celebrated the event with Mrs Shallini Joshi, entertainment manager, selecting “Him” i.e. Him Chatterjee, for its millennium exhibition. Him’s special pen drawings were dedicated to the structural heritage of the Himalayan tribe.

SIGHT & SOUND
by Amita Malik
Off the beaten track
IT is refreshing sometimes to get off hard news and panel discussions and seek other pastures. For instance, last week I accidentally stumbled on to the Dover Lane Music Conference in Calcutta which was carried on DD’s Bangla channel. There are many such music conferences in North India and the South, but as the Bengali channel was not available earlier on satellite, it was a great joy for all classical music lovers and not merely Bengalis to get the one from Calcutta.

 

 

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Blending traditional with modern
By Vandana Shukla

SOFT-SPOKEN, good-looking and gifted with a confident countenance, Nandita, a Kathak dancer of the Jaipur gharana, presents an aesthetic blend of the traditional and the new. A product of the ancient guru-shishya parampara adopted in the big, bad city of Bombay, Nandita’s grit and perseverance proved that obsolete traditions can produce noticeable results even in a different timeframe and zone. Nandita’s is a well-known face as she appears in many popular TV, serials on Zee and Sony channels.

With growing complexities and demands that life keeps piling upon it’s children, where one is thrown into a pool of imposed ambitions and anxieties, it is very difficult to sustain art for art’s sake. There are compromises to be made with oneself, and with others for the sake of survival. But, true art dares to explore the perception of truth and the artiste has to dissolve a world of mediocre expectations to achieve this goal. So, a true artiste is always at war with himself/herself, seeking an expression of this process of exploration. Nandita wanted to be an artiste and not a mere dancer. She knew, she had set for herself a difficult task and she was sure to attain it.

Used to a cozy and comfortable life of Chandigarh, she lived for 12 long years in a crammed apartment shared with many others so that she could imbibe all the finer nuances of her art. She was fortunate. Her intense passion for dance took her to the door of Padma Shree Roshan Kumari of the Jaipur gharana who is known for her technical virtuosity and incomparable “layakari” that she imbibed from her legendary father, tabla maestro Ustad Fakir Mohammad, better known as Ustad Peeru Baksh, and a signer mother Zohra Bai Ambalewali.

Nandita was very keen to begin her training as a dancer on a full-time schedule. Before this she had learnt dance only for two years at Dehradun under the guidance of Shankar Dev Jha, who was very accomplished in the field. Moreover, his affectionate style of teaching drew her even closer to this dance form. But, unfortunately he died very young.

After passing her 12th standard, Nandita decided to devote herself fully to dance. Everybody thought it was a crazy idea for a girl from a traditional Punjabi family, but she was relentless. So finally her mother’s guru, Ustad Munavvar Ali Khan, suggested that she should be sent to Roshan Kumari of the Jaipur gharana who runs her dance school in Bombay. This was even crazier, that a lone damsel should go all the way to live alone in Bombay, just to learn dance. But, all had to relent to her stubborn resolve. Finally, she was sent to Bombay. Her mother, herself a vocalist, Primila Puri, understood her mind and made arrangements for her stay in nuns’ hostel from where she used to go to her dance class.

Unlike her dream class, this dance class was only a one-hour affair every day. This did not satisfy her keen desire to learn more. She wanted to learn fast. She was conscious of the limitation of time at her disposal. And, all she got was in hour class which continued for six long years. Finally, seeing her single-minded dedication for the dance, her teacher asked her to move into her house to be a disciple under the guru-shishya parampara. Once she was taken as a family member, the artistic ambience of the family and it’s celebrity friends helped her in the growth of the artiste in her. But this happened after a gruelling period of six years, while she was tried and tested for her worthiness as an unfailing disciple.

Recalling the period, Nandita says, “At times these trials and tribulations exhausted my patience. I was running out on time as such. I was a late starter. Usually people begin dance at seven or eight. I started after passing my 12th. I was living in a nuns’ hostel, doing my graduation and was still dependent on my parents for financial support. My parents had been very supportive. Against various pressures they let me experiment with this “absolute crazy idea”, as it was considered to be at that time. All this gave me a troubled conscience. I used to write long letters to my mother. Only she understood what I was going through.

The first lesson that Nandita learnt in her pursuit of art was the lesson of patience. Then, her dedication started bearing fruit. After six long years of taking lessons in dance, which she thinks did not help her enough, once she was invited to live with her teacher, she remained steadfast in her role of a disciple and a friend. She lived with Roshan Kumari for 12 long years, learning, practising and also teaching dance.

Whereas her teacher found a companion in her, she was a great help for her ageing parents. This gave her an opportunity she had been longing for, of unrestricted learning.There was no limit of time. At any given time her teacher would explain the intricacies of “parans”, her father would teach her various permutations of “bols”, “taals” and “layakaris”. By and by she became more of a family member than a disciple. Learning took a backseat and priorities and the nature of expectations changed. She became indispensable for the family.

She had to remind herself of her true calling, that she was there to perfect her art. The thin line dividing her role as a student and as a companion-cum-family member to her teacher required all the skills of a juggler to maintain a fine balance, never letting a single thread go off her hands, so that the fine fabric of art she intended to weave did not lose it’s sheen.

The tradition of a disciple living with the guru was conceived in a different timeframe to fulfil the needs of a different kind. Art was patronised by the rich. The teacher and the taught both knew the line of demarcation. In a changed social order, where each individual has to safeguard one’s own interest, both the teacher and the taught have to rise above themselves to make this system work.

Nandita feels the time spent with her teacher enriched her immensely as an artiste. She had to gather all her strength to come up to the expectation level of her teacher, which in turn made her aware of her own potential and polished her as an artiste. But, it also left a few questions unanswered. For instance, the need to grow as an individual, to survive in a fast-changing world; how much a teacher should hold back or let go of a student; how far one can be possessive about students and at what point of time a student should be allowed to grow independently.

Time is another important factor in a dancer’s career, for, a dancer’s career span as a performer is rather short. So, if a lot of time is spent on preparation alone, little time is left to perform. All these aspects should be given a thought so that this wonderful system of learning does not die for want of fresh air. She thinks the tradition should be re-invented and re-designed to suit the modern needs.

Now, independent, she runs her own Kathak school in Bombay and tries to be accommodating according to the changing needs of the time. To her great comfort, even her teacher encourages her work as a TV actress, realising the need to earn more to sustain her art.

Nandita recalls the days of hardships when a few government programmes assigned to junior artistes used to pay so little that many a time the artiste used to end up paying from his or her own pocket the expenses incurred for the accompanists and travelling. At the same time, she says, these programmes were important for getting exposure. Few tuition classes arranged by her teacher also could not provide succour. Though she received a government scholarship, the money given was paltry.

Private programmes were few, because the Kathak dance of the Lucknow gharana acquired a lot of popularity for it’s predominant “abhinaya” aspect which is not a strong point among the Jaipur school of dancers. The Jaipur school of Kathak is very technical. It flourished under the Rajput kings, who laid a lot of emphasis on power and valour. Hence, the dance techniques imbibed the expression of “veer rasa” with the help of rigorous footwork tatkars and chakkars. In the Jaipur gharana there is no blending of “abhinaya” with the “nritta” which is full of technical intricacies, the “parans” are mostly on pakhawaj bols, even the ghunghroos worn by Jaipur dancers are bigger with more resonance. On the other hand, the Lucknow school earned more public appeal for it’s delicate, lyrical style, often feminine in expression, which was in tune with the poetic temperament of the Avadh nawabs.

Now, after having performed at prestigious dance festivals like Khajuraho, Bindadin Mahotsava, Kathak Mahotsava, Karveer Festival at Kolhapur, Spirit of Freedom Concert, Tagore Festival and many more, how does she cope with her work of a performing dancer, choreographer and a busy actress? And which of these roles suit her the most?

Nandita says, initially she was quite reluctant to accept acting roles because in her dance, “abhinay” was not her strong point. But it so happened that her initial TV roles were that of a dancer. Secondly, she wanted to sustain dance, and acting offered her some extra income without taking away a lot of her time. But gradually she started liking it for it’s own merit, for it provides freedom to choose.There are new situations, new people to interact with, new roles to enact.

She also enjoys doing choreography. Her ballet on the architectural splendour of Agra for Taj Mahotsava has been highly appreciated. This was scripted by Gulzar. She also enjoyed doing choreography for “Sardari Begum”, a film by Shyam Benegal. Despite being a solo dancer, she is able to do choreography only because of a holistic training that she received from her teacher. She says, to understand a great teacher’s style, even a disciple has to rise a little above his or her limitation. There lies the strength of this tradition.

Today, it’s not only her contribution in popularising the Jaipur school of dance, creative satisfaction of choreography, but her roles in serials like “Sailaab” “Karz”, “Aashirwad”, “Naya Zamana”, “Chattan” and many more that make the circle of her life complete.
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Dedicated to tribal heritage
By Ravi Bali

RECENTLY the 10-letter bug called MILLENNIUM was celebrated across the globe in different style. In the Queen of Hills, Shimla, the Oberoi Group, Cecil Hotel, too celebrated the event with Mrs Shallini Joshi, entertainment manager, selecting “Him” i.e. Him Chatterjee, for its millennium exhibition. Him’s special pen drawings were dedicated to the structural heritage of the Himalayan tribe.

Him Chatterjee was born on March 2, 1968, in Shimla. His father, Sanat Kumar Chatterjee, is a world famous artist, better known for his wash colour paintings. He is also in the Guinness Book of World Records for his longest painting. He has also won national and international awards. Him no less. Today at a young age he is almost in the shoes of his father. His father is his guru.

Him did his post-graduation in drawing and painting. He is a gold medallist from DAV PG College, Dehradun. He did his graduation with the subject drawing and painting in top merit from HP University in 1987. He did his M.Phil in ancient history from HP University in 1991. He is basically a landscape painter, but today he has specialised in dissertation in arts of Kinnaur. He is currently employed as Lecturer and presently heading the Department of Visual Arts, Himachal Pradesh University.

Him’s important assignments include the mural painting in HP Secretariat in Shimla. His exhibits are also in the world famous Peace Museum Puttapathi. He has the distinction of being invited to make a pen drawing of The Retreat by GOC, ARTRAC, and drawings of the historical buildings of Shimla by the CPWD. He was also invited to make pen drawings of the GPO, Shimla, by the Chief Post Master General, HP.

He was won several laurels and prizes. Some of his awards are for the Bank of Punjab art exhibition at Chandigarh in 1998 and the Kala Mela and the National Art Exhibition in Bangalore organised by the Delhi Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi. Art lovers of the country remember Him’s art exhibition at Wild Flower Hall, Shimla in 1990 which was inaugurated by the President of India.

The list of workshops held include the National Painting workshop at Roerich Art Gallery, Naggar, Kulu (NZCC). He also participated in the Inter-State Cultural Exchange, Art Workshop in Shimla, organised by Delhi, Punjab and Himachal Lalit Kala Academy in June 1996, and the All-India Artist Workshop at Kulu organised by Rashtriya Lalit Kala Kendra, Lucknow, in 1993.

Him’s exclusive and exortic art collection are displayed in HP State Museum, President of India’s office in New Delhi, Chief Secretary’s office, HP, the Bank of Punjab, New Delhi, and Chandigarh.

About the spaceness aspect in his sketches, he says: “Look, I am basically a landscape painter, but as far as my pen sketches are concerned, I am not an edge-to-edge artist. I don’t like to suffocate my sketches because my basic concept as an artist is that the sketches have life. They need space to breathe. Moreover, the spaceness also indicates snow because all my pen sketches drawings are dedicated to the tribal areas of Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Shimla districts. They all are obviously snowbound areas”.

Him has a total collection of 40 pen sketches. He has taken more than three years to complete the same. He has literally travelled to all tribal areas of Himachal Pradesh. His style of work is , he visits the place, monasteries, temples and structures and sketches these out.

Him’s brother Homi Chatterjee, a chartered accountant by profession, is also a painter. His sister is also a painter. His wife Anita Chatterjee, a school teacher, is also a good artist who does pencil sketches. His mother is also an artist and singer.

The people of City Beautiful can look forward to an exhibition of Him’s 40 rare pen drawings dedicated to the structural heritage of the Himalayan tribe. The sponsor and the place of the exhibition is Indus Bank, Punjab.Top

 
SIGHT & SOUND
by Amita Malik
Off the beaten track

IT is refreshing sometimes to get off hard news and panel discussions and seek other pastures.

For instance, last week I accidentally stumbled on to the Dover Lane Music Conference in Calcutta which was carried on DD’s Bangla channel. There are many such music conferences in North India and the South, but as the Bengali channel was not available earlier on satellite, it was a great joy for all classical music lovers and not merely Bengalis to get the one from Calcutta. In fact, classical music has been one of the great casualties on TV. If one wakes up early enough, one can catch classical music on Star Plus, but the other channels carry religious programmes of varying degrees of telegenity (if I may coin a word) and PTV, of course, is religious most of the time on everything. Ironic that DD even carried the Johann Strauss concert from Vienna, although the over-confident announcer got the name of at least one Strauss Waltz wrong. (Wine, Women and Singing, instead of Wine, Women and Song).

Earlier, still, Prabasi Bengalis, as we who live outside Bengal describe ourselves (sort of non-resident Bengalis in translation) watched over days with awe, Calcutta TV carrying the amazing conference where NRI’s came specially from foreign countries to the home state and lapped up everything Bengali, including some very spirited Rabindra Sangeet by Ruma Guha Thakurta’s choral group. This is just the kind of programme which home-sick NRIs lap up and should be hand-picked for DD’s international channel (that is, if its still exists) because the private satellite channels are catching up so fast and are so much more audible and visible than DD’s, that DD will soon be be as far left behind as with its doddering terrestrial output.

I also saw on Zee TV a slightly jingoistic but still touching programme, Vijay Jyoti where poet Ali Sardar Jafri and some film personalities entertained and mostly interviewed and chatted with our defence boys post-Kargil. Raghivir Yadav was restrained and respectful, Mita Vashist had just the right amount of cheerfulness and warmth without becoming artificial, but Divya overdid it, so good that actor Vidyarthi kept the scales even, being genuinely touched without being cloying. Ali Sardar Jafri looked very concerned and had verses to match. The army, on its part was extremely relaxed and the jawans chipped in with jokes, anecdotes, songs and even couplets which must have touched viewers too. It certainly made my day.

In the last few days, two channels frequently came without sound. One was Pakistan TV, which tends to be strident, so perhaps just as well and it just shows that Pramod Mahajan need not have bothered to ban it. The other was DD’s newest born, the much trumpeted News Channel where almost every producer has three programmes each. A brief survey amongst both professional and lay viewers reveals that they mostly don’t get it, and if they do, it is like the reception I get on the three DD channels. DDI (The National Channel) bad visuals and sound on the one which goes off at midnight, but the 24 hours channel is slightly better in sound buterratic in visuals. The Metro Channel is bad in both visuals and sound, which has ruined the not always well chosen films from the international film festival carried beyond midnight. But worst of all is the News Channel, which most people cannot get and mine has such bad sound that even when it comes through it is too distorted to make out what anyone is saying. And that is what most viewers I have contacted confirm.

Yet the other day, the wife of one of the top dogs of Prasar Bharati, who freely barges into the studios, make-up rooms and newsrooms of DD and gives gratuitous advice on everything, including the colour of sets and even assesses performances, was heard remarking that she only watches “our three channels” and has no time for the others. That perhaps explains the state DD’s programmes. Because if they watch only themselves, and with perfect viewing conditions in their special viewing rooms, no wonder they have not realised from their little fish-ponds that the other private channels have long since passed them by. And if DD’s bosses rely on their wives to give them programme feedback, well, what can you expect?
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